Guilin

Guilin Overview

As far as endorsements go, "number one under heaven" isn't bad. And no, it's not Dashan or Yao Ming selling Chinese microwaves, it's the considered judgment of centuries of Chinese culture regarding the "rivers and mountains" of Guilin (Guìlín, 桂林). If you're at all familiar with classical Chinese landscape painting, you've seen the landscape around this Li River town and its downriver neighbor, Yangshuo: fantastic limestone formations towering above placid waters and green rice paddies. 

Guilin is also number one on a lot of China tour itineraries, and the town and surrounding countryside are often quite crowded. So, if you're hoping to experience the area's magnificent scenery as something other than a backdrop for giddy shutterbug tour groups, you might need to get out of town and into more remote countryside. On the other hand, if you don't mind a traditionally Chinese "hot and noisy" crowd, there are numerous Li River boat tours down river to Yangshuo. 

You'll find ample dining options and accommodation in Guilin; pleasant paths along the river or Guilin's twin lakes, Rong Hu and Shan Hu; grottoes in Fubo Shan (Wave Subduing Hill) adorned with ancient Buddhist carvings; the Ming-era Jinjiang Prince's Palace and a slew of other Guilin attractions, including the 800-year-old carved inscription on the karst peak Duxiu Feng (Solitary Beauty Peak), attributed to Guilin's original booster, governor Wan Zhengong: "Guilin's rivers and mountains are number one under heaven." Do believe the hype.

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