The Journey - 2016

I could hardly wait to go back to Guilin and work some more on my rudimentary Chinese at CLI (Chinese Language Institute). Side trips to Daxu Ancient Town, Yangshuo, Longji (Longsheng) Rice Terraces, and Ziyuan ensured one highlight after another.

Next destination was Zhangye in the province of Gansu. Do the rainbow mountains really look as colorful as in the pictures I had seen? Spoiler: yes, they do, unless they are heavily photoshopped! The Mati cave temple is unlike anything I had ever seen before, and Pingshanhu Grand Canyon was equally spectacular!

After a few days in Zhengzhou—in the news in June 2021 after the devastating floods claimed many lives—and Kaifeng, I took the train to Ningbo to meet dear friends. And once again, they had a big surprise for me and invited me to relatives in Yantou, a charming village with a lot of history.

One more day in Shanghai concluded another magnificent trip.

This week follow me to Guilin and some of the breathtaking scenery only found in the province of Guangxi while I prepare the next post about Gansu's Danxia landscape.

 
Guilin
Yunnan

China offers so many stunning, diverse, and incredibly beautiful places. Guangxi, the province Guilin is located in, stands out with its karst mountains, caves, rice terraces, and even Danxia landforms. I was lucky to get a taste of all of them during my 5-week stay in Guilin.

Our series of excursions started with a daytrip to Daxu, an ancient well-preserved town, easily accessible in less than an hour.

Next highlight was a 4-hour Li River cruise from Guilin to Yangshuo – it felt like drifting in a fairy tale!

Strolling through the rice terraces at Longsheng (also known as Longji), built and maintained for 650 years already, had been on my wish list for a long time.

Less famous than Zhangjiajie—which served as inspiration for the movie Avatar—but similar and equally spectacular is the Ziyuan area with its distinct Danxia landform.

A gondola ride quickly got us up one mountain. I shared the cabin with a middle-aged local woman. She was excited, enjoyed the ride just as much as I did, and we chatted a bit: She was from the area, and this was her first time at the Ziyuan Danxia National Geopark. She's never been to the rice terraces nor on a Li River cruise nor to Yangshuo. This was a very special day for her. I'll never forget this brief conversation. It made me truly understand how privileged I am, and this was only the first part of that year's journey!

All these trips were organized by Summer, CLI's event manager and one of my teachers.
Just as in 2015, I started my adventure with four weeks of one-on-one Mandarin classes at CLI. It felt good coming back; everything was so familiar; everybody was so welcoming. I was excited when I saw my class schedule. Katherine would again be my main teacher, with Lee I would have my first male teacher (promising a fresh new perspective), and Summer and I would work on my speaking and listening skills.

Different year, different month. I never thought that I'd even meet fellow students from my first stay. We enjoyed many activities together, from local explorations to the aforementioned weekend trips. Zhaina and I often went out for foot massages—how I miss them, painful as they are—and Matthieu, Pauline, and I agreed that nothing beats a meal at the Nengren Temple vegan restaurant followed by a couple of hours at a nearby teahouse.

Remembering other new friends—especially Alibaba (lawyer and marathon runner with a big heart from the US), Andrea (from Liechtenstein; google it if you've never heard of this country), Enzo (intern at CLI), and Matt (my good buddy at so many local outings)—always brings a big smile on my face.

Visited: Li River – Seven Star Park – Li River – Dreamlike Lijiang Show – Culture Street – Daxu – Li River Cruise – Yangshuo - Longji/Longsheng Rice Terraces – Ziyuan Tianmenshan – Ziyuan Bajiaozhai