6 Days 5 Nights in Guilin 桂林 @ Guilin 桂林 & Longsheng Town 龙胜 (Part 1)

Hi there, my dear readers! How has everyone been since the start of 2024?
I hope you're all doing well.
I've been incredibly busy since the beginning of the year, trying to keep up with all the tasks that keep popping up.
It seems like there's always something that needs to be done! :)
It's hard to believe that it's already March, and I just realized that I haven't written anything since my last post on the final day of 2023. Time really does fly!
Today, I wanted to write a long post about my trip to Guilin in December 2023.
I usually travel in December, whether it's a short or long trip because I believe a year-end trip is a time to enjoy and relax after all the hard work throughout the year.
So, during last year December, I traveled to Guilin with my eldest sister's family, along with my brother-in-law, and my 2 nieces, Jia En and Kai En.
When we decided to travel to China, the first thing that came to my mind was that I wanted to use a travel agency.
I like using a travel agent when I go to China because it can be a bit hard to travel on my own.
Places are far apart, and it can get complicated, going with a travel agent helps me to avoid all the hassle and makes the trip easier without using too much of my time on the planning.
Besides, I also enjoy listening to the stories about China shared by the local tour guide, otherwise, I wouldn't know anything about the places we visited.
This trip, we choose Airlink Travel Agency because my sister had joined their China tours before and she thinks the packages they offer are pretty worth the price.
Our group consisted of only 13 people, a size I find ideal; neither too small nor too big.
I paid a total of RM2800, excluding travel insurance and 1-2 admission fees.
For me, it's quite worth it, considering we stayed in 4-5 star hotels, and the food they served were excellent too.
Well, there is one reason why we paid such a cheap price; this tour included shopping stops.
If you prefer to avoid these stops, you can pay an extra RM500.
If you ask for my opinion, I would say it's worth paying the extra RM500 without hesitation.
My shopping stops experience during this trip wasn't great, and I'll share more about it below, please continue reading to find out more about my experiences. #hehe
So, without further ado, let's start my Part 1 travel story at Guilin City and Longsheng Town right away!

Before I share the itinerary details, I want to thanks to Travel Recommendation for their pocket WiFi.
This device allowed me to access the internet anywhere in China and share it with up to 5 people.
The built-in VPN was a lifesaver; with just a switch, I could use WhatsApp, Google, IG and FB, even when the hotel WiFi blocked them.
The device is also super light and doesn't take up much space.
Most importantly, the battery lasted loner than expected; fully used for a whole day without needing to be charged.
I highly recommend you guys to rent their travel pocket WiFi if you are traveling to overseas as it is so convenient and made my Guilin trip much easier!

Day 1 - Guilin

There is a direct flight from Malaysia to Guilin, which only takes about 4 hours.
We had an early flight at 7am, and because we were part of a tour, we had to arrive at the airport very early, around 3am, making the first day quite tiring.
We arrived Guilin around 11am, and were given about 1 hour to freshen up at the airport before starting the tour.

I always feel hungry when I reach a new place, so it was good that the tour arranged lunch right after we arrived in the city.
After enjoying our first meal in Guilin, we headed to Nanxi Mountain Park 南溪山公园 located in the southern part of Guilin.
It was around 4 degrees Celsius when we arrived in Guilin on the first day, and it was super cold.

My first day outfit in Guilin. :)

Nanxi Mountain Park is named after the Nanxi River that flows through it.
The park has lots of beautiful sights, like mountains, trees and rivers, making it a delightful place for a stroll, especially after a heavy lunch.

Heard from our tour guide said that Nanxi Mountain has the biggest cherry tree park in Guilin, where the most beautiful blossoms happen from late March to early April.
Even though it's winter, it's nice to see the park still have these golden leaves during this colder month. 
We are lucky! :)

I could imagine that this park would be even more beautiful during autumn or fall.
The tall trees, towering mountains, clean river, and colourful leaves would create a truly breathtaking scene. 

We went for a long walk around the park, braving the chilly 4 degrees Celsius temperature, which felt almost freezing.
Despite the cold, we still enjoyed our walk, and the stunning scenery caught my attention.

After visiting Nanxi Mountain Park, we headed to Elephant Trunk Hill 像鼻山, the main attraction in Guilin City.
People say that you haven't truly experienced Guilin until you've visited the Elephant Trunk Hill, as it's one of the city's iconic landmarks.

This iconic landmark is situated in Elephant Trunk Hill, also known as Xiangshan Park, wich located in the center of the confluence of Peach Blossom River and Li River.
Before reaching Elephant Hill, we walked though a kind of a small forest of old, big tress, and enjoyed views of the river along the way.

I wonder if all these big tress are real. :p

Look at the beautiful view!
One of the reasons I enjoy visiting China is because of the affordable travel options and picturesque scenery, which inspires me to travel more and explore further into the beauty of China. :)

We followed the path up the hill and crossed a bridge over the Peach Blossom River, which flows into the Li River, and eventually we arrived at the Elephant Mountain

The Elephant Trunk Hill is named after its striking resemblance to an elephant drinking water, with its shape closely resembling that of an elephant's trunk.
For myself, I find the elephant looks different depending on where you stand to see it. 
I think it happens because of how light and shadows fall on it from different angles, so if you move around, you'll see the elephant in new and interesting ways. 

The Elephant statues under the river are so cute!

Now, it's your turn to tell me, did the mountain look like an elephant? #hehe

After the Elephant Mountain Park, we walked a short distance to Fubo Hill 伏波山.
Here, we could stroll along the pathways to see intricate carvings and stone Buddhas that date back to the Tang Dynasty.

At the Cloister, there is a pavilion showcasing a more than 300-year-old iron pot, known as the Thousand Men Pot 千人锅.
It's weights over 1,000 kilograms, making it large enough to cook for 1000 people at a time.

Next, we walked through a big cave and climbed 350 steps to the top of the hill.
Going up and down small stairs, we reached the Stone Inscription and Statues 试剑石.
The journey was a little bit challenge, especially with the strong wind blowing against us.
However, the view at the back of the cave made it all worthwhile.

The Thousand-Buddha Cave is also hidden in the hill.
Inside, we found fascinating caves with Buddha statues and mural paintings from the Song Dynasty.
These artworks are carved into the walls, some of which are over 1000 years old.

That's our dinner for the first night in Guilin.
I always love Chinese food, so everything on the table was comforting to my stomach, especially during the cold weather. :) 

On the first night, we had Guilin River Snail 田螺.
Our tour guide told us that the Li River in Guilin has lots of snails, and the ones from there are big and tasty.
So, it's something you should try in the city.
The dish looked colourful, smelled good and tasted delicious.
But it was a big hard for me to get the meat out of the snail with my mouth, so I only had a few pieces.
Still, it was spicy and fresh, which I liked!

Also, local beers are always a must-have for every meal.
This is Lijiang beer, known for its exceptionally smooth taste. 

Our tour arranged for us to stay at the Bamboo Garden Hotel for the first and second nights in Guilin.
Typically, tours require two people to share a room, making it easier to organize accommodations.
However, since our group consisted of 5 people, my two nieces and I were assigned to share a room together.

We requested a larger room for the three of us, and we were pleased that Airlink Travel Agency was able to accommodate us for the first two nights.
The room they provided was incredibly spacious, with 2 separate areas; one room had a double bed, while the other had a single bed along with a small living area where we could relax.
I must say, I was thoroughly impressed with the Bamboo Garden Hotel; the facilities, design and cleanliness were top-notch.
I give a big thumbs up for providing such wonderful accommodations. 

Guilin noodle 桂林米粉, is a must-try dish.
I really enjoy its unique texture, which is very chewy, and you can enhance the flavour of the clear soup by adding side dishes and sauces according to your preference. 
I'm happy that our hotel serves delicious noodle soup for breakfast every morning. :)

DAY 2 - Guilin

As mentioned earlier, our trip included shopping stops, and the first one was at a silk blanket store.
After breakfast at the hotel, our tour guide took us to a factory that primarily sold silk blankets.
Despite the introductions and recommendations, we felt pressured to buy and were not allowed to leave the room.
It was an uncomfortable situation because w weren't interested, yet we were urged to make a purchase.
Moreover, the blankets were quite expensive, costing more than RM1500 each.
We ended up spending nearly two hours there, which cut into our time for visiting the next attraction.
In the end, we felt compelled to purchase the blankets, but we opted for a cheaper version to finalize the deal.
If not, I don't think any of us would have been allowed to leave the room and proceed to the next destination. 

It was about 2 hours drive from the city center to Longji Terraced Fields 龙脊梯田, also known as Longsheng Terraced Fields 龙胜梯田 which situated north of Guilin in southern China's Guangxi Autonomous Region. 
It's believed to have been constructed around 650 years ago, the Longji Terraced Fields are renowned for their extensive rice paddies cascading down the mountainside, creating a truly spectacular sight. 
Before my visit, I researched some information about this place, and I'm extremely impressed; I can't wait to see it with my own eyes!

It was a scenic drive up the mountain, and before reaching the the terrace fields, the driver made a stop at a nearby town for a delicious lunch.

Btw, this is my day 2 outfit for the long waited Longji Terraced Fields. :)

Bamboo rice 竹筒饭 is one of the specialties in Longsheng town. 
It's a unique dish made from glutinous rice mixed with peanuts, pork, and bamboo shoots, all roasted together in a bamboo tube over a small fire. 

Our tour leader also ordered Bamboo Chicken for us to pair with the Bamboo Rice. 
I like the natural sweetness of the soup that comes from the chicken itself. :)

Another specialty dish in the town is Bacon 腊肉, which consists of thinly sliced pork prepared in an in-home smokery.
If you are a bacon lovers, I am sure you will enjoy this dish.
If you enjoy rice wine, be sure to try a glass of local rice glutinous wine 糯米酒, a sweet homemade rice wine, which will perfectly complement your meal.
Otherwise, you can can also enjoy a cup of aromatic Longji tea 龙脊茶 together with your meal. 
Check out my IG story that I highlighted under "Guilin" for more food stories. :)

After enjoying a good lunch, we drove a few more minutes up the mountain to reach the iconic destination, Longji Terraced Fields.

I initially hesitated to visit Guilin in December after reading online that the terrace fields are usually harvested in November, leaving little to see in December.
However, due to the last-minute decisions and budget constraints, I ended up following my sister's family's decision to visit in December.
So, if you're planning a trip to Guilin, you can consider visiting in October over December for a better view to enjoy. 

We were very lucky that the weather on that day was pleasant, not as cold as the previous day, which made walking enjoyable.
Additionally, I also noticed there were very few crowds, just our group of 13 people during our visit.
I thought this probable because December is the low season for tourists in this area.

Overlooking the mountainous paddies, I spotted some some wooden houses dotting the landscape. 
According to our tour guide, she said that the Guangxi terraces were built by China's Zhuang 状族 and Yao 瑶族 ethnic groups during the Yuan and Qing dynasties.
They moved to the mountains to avoid problems and continued farming despite the difficult land.
And today, most people in Longsheng are still from these groups; where the Zhuang people are China's largest minority, with about 18 million members, many living in Guangxi and neighboring Yunnan Province.
And in Longsheng, it's usual to see Zhuang people living in homes on stilts. 

Look at the view! It's absolutely breathtaking!

Having so much fun together with my sister and nieces while walking through the terraced fields, exploring the picturesque landscape, and immersing ourselves in the beauty of nature. 

Besides the padi fields, do check out the Centenary Houses 百年古屋 and Stone Carving Culture, which served as the foundation of the Longji rice terraces area.

This region boasts the largest collection of unique stilt-style wooden houses 吊脚楼 and embodies the stone carving culture of the Zhuang ethnic group.

These oldest inhabited stilt-style wooden houses here has a history of over 250 years, still serving as a residence for locals.

Alongside the wooden houses, the area is also rich in stone carving relics such as stone mills, flagstone roads, ancient stone bridges, ancient steles, stone vats, ancient wells, ancient village gates and more. 

So, that's the end of my travel story at the Longji Terrance Field.
It was truly incredible to witness such vast rice paddies spread across the mountainside.
I could imagine this place would look even more beautiful and stunning when the paddies turn golden in colour.
I hope to return someday in future to witness this breathtaking sight once again with the golden paddies!

After returning to the city centre from Longsheng Town, the tour leader arranged us special local delicacies which is the Oil-Tea 油茶, which is a distinctively Guilin flavour. 
In every country of Guilin, people regularly enjoy oil tea but the most renowned oil tea enthusiasts are the Yao people of Gongcheng. 

It was nice that the tour guide arranged for us to visit a restaurant where we could see how oil tea is made.
This helped us learn more about this local specialty. #thanks
To prepare oil tea, tea leaves are fried with garlic, salt, ginger, chili, and sometimes other ingredients, along with oil in a wok.
Water then added and the mixture is boiled.
The resulting tea, which is more like a broth, is strained through a wicker sieve or tea strainer.
The leaves in the strainer might be pounded with a wooden pestle to bring out more flavors.

Oil tea has a greenish-gray colour and a strong taste. 
It somehow looks like the lei cha we had in Malaysia.
Personally, I don't enjoy it because I find the taste very strange, and it has a very strong smell.
However, I would recommend giving it a try since it's something unique to Guilin. 

Another local beer we tried during the trip, and I personally like this beer more than the others. :)

On the second day of our trip, we started to interact more and build connections with each others
It was always a nice experience to meet new people during the journey and establish friendships that continued even after the trip ended.

After dinner, we followed the tour guide's suggestion and took a leisurely walk.
We explored Guilin city on foot, allowing us to take in the sights and sounds as we moved from one attraction to another.
I enjoy walking while traveling because it gives me a chance to appreciate the charm of the city's streets and landmarks up close.
And the night view over here is beautiful, with the lights shimmering across the lake, river, bridges, buildings, creating a mesmerizing sight. 

We walked along Shan Lake and visited the Rongshanhu Scenic Area 榕杉湖景区, home to the Sun and Moon Twin Towers.
The Sun Tower is recognized as the world's tallest bonze tower, while the Moon Tower is constructed from azurite stone. 

The happy three of us! :)

Passed by the Ancient South Gate 古南门, which is situated alongside a scenic walk by the lake.

The Yang Bridge 阳桥 is loacted at the meeting point of Ronghu Lake and Shanhu Lake in Xiufeng District and Xiangshan District of Guilin city.
It's one of the important bridge on Zhongshan road, spanning 34 meters in length and 50 meters in width, with 6 lanes in both directions.

The bridge's design is inspired by the Vatikan Bridge of Vatican City in Rome.
Together with the reliefs under the bridge, it forms a unique and charming scenery in Guilin city.

Before the night came to an end, we visited the Guilin Lijiang Waterfall Hotel 桂林漓江大瀑布饭店, home to the biggest man-made waterfall 漓江大瀑布 in Guilin.
This attraction is one of the most popular tourists resorts in South China's Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, and has even earned a spot in the Guinness Book of World Records for its impressive size.
The waterfall stretches 72 meters wide and stands 45 meters tall, flows from the  top of the Lijiang-waterfall Hotel to a pool on the ground below, releasing 2,560 cubic meters of water per hour. 
While some may find this visit interesting, I personally didn't find it particularly captivating.
If you're not interested, feel free to skip this part of the trip. :)

That's all about my travel story in Guilin city and Longsheng Town, Part 1.
I hope you've enjoyed reading this long post from me.
I'll be continuing with Part 2 in Yangshuo, so please stay tuned and wait for my return! 

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