Guilin, China – More than just a stopover town
Leaving Beijing for Guilin
After a wonderful week in Beijing, we took an overnight train to Guilin. This was our first experience on Chinese trains and overall, I would say it was very comfortable. We purchased tickets for a sleeper cabin. Every so often someone would come by selling fruits, dried snacks or delicious dehydrated soup. Celeste had never seen the movie “The Last Emperor” so we started it at the same time on our ipads and watched as we passed out.
Arriving into Guilin, we were pleasantly surprised by the charm of this city. Right away you notice the many rivers and trees scattered all over. Unlike Beijing, Guilin was more intertwined with nature and you could see it, feel it, and smell it. It rained much of the time we were there and in my mind, that is how I will remember the atmosphere. There was something very romantic about the place, we noticed a lot more couples walking together, holding hands, and overall more smiling vs the fast pace and no nonsense of the big city.
We stayed at Green Forest Hostel which was pretty central. Each day we made time to walk around in different directions to better understand the town. Very few knew english so it was mostly getting instructions before leaving the house or using google translate to communicate. As always, most people are very helpful as long as you make a genuine effort.
One of our favorite restaurants, was around the corner and we had no idea what it was called. Since the sign was in Chinese, we called it Tree in a Box Noodles. The setup was boiled noodles and your choice of paid and free toppings. They would drop the noodles in boiling water along with any eggs or meats you order but it’s actually the free toppings that make Guilin noodles. They have random sauces, radishes, peanuts, etc. The finished version could never be wrong! The sauces ranged from red to green to spicy as hell! There’s also something else very interesting and dear to our hearts about Guilin Noodles. Guilin noodles are ancestors of Vietnamese noodles like Pho and Bun Bo Hue! I personally love Vietnamese food so when I found out about this, I felt as if the universe was leveling me up.
Aside from Noodles, Guilin is also famous for their dumplings. We found a random place inside of an almost abandoned mall. There was never anyone there but the dumplings were superb. After visiting a couple of times, we eventually became friendly with the owner and his daughter. They introduced us to some local rice wines called Baiju.
You cannot bring up Guilin food and not mention the Osmanthus tree. The Chinese are very proud of the Osmanthus tree and it can be found in teas, medicines, wines, and various foods. They are planted all over town and once you notice them, you will appreciate the city even more.
Finally, I will say that I enjoyed Guilin much more than I had anticipated. Guilin is known for being the city you travel to before taking a bus to Yangshuo (Karst Mountains 2hrs away). Even though Yangshuo is pretty impressive, I have thought about Guilin more and wish we could spend more time there because the pace was just right.