We started the day by sleeping in and recovering from our day of travel yesterday. Once we were cognizant, however, we realized something was happening that we haven’t experienced for four months – weather. Baoding is essentially a desert (we haven’t seen signs of rain since the first week we were arrived) and the only weather variations we have experienced are smog vs. no smog and cold vs. not so cold. Our first full day in Guilin, however, began with an overcast sky and a very slight drizzle. We scurried out to the lobby of the hostel and enjoyed a Western breakfast (complete with pancakes) and coffee (really good, high-quality espresso in actuality) and headed on our way.
We decided the best way to begin our time in Guilin was to get our bearings by exploring the city on foot. After looking at a map and realizing the city really isn’t that big, we decided to go ahead and head for the main attraction in the center of the city – the Sun & Moon Pagodas.
As we walked and enjoyed the cool overcast day, we realized not only how much we absolutely love this city, but just how much better it is than Baoding. I’m grateful that we were placed in Baoding because of what we’ve learned from the experience, and I really would rather live there than a place like Beijing, but in all reality, Baoding is a really gross place to live. We’ve had a great experience with the school but even there, amidst the friendly faces and excited students, you can’t escape the pervasive grime and filth that has come to define for us Baoding. As we walked, with each step falling more in love with Guilin, we came up with a list of ways Guilin is better than Baoding.
Here it is:
-People don’t walk in the street – they use the sidewalks
-There is very little honking
-Parents appear to actually like their children (and each other)
-There are people smiling as you walk down the street
-It’s much, much cleaner
-It actually has weather (and no smog for us!)
-They burn wood instead of plastic coke bottles
-Buses follow basic traffic laws (we watched one actually stop at a red light while we were crossing the street)
-There are lots of smells and none of them are bile, burning plastic, or sewage
-Women dress (mostly) sensibly
-Men and women walk with each other (and seem to enjoy each other’s company rather than avoiding it like the plague)
-People ask to take pictures with you and say thank you after (rather than fooling themselves into thinking they’re being sly with their camera phones while staring at you)
-Everyone here is the size you would expect Chinese people to be (I’m tall here)
(Exception – Guilin is still clearly a Chinese city by its glaringly obvious lack of street signs)
After our lovely and fairly short walk, I looked over my right shoulder and said, “Oh there it is!” at the same time that Duncan gasped, grabbed my arm, and started half-way running down a path to our right. We found the Sun & Moon Pagodas – one of Guilin’s most famous attractions and a destination Duncan has dreamed of visiting since early childhood. We wandered around the famous Banyan Lake that surrounds the pagodas while we took various pictures and basked in the beauty and history of these historic and famous structures. Truly they are breathtaking.
We left the pagodas and found another famous site – Elephant Trunk Hill Park – an elephant themed park inspired by the shape of the mountain formations. Here we did a considerable amount of climbing up and down the mountain basking in the gorgeous views of the city (despite the overcast) and the small caves impressively covered in stone-carved Chinese characters.
We headed back to the hostel to relax, take advantage of the Wi-Fi, and eat dinner before we headed out again to traipse the city at night. What was a beautiful city in the daytime is absolutely stunning at night. If we had been placed here as teachers from the beginning, I would be seriously considering a second year living in China. There’s just nothing bad or critical I can say about this city. It’s magnificent.
To end our day of exploring, we meandered our way back over to the pagodas and were absolutely stunned by the beauty that we stumbled into. After we were done gaping with our jaws opening, we took some pictures and attempted to capture the beauty.
We’ve been to a lot of places so far and I’ve loved most of them (haven’t disliked any of them), but Guilin is my favorite city so far.
Tomorrow we are going on a tour of the world-famous rice terraces (where I heard it has recently been snowing). We’re thrilled for the adventure tomorrow and are sure to have some magnificent views after a little bit of hiking.
Thank you for reading!