There are lots to do and see in this scenic tourist destination. Ewe Paik Leong takes in the sights and samples some exotic fare as well
WHILE walking along Guilin City’s Zhenyang Lu (literally means Pedestrian Street), bathed in a rainbow of neon lights on both sides, my eyes widen in surprise.
My pulse quickens as I read the Mandarin signboard: Fried rat meat. Holding on to my policy “go where angels fear to tread” where food is concerned, I pop inside and enquire: “Are the rats bred in farms?”
“No, these are bamboo rats,” comes the answer.
Dread enters my vein as rats caught in the wild may carry a host of diseases, so I pass up the opportunity to taste these exotica.
HORSING WITH NOODLES
A few metres ahead, wooden tables packed with diners spill on the pavement from Old Chan Kee Turtle Restaurant. That’s an indicator of delicious fare.
Stepping in, I ask the guy at the counter: “What’s your speciality?”
“Horse meat noodles,” he says and hands me a menu.
Wow! This I must try! The menu occupies my attention while I wait for my order. Among other interesting items listed are turtle soup, beer fish and fried taro roots.
My order arrives — rice noodles, long beans, groundnuts, slices of horse meat and parsley.
I sip a spoonful of soup and breathe in the aroma. The horsey smell is bearable, though it is masked by the parsley and pickled long beans.
Naturally, next is the moment of truth — the horse meat. Its texture is similar to liver sausages sold during Chinese New Year, and is slightly sweet. The cook has executed his culinary warfare quite well.
WHERE WATER FALLS
My next surprise is at the North Road junction. Chinese classical music reverberates in the air, drawing me to the source.
Water gushes down from the top of the Lijiang Waterfall Hotel, its roar muted by the crescendo of the music. Sprays of cold water sprinkle on my head.
A crowd gathers, clicking with their cameras. The nightly performance lasts 10 minutes and is listed in the Guinness Book of Records as the largest artificial water in the world.
It is 45m high, 72m wide at the top and 75m at the bottom.
I enter a wine shop filled with a myriad of containers ranging from glass bottles to ceramic calabash and exquisite porcelain pots on rows of shelves.
Guilin is famed for its Guihua and Sanhua wine. Yellow and sweet in taste, Guihua wine is brewed from osmanthus flowers and wild grapes.
Sanhua wine, dubbed the King of Wines, is concocted from high-grade rice. A hideous bottle of snake wine, with the reptile curled inside like a spring coil, jolts me.
The sight spoils my browsing mood and I hail a taxi back to the hotel.
Relaxing in the back seat and watching busy Guilin City pass by, my mental projector replays the day’s tour.
Earlier we had had a full-day city tour that kicked off with a visit to a tea store where the sales supervisor explained the production process of different types of tea and then offered small cups of tea for us to sample, followed by persuasive sales attempts.
Next was a pharmaceutical factory. A woman, garbed in white overalls, briefed us on the company history. Then two sinseh (traditional doctors) entered.
“One speaks Cantonese, the other, Mandarin. They’ll give you free diagnosis,” she said. The duo felt the pulse of the visitors, uttering words like anaemia, poor blood circulation and liver problem and offered products to cure them.
I felt like a fish being drawn into a fisherman’s net. When they approached me, I shook my head, waved my palm and said: “Ingrish speaking!” They left me alone. Phew!
The third stop was a knife factory. A product demonstrator turned on an electric razor and rubbed it against an iron pipe, cutting nicks in it.
The razor blades are made of steel. “It’s also water proof!” she announced.
She plunged the razor, connected by a cord to an electric socket, into a jug of water. It buzzed underwater. She dipped her hand into the water.
Then a cleaver took our attention. Wham! She whacked the cleaver against the iron pipe. My goodness, the force of that chop could sever an arm easily. The cleaver nicked the iron pipe but its blade remained good as new.
Finally, she demonstrated with a panty. After pouring black sauce on it, she dunked it into a glass bowl filled with water. The stains floated up by themselves.
“This panty is made of bamboo. Stains, grease and bacteria can’t stick to it, so it’s more hygienic. We have bamboo briefs for men too,” she explained.
PARK AND LAKE
The Liu San Jie (Third Sister Liu) Cultural Park was our next stop. Here, traditional houses of the Yao and Zhuang aborigines stand, a community hall built without nails, bamboo water-wheels and stone and copper sculptures.
The park is dedicated to a beautiful Yao tribe girl who lived during the Tang dynasty. She and her lover committed suicide to escape the clutches of an evil suitor. The guide told us: “A Yao girl is deemed beautiful if she has a big butt, big feet, big lips and small, slender fingers so she can sew well.”
Showtime saw a flurry of colourful costumes, pheasant feathers, shiny medals on jackets and the playing of instruments made of horse bone, cornets and double conical-shaped drums.
After lunch, we headed for Rong Lake, Shan Lake, Mulong Lake and Gui Lake, all interconnected.
The Rong and Shan lakes were dug as moats during the Soong Dynasty to protect Guilin from attackers.
The pride of Shan Lake is its 42m-high copper Sun Pagoda and its 35m-high Moon Pagoda, constructed of wood and glazed tiles.
An underwater passage connects the two structures. The best way to enjoy the scenery is to take a boat cruise at night when the pagodas are lighted up.
Before ending the day, we climbed through the million-year-old caverns of Tunnel Hill Cave (passing Elephant Trunk Hill on the way), swathed in lights, making it look like a fairyland.
I stretched my imagination as the guide shone laser lights at the stalactite and stalagmite formations, uttering descriptions like “seven fairies”, “old man”, “dragon” and others.
HOW TO GET THERE
Guilin is a beautiful city located in north Guangxi, China. Its scenic surroundings make it one of the best-known tourist destinations in China. The town centre is surrounded by two rivers and four lakes, and dotted with karst mountains.
AirAsia has regular direct flights to Guilin from KLIA-LCCT Sepang.