Li River Cruise watercolor 2 page spread by Meera Rao
Mountain Peaks by Li River Left page watercolor By Meera Rao
Mountain Peaks by Li River Right page watercolor By Meera Rao
We reached Guillin in the late afternoon as the flight was delayed by a couple of hours. The guide in Xian joked that they say CAAC - 'China airlines always cancel' - but at least we were only delayed;). Beautiful Guillin apparently was China's first city to develop tourism after 1949.
It was raining when we landed and the route to town was amazingly picturesque with lush green covered mountain peaks shrouded in fog all around. After checking into the hotel we went to explore the city by walking around. There was a beautiful little Buddhist temple not too far and as we entered the premises they started their evening chanting and prayers. We watched and waited till the rituals were done - this was our first time watching and participating in Chinese Buddhist prayers and rituals. We then went over to the canteen next door - but unfortunately they were cleaning after the lunch session and would open only at 6 for dinner - an hour away.
We decided to buy some bananas to snack on ( my google translator came in really handy! ) and find a bank ATM. The lonely planet guide book had high recommendations (one of two places mentioned in the book for places to eat!) for an Indian restaurant started by a man from Darjaleeng, India : Kali Mirch in the town square tucked behind Sheraton Hotel. With that as our guide we went searching and finally found it after someone recognized it as ‘indo canteen’ in an alley that was all colorful and lit up with festive lights and lined with many many tiny restaurants. The interesting thing in China we have discovered is that everything and everyone has a English and a Chinese name - most locals know only the Chinese names - even English is ‘yīngyǔ’ in Chinese. Btw- The food at Kali Mirch was excellent :)
Cliffs by Li River watercolor by Meera Rao
The next day our guide drove us to a wharf an hour away and we took a river cruise down a very tranquil Li river to see the mountains all around - it is a very beautiful and serene journey - even with a looong line of small cruise boats filled with tourists making their way down the river! The hotel had packed us boxed lunches and there was plenty of tea served throughout the journey as it was a four hour ride. Every inch of the journey was a digital moment - everyone was oohing and clicking away - I realized very quickly that photos just couldn't capture the awesome peaks all around - growing more mysterious by the minute with fog and drizzle. The twenty Yuan bill of Chinese currency showcases a painting of these mountains. We passed high cliffs, rice paddies, quaint little villages, fishermen on bamboo rafts, water buffaloes and horses grazing by the banks.
We got off at Younshu and again elbowed our way thru a narrow passageway packed with vendors shouting and hawking off the goods while thousands of tourists from the cruise boats tried to make their way to buses and cars and other means of transportation back to their hotels ! We tried our bargaining skills and did a little bit of shopping ! “You shop like Chinese ladies’ we were told by a vendor ;)
Entrance to Guillin Tea Research Center watercolor by Meera Rao
Hat Rack in the Walkway watercolor by Meera Rao
We toured an organic tea plantation on our way back, saw demonstrations of Chinese tea fermentation of green, white, black teas. We tried out the huge stone grinder/rollers used in crushing and oxidizing the tea. We posed for photos wearing the classic cone shaped hats as we watched ladies carefully picking tea leaves in surrounding tea plantation. Of course, we were treated to another session of tea ceremony - this time we tasted Osmanthus, white and Pu'er teas unique to that area.
Evening we were on our own and this time we went back to the temple canteen ( again lonely planet recommendation) and had the best Chinese vegan buffet- tried all kinds of noodles, dumplings , steamed buns, vegetables , pickles and many varieties of fruits!! Two days in a row dinner was excellent for us us vegetarians and vegans! We ventured out for more little shopping for Chinese-English children's books for grandkids at street side stores. Thanks again to the google translate app we were able to find what we wanted in a small stationary store:)
The sun and Moon Twin pagodas
Last day in Guillin, we had till noon to ourselves - so armed with a map we went to see Sun and Moon Pagodas in the Shan Lake that could be reached by a scenic winding path from the hotel. The two pagodas are connected by a beautiful underwater tunnel. We climbed 8-9 floors up each pagoda for gorgeous views from above. We even managed to visit The South Sea Pearl Museum and Showroom before heading to the airport for our flight to Shanghai.