The Hua River
For all its beauty, Guilin can suffer from being overcrowded. Tour groups infest the scenic spots, everyone rushes to the same places to see the same things and take the same photographs. However, beyond the crowds Guilin has much to offer the explorer. One such isolated area of scenic beauty is the Hua river.
- Getting there is half the pleasure; a hike through the hills.
- A large, quiet river flowing through peaceful villages.
- The bamboo bridge at Tanglang Jiang.
- The watercourse through Sujian Cun.
- Pleasant surroundings, off-the-map and ripe for exploration.
Take a number 10 bus from the main railway station in the direction of the city center and get off at the end of the line, Guilin's University of Electronic Technology. From there, a 24 bus takes you to the Guilin College of Aeronautical Technology where it terminates.
A Pleasant Hike
Walk a little further up the road to where it bends left at the golf course and take the path to your right. (Yao Mountain looms on the left.) You're already on the edge of nowhere, the tourists behind you, new lands ahead. The road is firm but little-traveled and peaceful as it snakes, rises and dips its way through classic Chinese rural scenery. Take it slowly and look around.
Yuan Li Cun
Your road fragments and disappears at Yuanli Cun, a pleasant village with a large pond and watercourses feeding the fields beyond. Linger here and explore. More importantly, buy some water and have a sit down for a while. The hike is about to get strenuous.
Over the Pass
If you imagine Yuanli Cun as a square, (which it definitely isn't), then you want to leave it at the corner opposite to that by which you entered. Here, at the edge of the hills, you will see a path taking you up into them and this is your exit. The walk is safe but tiring. Stop now and then to look back over the valley you've left behind. When you reach the top after 30 minutes or so you'll welcome the cool breeze if it's a hot day, especially given it disperses the mosquitoes that have been lunching off you on the way up.
Down the Other Side
Follow the narrow track down until you reach a small road. Here you have two choices. The easy choice is the road itself; follow it down the hill to the bottom. More difficult, but more rewarding, is to cross the road and use a path favored by goatherds and cowherds in the area. This runs alongside a small stream with occasional verdant, secluded glades where you can rest and dip your feet into cool water or simply sit and enjoy the birdsong.
The Hua River
By now you will have had many glimpses of the river ahead through the trees and you know the general direction you want to be heading when the paths fragment once more and go about their business. The river itself is everything you could wish with buffalo in the rice fields at its edges, the broad and majestic sweep of the river's course twisting scenically through Guilin's trademark hills.
It's time to reward your feet with a sit-down and lunch is to be had at Sujian Cun village. Turn right where you meet the river and it's not very far, situated at a dam. Walk through the village with its classic adobe brick buildings and rural trappings to the pond where water flows into the village from the river and follows what is to be a long course through villages miles beyond. Next to the pond is a building and here you can find Guilin noodles at some RMB3 per serving.
The villagers are unused to visitors and will find your presence a little strange. Smile at them. You will find they are more nervous of you than you are of them. A smile and a greeting will be instantly rewarded with a still broader smile returned. Remember, you're off the beaten track here, you're out of place and you're very, very weird.
Sujian Cun is well worth exploring. It can be fairly busy with rural activity and the watercourse slipping through the village is a good route to follow in your exploration. Remember, though, this is a working village and not accustomed to tourists. Be careful not to cross the line between curious and overly inquisitive. And keep smiling.
Back to the Hua River
Once you've explored Sujian Cun, retrace your steps and leave the village the way you came in, following the Hua river up stream this time. Here the scenery is at its best so make sure not to run down your camera battery before you get here. The rice fields are broad down to the river's edge, the water buffalo and farmers busy and the river itself takes a broad, hillside-hugging bend as it approaches your next destination.
This village presents a surprising contrast with its neighbor. Where Sujian Cun is vibrant, busy and bright, Tanglang Jiang is small, secluded, dark and has an air about it of secret privacy in its nestling close to the hillside. Walk through the rice fields to the edge of the river and the scenery opens out once again, a narrow wooden bridge offering vistas on the far bank for exploration. Now it's down to you. From here the Hua is your secret to discover.
From Tanglang Jiang, follow the path onward. The path soon leaves the river staying close to the hillside. It's worth having a little battery left in your camera for the stream that flows from a hillside cave and cuts across the path and the four kilometers back to civilization is amiable enough but still, you'll probably be relieved when, finally, you arrive at Guilin's University of Electronic Technology's new campus, an unexpected burst of life and excitement in the middle of nowhere. From here a 13 bus will take you back to the main campus from where you can catch the number 10 once more and return to normality.
Discovery Tours with China Highlights
If you would like to go somewhere off the beaten track on your Guilin tour, make an inquiry with us and we can include something like the above with your own English speaking guide and private transport, so you don’t lose your way, can communicate with the locals with translation, and don’t have to negotiate public transport.
You may like our Guilin Countryside and Li River Hiking Tour.
If you would like to do something entirely different we can tailor-make a tour with more hiking and rural places.
See more Guilin attractions.
I updated this article on February 18, 2014
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