Guilin: An Unexpected Journey

I took an extremely last-minute trip to Guilin, Guangxi Province, for the Qingming Festival holiday.

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are my own, and do not represent those of WorldTeach and its affiliates.

Last week was the week of the Tomb Sweeping Festival (Qingming Jie), so that meant that we get classes off while the students were observing the holiday. I had hoped to travel to Guilin for this holiday, but since we were told we only had three days off for the holiday, I decided it was not worth the stress to travel anywhere far away, and grudgingly decided to stay in Cili. With that in mind, one might easily understand why, after learning on Tuesday morning that I had no classes that day (effectively lengthening my holiday from three days to four), I decided to throw all my essentials into a backpack and travel to Guilin anyway for a last-minute vacation.

Spoiler alert: That decision was SO WORTH IT!

The 20-yuan bill scenery

Guilin is in northern Guangxi Province, a province southwest of Hunan Province that shares a border with Vietnam. The mountains surrounding the Li River are featured on the 20 yuan bill, so it’s no surprise that’s considered a jewel of Chinese scenery. Another cohort went to a lake that looked almost identical to the one from Tomb Raider: Cradle of Life (for fellow Tomb Raider buffs, it’s the scene where Lara and Terry Sheridan enter China by pod and they crash it into the lake); I don’t think I was able to find it, but the scenery on the Li River and in Guilin still made me feel like we would turn a corner and see the Argonath (the giant statues of old kings) from Fellowship of the Ring.

The view from the Li River on our way to Xingping from Guilin

Guilin is three and a half hours from Changsha by bullet train (gaotie). Little did I know when I booked my ticket at the station, that—ooh la la—I got the business class option (not what I expected, but I’m not complaining, since it was one of the last tickets available for that train; after my train ride in Inner Mongolia, I would have rather avoided a standing ticket). It definitely made the three and a half hours go by faster.

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The view from Laozhai Hill, Xingping

Based on photos and feedback from my cohorts that had already been to Guilin, I spent a lot of my time in Xingping (20 minutes by gaotie from Guilin to Yangshuo station, which is technically closer to Xingping than Yangshuo but that’s a separate issue). On a cohort’s suggestion, I stayed at This Old Place (老地方) International Youth Hostel in Guilin Tuesday evening, before heading over to Xingping on a river boat the next morning and staying at their sister hostel there. When I stayed in This Old Place in Guilin, the dorm rooms available were coed, which I have yet to feel comfortable with, so I went with a private room. The rooms I had in Guilin and Xingping were minimal, but clean and comfortable. They serve breakfast for 20 yuan (you have to order that one the night before), and they have really good English. This is not meant to be a review on This Old Place, but I would love to stay there again.


View of the river near Tengjiao Nunnery
View from the pier in Xingping

In Xingping, I visited the Tengjiao Nunnery with other hostel guests that I met, and I also hiked Laozhai Hill, where I was able to get beautiful pictures of the Li River scenery. I also met up with another cohort back in Guilin, and we were able to get some beautiful photos and have dinner before I went back to Cili Friday morning.

Sun and Moon Pagodas in Guilin

I feel like I could have stayed a day or two more in Xingping to see everything I could, and an extra day or two in Guilin to fit in a day trip to the region’s famous rice terraces. Hopefully, I’ll be able to go back to Guilin, and I’ll be able to go to the spots I missed and be able to appreciate the scenery there more. Even though this trip was extremely last-minute, I’m really proud of myself for making the choice to go on an adventure!

We’re slowly starting to wrap up here in China; I’ll be going back to Changsha later this month for the end-of-service meeting with WorldTeach, and I’ll be preparing for my next adventure. What will that next adventure be? I plan for that to be my next article. See you then! Zai jian!

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