Saturday, May 28, 2011

Guilin Dining

Guilin has greater dining options compared to Yangshuo. However, I did not seek them far and wide for my meals. I would just enter a restaurant if I fancied it. Most of the time, I dined near Zhongsan South Road, where I put up accommodation at Happy Hotel.

One of my favourite restaurants was right behind Happy Hotel. The food was excellent and cheap. While in Guilin on the eve of my departure, I had hoped to have my last meals there but it was closed. On the last day in Guilin, I had wanted to take my breakfast there but it had not opened for business when I checked out from the hostel.

While walking out of Jinjiang Princes Palaces and Mausoleum, I saw this hole-in-the-wall on the inside entrance of the wall surrounding the park. It was around lunch time at about 12:30 p.m.

There were quite a number of restaurants on the same row of shops as Happy Hotel where I stayed. Just a few shop lots away were these two restaurants.

One of my favourite Chinese food is Dim Sum. I chose dumpling at Seven Star Park and also at a Dim Sum/ dumpling restaurant adjacent to the bridge along Zhongsan Middle Road leading to Ronghu (Banyan Lake).

In Papua New Guinea (PNG), the northern Chinese version of the dumpling was not that good. I was hoping that dumpling in China, and in this case, Guilin, would be better. I was disappointed.

The claypot rice prepared at this restaurant along Zhongsan South Road in Guilin was different from the one which I ate in Yangshuo a few days later. The method of preparation was different. In Guilin, the claypot rice comes with some meat, sausage and an egg. For the side dish, you select and mix the pre-cooked food from a few trays displayed at the food counter.

My first meal in China was Guilin Mifen (Guilin rice noodle). It was the most popular breakfast meal in this region. Therefore, I took it on myself that my last bowl of meal would also be Guilin Mifen, before I leave Guilin.

Dining in Guilin - Yangshuo

There are some dining cultures here that are distinctly different from Malaysian dining cultures.
  • The portion tends to be very large for vegetable based dishes, probably twice that we can expect in Malaysia. Meat based dishes tend to be smaller in size.
  • Spoons are never provided, both in noodle and rice-based dishes. They are only provided for rice porridge or soup.
  • Disposable chopsticks are used most of the time.
  • Plates, cup, etc. are shrink-wrapped in plastic in more established restaurants.
  • If drink is served, it is always tea. There is nothing else for you to order, except probably for alcoholic beverages.
  • The local people do not seemed to eat out much. This may account for the small number of eateries relative to its populations. At every restaurant/ stall, patrons are invariably visitors from outside the district.
  • The most popular dish is Guilin Mifen or Guilin rice noodle served in soup. They are found in every city. Malaysian-type rice and wheat noodles such as flat rice noodle (Kway Tiau), fresh yellow noodle, thin beehoon, etc. are not available
  • No Malaysian-type chilli sauce is used. Rather, chilli powder is used for deep fried food.
  • Food in this region is never sweet, but savoury, sour and spicy.
There is a dearth of good noodle dishes here. Whether it is Guilin, Yangshuo, Xingping or Sanjiang, the choices are very limited. In Yangshuo, with such a vibrant tourism industry and with so many visitors there, I could not believe that there are only such a small variety of noodle dishes.  Maybe, I should move there and start a food business specialising in Malaysian noodle dishes.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011


There were some unexpected discoveries and there were some disappointments.

Huangyao is a real discovery of a gem, courtesy of Am of sayingtheunsaid ( Visit this place before high-rise buildings started sprouting up on the periphery of the village and spoiling the beautiful, rustic scenery. Some parts are already being developed. The Chinese are already there, but not in hordes as at Yulong River, Li River or Yangshuo.

Xingping is nice too. There were a lot of Chinese day trippers but was very quiet at night, with no night activities. Explore the river front, both at the jetty and the area near the bridge which were over-grown with bamboo groves. Right across the bridge, within a short walking distant, is the viewing point of the hills denoted in the RMB20 note. The old part of the town, which you can reach by walking along the alleys, was rustic and charming too.

The greatest disappointment was the scenery along the Yulong River and between Xingping and Yangdi. Maybe, my expectation was too high, thinking of the time before mass tourism came to Yangshuo. Maybe, I thought I could see super still water with those clear, blue sky reflecting off the Yulong River or Lijiang, green leaves in abundance everywhere, with nobody around or man-made structure at every corner. It was the pictures like those on this page and those in Chinese painting that drew me to this part of the world.

The timing of the visit in spring with the misty weather, the horde of Chinese tourists and the artificial and man-made structure everywhere spoilt everything. Every where you look was misty white. The cold winter turned the bamboo leaves brown on the edge, which otherwise could have been beautiful, especially along the Yulong River. The Yulong River and Li River at Yangdi could have been very still, reflecting the beautiful hills in the sun but no, there were the never-ending ripples from moving rafts carrying the hordes of Chinese tourists. The hill and water scenery at Gongnong Bridge could have been so beautiful but those man-made structure and the tourist rafts really spoilt everything.

Chengyang was a disappointment. There was only the Chenyang Bridge to see. The Drum Tower was not spectacular. Ma’an Village, right across Chengyang Bridge, sees its traditional houses slowly being replaced with brick and cement houses. The villagers are going to kill off tourism in Chengyang if they are so money-obsessed. When you cross the modern bridge from the village side to the main road and attempt to walk along the road towards Chengyang Bridge (not on the village side) or other villages the next day, you will be asked to pay for entrance fee again. This is unbelievable! The entrance fee of RMB60 is already steep enough and squeezing more money out from visitors is not going to be healthy for the local tourism industry.

Dazhai could have been spectacular. At this time in spring, only some of the villagers were getting their rice fields ploughed. The raining season has not arrived and the fields were brown from the dead rice stump. It there was rain and sun, the water-filled field would reflect the sun light giving the rice terrace its magnificent sight. Unfortunately, the sky was misty white, not clear and sunny.

I read a fair amount on Zhaoxing. Getting there directly is a problem. I read in blogs that buses departed from Sanjiang to Zhaoxing twice a day, early morning and mid-day. The morning bus was said to be reliable on its run. However, this was not the case. There were no direct buses. This was a great disappointment too.

Anyway, the best part of this trip was the first four days, and it was really fulfilling. If I were to go back, I would be going there in June.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Goodbye Guilin

Day 15 (6th April 2011) 

My trip to Guilin was finally coming to an end.

I checked out from the hostel early in the morning and made arrangement with the hostel to call a taxi. I would only need to pay the hostel RMB80. Flagging down a taxi on my own would cost more, between RMB90 - 100. The taxi would arrive for the pick-up at 8:15 a.m.

I had wanted to have a last look at Guilin before leaving. Unfortunately, it was raining. After an early breakfast of Guilin Mifen (Guilin rice noodle) for the last time and buying some steamed bun from the same eatery at a nearby lane, I returned to the hostel to wait for the taxi.

The taxi finally arrived at about 8:25 a.m. It was late as there was a bad traffic jam. Finally, I arrived at the airport at about 9:10 a.m.

There was a small crowd of Malaysian waiting outside the entrance to the check-in hall already. There was no time for photo-taking as originally planned. After checking in and getting the boarding pass, I went straight to the departure hall.

Airasia flight AK103 finally took off from Liangjiang International Airport for KL International Airport at about 11:35 a.m. My Guilin/ Yangshuo trip finally ended.

Goodbye Yangshuo, Back to Guilin

Day 14 (5th April 2011)

Early that morning, I spent my final hours in Yangshuo at West Street, Diecui Road and Pantao Road.

At 9:15 a.m., it was goodbye Yangshuo.

This time, the RMB18 bus ride to Yangshuo ended at the bus station where I looked for the Daxu bus, instead of the bus terminal across from Guilin Train Station/ bus terminal. I was thinking of staying at a hostel close by but after checking out one, I decided to go back to Happy Youth Hostel because it was cleaner, and I felt safer there even though it was slightly more expensive.

After lunch, I just wanted to walk along Zhongsan Nan Lu to the north. As I walked on and on, I found myself looking at a park. I was at Banyan Lake (Ronghu).