Guilin and Guangzou

Yellow Mountains
Guilin and Guangzou
Hong Kong

Highlights of Guilin

April 10, 2000. Our stay in Guilin was very short, less than 24 hours.. The sleepy 1 million plus picturesque town is situated by the Li River.  Its claim to fame is tourism focused upon the beautiful mountains rising up from the landscape and the river flowing along side the mountains.

Guilin's river front

We visited the Reed Flute Cave which reminded us of Carlsbad Cavern. Reeds used to make musical instruments  originally were grown at the entrance to the caves- thus the name. The big room of stalactites and stalagmites was used during WWII as a bomb shelter for the town people. The Crystal Palace of the Dragon King grotto can hold 1000 people comfortably.  Our next stop was a trip through the local university including its thriving art center. 

On our own later in the afternoon, we walked along the waterfront and were repeatedly approached by 'art students' asking if they could practice their English but ultimately hoping to get us to view and buy their art works.  

Cormorants waiting for evening fishing trip





After dinner we took a night tour on one of the local fishing boats for the purpose of watching the cormorants fish. The birds are hungry but their necks are tied such that they are unable to swallow fish.  So they dive from the boats catching fish only to have them taken by the fishermen. We finished the evening walking along an open-air crafts market.  Many vendors all wishing to sell knick knacks to tourists - very capitalist.  

Farmers in this area experience more freedom in their income and the one-child law.  At one time all the fields in Guilin were used for growing rice, now fish is the number one crop.  This is because the rivers are so polluted that fish became very scarce with no way to replenish stock until farmers started converting rice fields to fisheries. 

Highlights of Guangzhou

April 11, 2000.  After a delay at the Guilin airport we arrived in Guangzhou around noon.  It was muggy and overcast but we lost no time and drove to the Sun Yatsen Memorial Hall. Sun Yatsen, known as the first president of the Republic of China, was born south-west of the city in Cuiheng.  Sun headed the Nationalist Party in Guangzhou and it was here that the fledgling Communist Party began to take shape. 

Sun Yetsen AuditoriumMemorial for Sun Yetsen

The Hall built with superior acoustics and clear sight lines (no columns in main space) was designed by a Cornell trained Chinese architect.

The Temple of Six Banyan Trees was our next stop. The octagonal Flower Pagoda on site was originally built in 1097 and is the tallest in the city (17 stories). Today it serves as the headquarters for the city Buddhist Association. When we arrived it was covered in a labyrinth of  wooden scaffolding.   

Scaffolding on the Flower PagodaWalkway under Scaffolding at the temple


On the grounds of this active site is the Guanyin Temple that  houses a huge golden effigy of Guanyin - the goddess of compassion to whom women burn incense and pray.   It is very obvious that this temple survived the Cultural Revolution with little damage or looting.

GuanyinInterior of Temple

The last formal and chaperoned stop today was the Chen Clan Academy.  This is a family shrine housed in a large compound built between 1890 and 1894. It was used for celebrating sacrifices and other ceremonial occasions. The three major halls contain extensive wood carvings and pieces of furnishings.  

Chen Academy Ornate Entrance








Courtyard Roof Detail






Ceramic Roof Carving

The compound contains nineteen traditional buildings along with numerous courtyards, stone carvings and sculptures.  Ceramic carvings dot the roofs and eaves and the main doors are elaborately painted with figures.

Carved ivory from Chen Hall

Painted DoorDoor Painted at Entry

We checked into our hotel, The White Swan, located on Shamian Island.  The island was the British and French concession after defeating the Chinese in the Opium Wars.  The buildings, colonial in design, originally housed trading offices and residences. During the Cultural Revolution most of the buildings were turned over to the people for use as offices or apartment blocks that until recently have not been touched for many years. There are also several churches remaining on the island and the very British tennis club is still active.

Shamian Island has a very British sense of orderAcross from Shamian Island, near Qingping Market





After exploring the island we walked to the mainland and headed for the nearby Qingping Market. In 1979 the market was opened as a capitalist market - one of Deng Xiaoping's more radical economic experiments.  There is everything dead or alive to be found - dry and wet markets - eels, fish, monkeys, dogs, chickens, snakes, etc.

View of Squid from the marketInside the Meat Market

Our last state-sponsored dinner was at the Lakeside restaurant -very close to the hotel.  We could select our live entree on the way in if we preferred snake, lizard, chicken, pigs, etc.

The White Swan overlooking the Po River has the American consulate attached to it by annex.  For this reason, the hotel is the center of many western couples finalizing adoption of Chinese girls (boys are not eligible for adoption unless disabled and unfit for work).  Many couples were spending time in the hotel with their new family additions waiting for the last bureaucratic paperwork to be completed.  

The next day we rode to the water terminal, exchanged all of our RMB (illegal to remove from mainland China), went through customs, and boarded a hydrofoil for a 2.5 hour ride to Hong Kong



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