Guilin is famous for its picturesque mountains and waterways with the main attarction being a cruise on the Li River (漓江). Believe it or not there is more to Guilin and here are three things you can do after you’ve finished your cruise.
1. Seven Stars Park (Qīxīng gōngyuán- 七星公园)
Seven Stars Park is located in central Guilin fairly close to Elephant rock. It is very well known and any taxi driver will know how to get there. The park features numerous little mountains and lakes and you could easily spend a half day strolling through the 300 acre grounds. Walking to the top of crescent mountain gives you spectacular panoramic views of the city. At the top of the mountain we also met a monk who wished us well on our travels.
The seven stars cave is beautiful and is a location deeply rooted in Chinese folk lore but does incur an additional entrance fee. The park also has a zoo but I would recommend avoiding it is definitely not what you would except from an Australian zoo and is quite depressing. Instead you can try you luck at spotting wild monkeys as you wander the forested areas of the park. Just don’t get to close as they are not afraid of humans and can be aggressive.
2. Waterfall climbing at Gudong Park (Gudōng pùbù古东瀑布)
This whole experience is rather surreal and is Chinese ‘eco’ tourism at its finest. Located to the south east of Guilin the Lijiang Gudong scenic area is accessible via mini bus leaving from the Guilin bus station, the bus heading towards crown cave is the one you want (冠岩, Guanyan ). However if you have a small group it is just as cheap and much more efficient to hire a driver. The bus trip itself only took about 40 minutes of driving time but the total time it took us to get there was 2 hours as the bus waited in several locations for passengers.
Check out the park’s location on Google maps here.
The park precinct itself is very beautiful, surrounded by rolling green hills. Looking at the pictures you might be expecting a deserted quiet scenic location that you can explore at your leisure. Just to be clear that is not what this is. Even being there on a weekday it was packed, there is a set route through the park and there are attendants everywhere making sure you don’t go off exploring on your own. If you go in with the mind set of amusement attraction rather than wilderness hike you’ll have a good idea of what to expect. You are also not allowed to swim in the pools which was a bit of a disappointment for us.
To start with you walk around a large lake before getting to an equipment hire station. Here it is compulsory to buy a pair of grass sandals, phone case and to hire a helmet. Rain ponchos are also available as most people climbing the waterfalls were just wearing normal clothes. We had our bathers on, but that was not the norm.
After hiring the appropriate equipment it is a short walk to the first waterfall, climbing the waterfalls is a lot of fun and wearing our swimmers meant we were more than happy to get soaked. There were photographers standing in a couple of the falls snapping pictures as you climbed up which could be purchased before you exited the park. There are four major waterfalls you climb and in between you wade through a shallow creek the water is clear and fresh and a great way to escape the summer heat.
After finishing the uphill hike to the top of the last waterfall you can then chose to have a go of a zip line or catch the monorail back down to the entrance point, both of which incur an additional charge. Alternatively you can just walk back, which is down hill and only takes about 20mins.
Just outside the main park entrance is a group of restaurants we grabbed a couple of serves of tasty, and reasonably priced pulled noodles (Lāmiàn 拉面) before negotiating a ride with a black cab back into Guilin.
3. Lujia Village
Lujia village (陆家村) is located in the north west of Guilin. It was a struggling township that has recently undergone massive renovations and is now a very pleasant place to spend an afternoon or even be your base for your whole stay in Guilin.
All the buildings are done in the North Guangxi folk house style with local vendors selling fresh juice on the streets. Bordered on one side by the Taohuajiang River and by local rice fields and mountains on the other. The village has a bunch of cafés and restaurants both western and Chinese in style. The village is famous for it’s tofu and you can tour a traditional tofu workshop. There aren’t many spots in China that have a lazy holiday vibe but LuJia is one of them.
A path from the village leads through fields of flowers and around a lake to the Reed Flute cave. If you want to stay in the village I would recommend the Flower Inn, Emma the owner has excellent English and will go out of her way to make sure your stay is as enjoyable as possible.