I’ve become pretty accustomed to having low expectations and my recent trip to Guilin, China was no exception. Sure, I looked at the top attractions online and I had a little look on Instagram, but for the most part, I just wanted to go experience China. This is my first time here and after two full days, I love it. I’m currently in the waiting room at the train station heading to Yangshuo but I had to take a minute to write about Guilin.
If I had to think of my highlights of the last two days, it wouldn’t be the famous Elephant Tree Hill or the market place, it would be my encounters with the locals. This could be my age screaming through but I’ve found that I’ve been less inclined to seek out tourist spots and preferring to just wander around the town of a new place. I’ve seen the Eiffel Tower, Buckingham Palace and so on but to me, they lack something.
The Most Beautiful Encounters in Guilin
On the first day, I left my hotel pretty early. It was ridiculously cloudy (still is) but I still wanted to see as much as I could. My hotel was perfectly located, it took mere seconds to walk to the river and it was tucked away so I heard no traffic at night. Walking along the river I encountered local women engaging in Thai chi and I was fascinated. It was their peace and strength that had me watching them for ages. Yes, the bridge was beautiful, but it was seeing how these women started their morning that had my attention.
I had something similar happen that same evening only this time it was a dancing crew of maybe twenty women. They had a little speaker and they just went for it. Dancing around under the night sky without a care in the world. They loved every second of it and that feeling of pure joy was what had me spending an hour watching them. They don’t come from the same place as I do and I have no idea how privileged these humans are, but it was their ability to exude pure happiness doing something so simple that brought out emotions in me. And it got me asking a really important question…
Why Do I Travel?
I don’t think it’s completely to do with the sites because I tire of those pretty quickly. When I was standing in front of and on top of the Elephant Tree Hill, I thought “this is pretty awesome” and after a couple of minutes, I walked down; going on with my life. When I encountered those women, both in the morning and at night, it took up much more of my time and it will remain with me forever. When I got up this morning, I wanted to write about them and not the sites of Guilin.
I’ve been pretty honest with myself over the last few years: I am a terrible travel blogger. I don’t want to review hotels and attractions. I don’t want to give you an up to date To Do list at a particular place. I want to tell my stories of things that really matter to me; my encounters and experiences that change me. I’m so terrible with remembering names of locations; it just doesn’t stick with me. But I can tell you the color of the shirt a lady was wearing when she helped me find my way to the train station. We all take from travel what we need and I need things that evoke emotions besides a quick “that looks awesome”! Does that make my way of travel right and others wrong? Absolutely not, travel is subjective and we take from it what we need.
Would I recommend Guilin, China?
A million times, yes. If you’re new to China, as I am, I would recommend it simply because it will make you want to see more of this country. I’ve never known much about China and if I think about what I want to see, walking the back streets of a small city in this country wouldn’t be one of them but now it is. It’s given a beautiful first impression of a massive nation that would take me years to see all of. As I sit here waiting for Yangshuo, which is largely regarded as the better part of Guilin, I could be waiting to go home and I’d still be happy. Open your mind to travel and say, “fuck off” to guided tours and go off on your own if you can. My mind is open to China and my heart is happy that I took the leap in coming here.