Guilin

Looking down from Diecai Shan

Guilin (桂林; Guì​lín) and the surrounding region are among the most scenic areas in China and the most popular tourist destinations both for Chinese travellers and the international backpacker set. The main attraction is the karst terrain, limestone mountains eroded into fantastic shapes. Apart from its sheer visual beauty, karst terrain also provides many cliffs suitable for rock climbing and many caves.

There are many scenic places within short traveling distance of Guilin. These include Longsheng with its famous Longji rice terraces; the Lijiang River, a scene of which is printed on the back of ¥20 bank notes; Yangshuo, a small county downstream from Guilin; and much more. This makes Guilin an excellent base for exploring the northern end of Guangxi Province.

Guilin is a beautiful city. The town center is surrounded by two rivers and four lakes and studded with sheer sided karst mountains. Outside the city center, the buildings are less well kept. The main industry in the city is tourism so the city is much cleaner than other Chinese cities.

Guilin itself is like most other medium size Chinese cities, other than that it has a large number of western-style hotels, tourists and is relatively free of air pollution. Many Chinese domestic tourists also flock to this area. What makes it special is its proximity to many picturesque limestone mountains and formations.

Understand

Location of Guilin in China

Separated from the center of China and the Yangtze River basin by the Nan Mountains, Guangxi has always been distinct from the rest of China. The Han Chinese empire first expanded into Guangxi in the 3rd century BC. The Ling Canal was cut around the time, allowing small boats to transit from the Yangtze to the south flowing Xi River via the Xiang River.

Trade grew along the canal and river routes. Guilin was founded as a trading post in the 1st century BC on the West bank of the Kuei River. During the Ming dynasty, a garrison was set up in Guilin and the surrounding area gradually civilised with the development of farmland. The city had a population of over two million at the time of the Second World War, but was utterly destroyed during the war. The population slowly recovered with post-war construction of several factories for the production of paper, chemicals and agricultural equipment. However, market forces have caused several of these industries to relocate out of Guilin.

Guangxi and Guilin are home to 12 different ethnic minorities besides the Han Chinese. Guangxi is an autonomous region for the Zhuang ethnic group, rather than a province. See List of Chinese provinces and regions. Various other minorities, such as the Dong, are also found in the area.

Guilin is the third largest city in Guangxi, after Nanning and Liuzhou.

Get in

By plane

There are daily flights to Guilin Liangjiang International Airport (KWL) from major mainland cities and from some other international cities in East Asia and South East Asia.

Air Asia provides flights to Guilin from Kuala Lumpur every alternate day.

Jetstar flies twice-weekly from Singapore to Guilin.

The airport bus into town is ¥20 but drops off just south of the city centre, after which a taxi should then be around ¥10 to most hotels. The bus only leaves when mostly full so there may be a wait as the bus fills up.

A taxi direct from the airport to a city centre hotel is about ¥100. Back to the airport, a hotel may arrange the trip for ¥80.

By train

Guilin has two train stations. Guilin Station (Guilin Zhan) is in the centre of town on Zhongshan Nanlu while Guilin North Station (Guilin Bei Zhan) is far away from downtown area. Most, but not all, trains which originate/terminate in Guilin go to or come from Guilin North while trains which come through Guilin from elsewhere usually only go to Guilin Station and not Guilin North.

There are trains from North (Beijing, Changsha, Wuhan, Shanghai, Xian), West (Kunming), South (Liuzhou, Nanning, Zhanjiang), and East (Guangzhou, Shenzhen).

Once you get out of the train station, you will be approached by cab drivers/other drivers alike. While their cab meters are trustworthy, they might use a few tricks to cheat you out of some yuan, for example, aggressively pushing tours or adding false charges to the tab. Take public bus No.100 to the city center for 1 RMB is another option.

By car

There are some expressways locally and within the province, however for any long distance journey, it is a two lane road.

By bus

By boat

You can get to Guilin by cargo boat from Guangzhou via Wuzhou, but there are no passenger boats to Guilin anymore, except the boats to and from Yangshuo. You can take a cargo boat if you want to at almost no cost from Wuzhou to Yangshuo.

Get around

Getting a local map from a tourist guide or shop for ¥5 is a good idea. This will show the location of most of the sights as well as details of bus routes. Buses are an ideal way to get around Guilin on a budget. Many city parks and river spots can be accessed easily by bus. All the buses starting with 5# are free. A useful one is bus 58 which runs from the train station (and bus station) to many of the attractions. Bus fare are capped at ¥1 per trip.

Taxis are also inexpensive and easily hailed within the city. Usually hard to catch during peak hours (17:30-19:00).

Another inexpensive way for a day-trip to scenic spots in the city area of Guilin is to get a driver for a whole or half day. As of March 2012 (off-season) a whole day is about ¥100, half is ¥50. Most hotels or hostels arrange this service, also telling the driver where you want to go if one is not capable of speaking Chinese.

See

Landmarks

Museums and galleries

Parks in the city

Landscape close to the city centre

Elephant Trunk Hill
Reed Flute Cave

Parks and landscape outside the city centre

Crown Cave

Nearby towns and villages

Do

Guilin City

Li River

Neighbouring towns and villages

  • Golf Course,  +86 773 6229898, fax: +86 773 6229906. Beautiful golf course with 27 holes. A bit on the expensive side but well worth the money.
  • Theme Park.

Learn

Buy

There is a big underground bazaar running from the train station all the way to the bus station selling clothes, footwear, accessories, bags, and many more. The second underground market is located underneath the city center selling food, bags, mobile phones and other electronic devices. Remember to bargain if prices are not openly displayed.

Branded luxury goods can be purchased from the departmental stores near Cross Street. Suncome has many branches throughout the city selling everyday necessities.

There is also a street market set up along Zhongshan Lu at night selling typical tourist trinkets.

Eat

Guilin rice noodles

Local cuisine

Guilin cuisine is influenced by Cantonese and Hunanese styles, but with more use of fish and spices and often prepared using stir-frying or steaming. Restaurants often assume westerners do not like spicy food and will make your food bland as hell if you do not insist otherwise. Even then there is a chance they will not believe you.

Guilin has some distinct local ingredients used in a number of dishes.

As many other Chinese cities, Guilin has its own snacks.

A number of Guilin dishes are unique to the city or are especially wellknown here.

Restaurant streets

Restaurants can be found throughout the city. There are various eateries near the train station selling cheap and simple but delicious local dishes. There are many restaurants around the main streets, Jiefang Road and along the river, but many of them are either overpriced chains and/or tourist traps and the food they serve is less than authentic. Do not be fooled by them being crowded, they are not worth the money. A better option may be to wander the side streets.

There are a few clusters of restaurants worth exploring.

Budget

Mid-range

Drink

Liquan beer and osmanthus tea.

Cafes

Bars

Sleep

Guilin is a tourism city. There are many hotels, more than 30 five-star hotels, 100 four-star hotels, and 200 three-star hotels.

Budget

Mid-range

Splurge

Stay safe

Guilin is quite safe by both Chinese and International standards, but having said that :

Go next

This article is issued from Wikivoyage - version of the Wednesday, March 02, 2016. The text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share Alike but additional terms may apply for the media files.