After a rather pleasant flight on China Southern we landed in Guilin at about 12:15 am. Our guide Simon was waiting right outside of security for us and whisked us to our waiting van. The midnight drive to our apartment was almost surreal– Guilin is known for its karst peaks, and even in the dark I could see the outlines of the peaks against the night sky. I couldn’t wait to see the city in the daylight!
We got to our apartment about 1 am. We had been booked in what is essentially the Chinese version of an extended-stay hotel, which means we were in one of about 18 apartments owned by the tour company in a 16-story apartment building. The building is one of about six grouped around a courtyard. The apartment was quite nice, and is available for month-long rentals. We’ve told Bug if the tour company is still offering the same deal when she’s older she can go stay for a month. Here are some pics of the apartment.
Even though it was one in the morning I had to get us settled in. So I boiled water for tooth brushing (tap water is not potable in China, meaning it’s not safe to drink or use for tooth brushing unless you boil it first), unpacked, and set up a WiFi network so I could use the iPad. About 2 am I settled down and finally went to bed, though not to sleep for awhile.
Our guide took pity on us and didn’t arrange to pick us up until 11 am. He arranged for our breakfast to be brought up at 9:30. One perk of the apartment is that the housekeeper brought up a home-cooked breakfast every morning. It was fantastic and we looked forward to breakfast every morning. Here was the first morning’s feast:
Simon and the driver picked us up, and our first stop was an organic tea farm located on the outskirts of town. We found the tea farm fascinating. Our tour guide at the farm showed us how green, oolong, and black tea all came from the same plant– it just depends on which leaves are picked and then how they are processed. Here’s our tour guide at the tea farm, with the farm in the background:
Bug struck up a conversation with one of the young women working at the farm, who coincidentally looked a lot like Bug. In fact, I have to admit I’d been scouring faces since we got to China looking for someone who “looked” like Bug, and she was the first person I saw where I saw any faint resemblance. She told our guide Simon afterwards that Bug seemed to still understand Chinese, which surprised us. Here’s Bug with her new friend:
We saw a demonstration of how green tea is processed, and then our tea farm tour guide treated us to a traditional tea tasting. Predictably, Bug tried to take over before it started:
We learned all sorts of tea etiquette, including the tradition of tapping three times on the table as your tea is poured to show your appreciation to the pourer. The tea was fantastic, so of course we bought some to take home. The farm also ships to the US. If you’re interested, the website is www.guilintea.com. The Liubao Compress Tea is fantastic!
We went to lunch, where Bug discovered a new love– poached chicken in ginger. It’s apparently a Shanghainese dish, and now that I’ve found a recipe I need to try to cook it. After lunch we went to the grounds of the Guangxi Normal University, which is the former provincial governmental facility. Guilin was the seat of Guangxi government for centuries before the government was moved to Nanning in the mid-20th century. Sun Yat-wen also had a headquarters here, and during the Qing dynasty the facility hosted the provincial-level Confucian civil service tests. Visitors could even participate in a mock test. Here are the two tourists who “passed” the test!
Solitary Beauty Peak (along with its accompanying caves underneath) is also on the grounds. We made at least an effort to climb the stairs to the top carved into the side of the mountain, but being wimpy white Americans, G and I could only made it about one-third of the way. Phew! Here we are after our attempted climb posing in front of one of the caves reputed to have inspired poets over 500 years ago:
That night we went for a traditional dinner of Guilin-style noodles in a local noodle shop on the corner near our apartment complex. We hit Wal-Mart for supplies, including Bug’s new obsession, peach juice, and then headed back to relax and get ready for one of the highlights of the trip– our cruise down the Li River.