Well it’s cold here…really, really cold, which is kind of amazing since I’m only about 65km north of Yangshuo. In fact, I’m wearing the exact same number of clothes I wore when I left wintry New York a week and a half ago! Let’s just say I’m really not a fan at all.
I’m also really not so big on Guilin. Despite all the hype, I don’t find there to be an awful lot of special things here. The scenery is second, no, third-rate and everything requires an increasingly hefty entrance fee, leaving you with a feeling that the attractions really aren’t worth it.
Being here for what I already decided would be my only full day, I simply had to accomplish something. So I headed across the Li River to see what Lonely Planet described as Guilin’s star attraction…the Seven Star Scenic Area (entrance fee RMB 35 or US$5). A massive 297 acre landscaped park, Seven Star Scenic Area is so named for the seven peaks it features.
Crossing the flower bridge into the park leads you to a series of paths leading to its sights: a “stone forest” with its engraves cliffs, a Buddhist temple, waterfalls, many viewpoints, lakes, monkeys, a zoo, the aptly named Camel Hill and a cave.
While the park certainly was pretty, another word came to mind…kitsch. The waterfalls were man-made. There were a plethora of opportunities to put on tribal clothing and have yourself photographed flanked by peacocks. Even the lakes appeared to be man-made.
Since I was there, I decided to shell out the even heftier entrance fee (RMB 60 or US$9) for the Seven Stars Cave. The ticket included a mandatory hour-long guided tour (in Chinese only, of course) which included numerous stops within the cave for shopping or having a professional take your photo.
The Chinese (like the Vietnamese) like their caves illuminated in a whole rainbow of colors, which created a fairly dramatic and pretty appearance (though a tad kitschy).
After the park, I am of the opinion that I have seen enough of Guilin. Sure, there are other caves here and a few other peaks bearing look-out points, but I kinda feel like once you’ve seen one, you’ve seen them all. So tomorrow afternoon I will head about 90km north to my next destination…Longshen, home of the Dragon’s Backbone Rice Terraces.
From here my trip takes a turn off the basic tourist trail for a little while. Should be interesting to see what I encounter!