Toilet star rating = 4 star
The limestone karst landscape around Guilin and the Li River has inspired Chinese artists and poets for millennia and millions of tourists flock here to cruise the beautiful river and soak up the scenery. We arrived on the flight from Kunming about 1am quite the worst for wear. The hostel had organised a pick up for us so we followed the guy with the sign and hopped in his cab for the 40 minute drive to downtown. The hostel had warned us about dodgy taxi drivers so maybe we were a little paranoid. We were certainly confused. We thought we were going to Wada Hostel but when the driver dropped us at Backstreet Hostel, took our money and sped off, we thought "WTF!?" While we were standing there angry and confused another taxi driver offered to take us to Wada. We accepted in bad grace and we set off again. 10 minutes later at Wada Hostel we were assailing the poor girl on the desk with stories about the taxi driver ripping us off and leaving us stranded. She was most concerned and helpful but couldn't find our reservation. I jumped on a PC, checked our emails and confirmed our reservation with.... Backstreet. Oh dear!! It was now around 2.30am so we decided just to check in to Wada and sort out the whole sorry mess in the morning. The room at Wada was drab and awful but we were exhausted and crashed.
The next day we moved to Backstreet, which was situated right in the heart of the pedestrian tourist district and very nice. The staff could not understand how we got so confused - "but we sent a car for you?" Err, yes, but we were crazy. At least I had illness as an excuse. I was still quite sick and spent the rest of the day sleeping. I only managed to rouse myself for dinner later that night.
The next day we did a walking tour of the city. Guilin has many parks and lakes which gives it a pleasant ambiance. In one of the lakes is the twin pagodas. One stands on a small artificial island. The other is set in the lake, connected by an underwater passage to the first pagoda. I don't think they are particularly old as the bronze pagoda has an elevator inside, which made going up a breeze, but walking down was a bit of a challenge. The Chinese seem particularly fond of very steep stairs.
There are limestone karsts and caves throughout the city. We took a taxi to the Reed Flute Cave, the best on in the city. Like other Chinese tourist attractions it was a little bit theme parky, but despite this the size of the cave was truly impressive. From there we visited another park, but it was pretty awful so we headed back into the heart of the old city.
Dead set in the centre of the old town is Lone Beauty Peak, a single karst spire jutting up in the middle of the Ming era castle. The castle and grounds are now a university. There is a little shrine at the top of the peak and the views are spectacular so we joined the hordes of Chinese tourists scampering up it's steep slopes. But we chickened out about a third of the way up. The marble steps were very steep and slippery and the Chinese tourists are pushy and careless (I am continually amazed how people here simply step out into the street without even looking!).
Another wonder of Guilin is the Waterfall Hotel. At 8.30pm every night about a trillion gallons of water pours off the top of the hotel in an artificial waterfall. It's truly bizarre. And a little spectacular.
That night we stopped for a drink at the German bar and bumped into Dave from Attadale. Talk about a small world? He lives one street from us in Perth! We had a long chat before we set off for the local night club. Once again we were the only foreigners in the place and people bought us drinks. We had a great night and drank way too much.
They take security seriously in China!