I highly recommend taking the trip to Guilin, more specifically Yangshuo in Guangxi province. It is a truly breathtakingly beautiful place, and the pace of life is slower than in the major cities. Now, I’m not going to say how ideallic and untouched it is, because it’s definitely not. There were tons of Chinese and Western tourists there, but the ability to take in the place at your own pace was appealing.
Yangshou is a touristy backpacker town about 70 km or 1 hour from the main city of Guilin. I flew from Shenzhen and have recently searched flights going for about 590 each way, inclusive of tax. From HKG, Dragonair, Hong Kong Airlines, and China Southern all fly non-stop, at higher fares. I hired a taxi through my hotel to pick me up upon arrival and go straight to Yangshou.
These are the three main activities I recommend:
- Bamboo river raft riding through the limestone mountains in Yangshuo (and the boat driver leaving me at a farm, short of the pier, because they charged a ‘docking fee,’ and getting chased by a bull because of that.)
- Bike riding through the farmland and mountains (and the scam ‘ferry’ to bring you across the stream where a bridge was never built)
- Impressions Light Show (by Olympic opening games director Zhang Yimou)
The trip is an easy 1.5 hour flight from HKG, and can be a long weekend getaway. Guilin itself didn’t offer much, except for a rock in the shape of an elephant’s trunk, which I refused to pay good RMB for, so I peered through the trees to see it. There are some caves lit in neon colors on the tourist trail as well. The most interesting and fun part was going up Yao Mountain on a ski lift, then sledding down on what I thought to be an extremely dangerous, but lengthly and enjoyable toboggan track.