An elephant, a cave and some rice

The title pretty much sums up our time here in Guilin. We have had some late nights and have chosen sleep over blog updates. We leave on the overnight train to Beijing tomorrow afternoon, so we thought that an update was due. Before I get into details about what we have been up to these last two days, let me just say that the scenery in Guilin has not disappointed. Almost everywhere you look, you can see green peaks poking upwards.

On our first morning, we grabbed a taxi and headed out to Elephant Trunk Hill Scenic Area. This park is located on the famous Li River. It was a lovely day and there were many amateur fishermen trying their luck in the river…never did see anyone catch anything though. We started off our exploration of the park on Love Island; named this because of the many statues depicting scenes of love. The girls particularly liked the ones with the mother and child elephants. As we reached the far end of the island, we were greeted by a group of elephants (statues) frolicking in the water. Behind them, across the water was the hill itself. It is not hard to see why it earned it’s name. The elephant’s back is the round hillside while there is a gap (Moon Cave) which creates the trunk dipping down into the river for a drink. We had originally planned on taking a bamboo raft ride but instead decided to climb to the top of the elephant’s back. It was well worth the exertion as the views were beautiful.

Now our original plan was simply to leave the park and walk along the water until we found a noodle seller. Instead, we walked along until we discovered the pedestrian street. No worries though, we got the much desired Guilin Noodles and ended up having hot noodle soup on what was heating up to be a rather warm day. We still had some time before we were going to head to our next destination and decided to poke around this section of Guilin a bit. In the process, we came upon the original city wall and a refurbished “old Guilin” shopping section complete with large pagoda. It was actually quite fun to wander through the laneways wondering what might be around the next corner.

At this point, we decided to go to the next item in the title – the Reed Flute Caves which were named for the reeds outside that were used to make instruments out of. Now, Elspeth did buy an instrument there but it was a penny whistle not a flute. We were feeling a bit lazy by this point so bought tickets (with the help of our taxi driver) for the little train that drove up through the tree tops to the cave entrance. The girls were very excited to see the stalagmites and stalactites as they had only ever seen them in books while Glenn and I had heard good things about how they were lit. The caves were crowded as they held people at the entrance and then let a large group in at once; and the tour was in Chinese. That said, it ended up not mattering in the least. There were signs in both English and Chinese at various points in the cave giving you a hint about what you might see in the rock – a lion’s face, a vegetable garden. The most interesting thing for me though was not the light show (which was pretty darn cool) or the signs, but the reflections of the lit rock formations in the still pools of water which had gathered at various points in the cave. Additionally, it was nice and cool underground which was nice given that it had begun to get rather hot.

That takes care of the elephant and cave in the title so I will skip forward until today and explain about the rice. Today was spent at the Longji Rice Terraces in Pingan Village. It was well worth the drive from Guilin as it was breathtaking. It boggles the mind to conceive how these terraces were constructed prior to 1910 without modern technology yet exhibit such engineering. The upper terraces feeding into the lower ones. Bamboo halves being used to help control the over flow in order to minimize erosion and protect the integrity of the fields. Additionally, every space was used. Corn and melons were grown beside paths that wound upward amongst the paddies. What did the girls think? Katrine enjoyed the science of the place as well as the many small waterfalls (some just a trickle) while Elspeth particularly enjoyed the free range poultry more specifically the roosters. This was also the first time that I have seen houses made fully of wood in China…okay, cement foundations and columns but wooden exteriors.

What do you do when you are tired and your feet hurt plus you are a bit wet from the Scotch mist? Why stop for a meal of course! Elspeth was super excited by a Zheung woman who was selling eggs cooked on a bed of charcoal. She saw them on the way up the mountain and just had to have one. Well, it turns out that this cooking process left the eggs hard boiled. She said that it was one of the best eggs she has ever had and that girl likes her eggs. The rest of us passed on the pig brain soup, and opted to try crystal dumplings that supposedly tasted like chicken corn soup and farm grown red rice. The rice was new to me. It was stickier than plain white rice but pretty tasty. I liked it better when I added some clear bone broth to it.