After getting off a 20 hour sleeper train, my back was slightly aching and I was ready to take Guilin! My first steps into the fresh Guilin air was the perfect remedy: clear pale blue sky, like a robin’s egg, and about 75 degree perfect weather. I could almost smell summer.
The only foreigner at the train station, I was bombarded with taxi requests, but I decided to hop on a local bus for $0.30 and ride it 13 stops downtown to make my way to Elephant Hill. Elephant Hill is considered to be one of the pride and joys of Guilin, and is called Elephant Hill because from the side it looks like an elephant trunk dipping into the water. Riding the public transportation through the city’s downtown area, I found that it is full of life but nowhere nearly as big or developed as Beijing, Shanghai, or even Harbin or Xi’an. There are no skyscrapers, which is great because it allows perfect views of the surrounding mountains. There is no air pollution, and no one here wears masks.
From the top of Elephant Hill I could see these mountains looming in the backdrop of the city. They looked so mystical yet inviting at the same time. I made my way down to the base of where the “elephant trunk” meets the water, and made sure to get views of it from land across the river as well. Everything was so green and luscious!
After Elephant Hill I walked to the Sun and Moon Pagodas that stand in a nearby lake. With absolutely stunning traditional architecture, they reminded me a bit of my old home, Beijing! I sat and observed fisherman catch fish in the lake and watched the funny dynamic between them when one caught fish after fish and the other couldn’t catch any at all!
I strolled around the beautiful rivers at sunset, ate street food at a local market, got attacked by a perseverant fish that jumped out of its tank, checked out the Twin Pagodas again at nightfall, and finally made my way to my hostel for the night. Being my first hostel experience, I wasn’t sure what to expect, and needless to say, it definitely delivered an unexpected experience, making me seriously question what I had willing signed myself up for. However, I’m going to tough it out; it’s all part of the experience. As for now, I’m looking forward to what Day 2 of my travels brings.