After a flight of over just two hours from Shanghai our plane landed in Guilin, the former capital of Guangxi province. The airport is (like most airports in China) located about 30 kilometers out of the city, so we took a taxi to our hotel. All taxi’s are metered, which spares you the hassle of negotiating a price. The young driver immediately tried to strike up a conversation, and within a few minutes the conversation turned to a sales pitch for cheaper tickets for boats and shows that he could arrange. Bad luck for the driver, because I never buy anything in China without checking prices at more than one other location first. Especially not when I am not even sure what I want to do during my vacation.
The hotel we stayed in, the Guilin Bravo Hotel, was a typical 4-star Chinese hotel. A bit older already, with staff that did not speak much English, but good enough for me. There are a couple of other good hotels here (including even a Sheraton, right on the river), but none of those has an outside pool. One of the things I like to do during a holiday is spend at least a few hours with a good book at the pool, so that was the key selling point for this hotel.
At night we walked to the river and has some Guilin food in a local restaurant (two meals including beer, soft drinks and tea for less than USD 3). Very tasty, and more spicy than I has expected. Note to self, when back in Shanghai find a good Guangxi food restaurant. The meal was followed by a foot and leg massage in the parlour upstairs of the restaurant. My legs were a bit sore from an extended run in the hills the day before, and this was exactly what I needed. The masseuse gave my legs a ginger treatment: she prepared some muddy-looking ginger paste that she put all over my lower legs, and put hot towels over them. First I did not feel much (but I smelled the ginger!), but soon it got warmer and warmer. After about 20 minutes I asked her to take if off, because I felt my legs were on fire. My soreness was gone though.
After the massage we walked along the river and decided to take a river cruise. At a small shop on a street corner I bough two beers for during the 100-minute boat ride, because I expected they would not sell beer on board (which turned out to be correct). The cruise, called “Water System in Guilin” in English and “Two rivers, four lakes” in Chinese was amazing. At first I was not too impressed, because the 20-person boat also had a tour guide who decided to use a megaphone to explain all the things we were seeing. But once we went off the main river into the canals of the city the outdoor deck was opened where I did not hear her, and had a much better view.
Guilin started this cruise in 2002, and it seems a winner among Chinese tour groups. I did not see a foreigner on any of the boats, although there are quite a lot of them here on their way to Yangshuo. Maybe the English name “Water System of Guilin” should be changed? I loved the cruise, especially the part over the canals and lakes of Guilin city. Beautiful pagoda’s and classical Chinese structures (surely rebuild, but that does not matter too much), and everything very nicely lighted. It was not cheap: at RMB 150 per person it was equal to the price of 10 dinners in local restaurants, but well worth it.