No. 1: Trekking through Longji Rice Terraces, Longsheng County
As our bus climbed the winding mountain road, cascading waterfalls splashed against the side of our bus. Rainfall the day before had amply irrigated the area, bringing about this unusual sight.
A cable car transferred us to the top of the mountain, affording us a commanding view of the Longji rice terraces. These terraces were built about 650 years ago by the Zhuang Tribe and they resembled the scales of a dragon, hence the name Longji (Dragon's Backbone). The Zhuang Tribe still inhabit the area and they wear characteristic colourful costumes and headgear.
At the top of the terraces, where the cablecar stopped, were stalls which sold a variety of local produce, snacks and souvenirs.
Views from the scenic lookout points were impressive. Hard to fathom how the Zhuang tribesmen carved the terraces out from the steep hillside. It must have been dangerous and strenuous work for them.
The best way to appreciate the rice terraces is to take the cable car up, then walk back down. We got to get up close to the terraces and watch the farmers work their land. The walk down was mostly easy, but the rain had made little cascading waterfalls down the stairs, making those portions tricky to traverse. By the end of the walk, my sneakers were soaking wet and muddy. Fortunately, I had a new pair in my suitcase and could discard the old, soiled ones.
At the end of the journey, we were treated to a scrumptious local meal. Taking this excursion, about 100 km out of Guilin, was well worth it. It surpassed my expectations and jumped ahead of the usual sights of Guilin in terms of the best things to do.
No. 2: Cruise on Lijiang (Li River), Yangshuo
Widespread development in Guilin and Yangshuo has ruined much of their natural landscape, so much so that my childhood memories of both those places having fairytale settings have now been shattered. Fortunately, Lijiang (Li River) has managed to preserve some of its natural beauty. A cruise down the river is the best way to enjoy the karst scenery of the area, but Halong Bay in Vietnam will still defeat it easily.
No. 3: Exploring Yinzi Cave (Silver Cave), Yangshuo
Multi-coloured LED lights illuminate the limestone formations in Yinzi Cave, which runs through 12 hills. It is said that "Anyone who has been to Yinzi Cave will never be short of money." Definitely a must-do in my book!
No. 4: Snacking and Shopping at Zhengyang Pedestrian Street & Dongxi Alley, Guilin
Fancy some crunchy creepy crawlies, plump grilled oysters, savoury meat skewers, deep-fried chicken cutlet, bubble tea, "New Bunren" or "New Barlun" sneakers? You'll find all that and much more in this vibrant, bustling pedestrian only zone.
No. 5: Evening Stroll by the Li River and Lake Banyan , Guilin
The riverfront is exceptionally pretty at night when bridges and pagodas are illuminated by multi-coloured lights.
No. 6: Xijie (Foreigners' Street) Shopping District, Yangshuo
Possibly one of the world's most picturesque shopping malls. Perfect place to get your favourite pictures printed on a t-shirt or mug, pick up traditional Guanxi candy and snacks as souvenirs, or just a cheeseburger and fries from MacDonald's!
No. 7: Riding the Chairlift up Yaoshan, Guilin
Yaoshan is the highest mountain in Guilin, and getting to the summit by chairlift was fun, especially when rain was beating down on us!
No. 8: Camel Hill in Seven Stars Park, Guilin
Naturally formed, and it does resemble a camel!
No. 9: Thousand Buddha Cave & Sword Testing Rock in Fuboshan (Wave Subduing Hill), Guilin
Named after General Fubo from the Tang Dynasty (618 to 907), Fuboshan (Fubo Hill) has 239 carvings of Buddha in the Thousand Buddha Cave.
A Sword Testing Rock can also be found in the same cave. Legend has it that General Fubo tested his sword on the rock, giving it its current shape.
No. 10: Elephant Trunk Hill
See the trunk in the water?