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The Expat's Guide to the Offbeat Attractions in Guilin

Written by Candice SongUpdated Jan. 16, 2021
Water Buffalo On A Bridge In Guilin

Guilin is undoubtedly a fine tourist destination for its many famous attractions. But for those who are thinking of staying a little longer, or returning for another visit, we want to show you some largely undiscovered aspects of this amazing city.

There's more to Guilin than Two Rivers Four Lakes (and a spectacular karst landscape)!

These are places that are still relatively unknown and under-visited, but very worthy of a visit for the more discerning traveller.

1. Lengshuitang - a Traditional "Water Village"

Want to really 'get away from it all'? Want to see a traditional Chinese 'water village' farming community up close and personal? Fancy immersing yourself in the astounding biodiversity of Guilin? Here you have it! For free!

Sitting at the foot of Yaoshan (Yao Mountain - a worthy visit in itself), is the traditional Chinese farming village of Leng Shui Tang - literally 'Cold Water Pond'. There are many such villages all over China, but here you have a perfect example of 'the real deal' - authentic water villages.

Many of the buildings here are original and date back to pre-Communist China, and were constructed in the traditional way using hand-made bricks; making this real world village even more authentic.

Water Course Farming

Paddy Field Farming In Guilin

The authentic water village practices they carry out here have remained unchanged for thousands of years, channelling natural waterways and planting and tilling soil by hand or by ox-pulled hand plough. The farming community here are very friendly and always happy to see visitors and there are plenty of eateries nearby too!

The local farmers here make good use of the fresh spring water that flows down from Yao mountain, channelling the various streams and waterways into (and out of) the many pools in various ways to suit their needs, the time of year, the current rainfall, and the crops they're growing.

The water villagers 'crops' include fish, freshwater crayfish and snails, as well as rice, corn and all manner of fruit, herbs and vegetables.

Yanqian Cun - an Adjacent Village with Craftspeople

Finding yourself on the other side of the village, venture further to see fruit orchards and various other types of Chinese agricultural practice.

Further along the easy to walk track just past the crayfish pools and waterlily ponds is the village of Yanqian Cun - literally 'Boulder Fronting Village', also a farming community. You can wander through the almost 'Cornish' alleyways here and find hidden treasures such as traditional silk painting artists, craftspeople, artisans, and genuine 'old-timer' musicians playing traditional Chinese instruments.

A Nature Lovers Dream

Yellow Mosaic Butterfly In GuilinYellow Mosaic Butterfly, Lengshuitang, Guilin

Over 100 species of brightly colored butterfly, dragonfly and damselfly alone make this a nature lover's wonderland, and that's before you even get to the various mantids and quite an assortment of amphibians.

There are many kinds of gecko, tree frog, lizard and (harmless) snakes. (the snakes are a rare sight as they prefer to keep out of the way) but the fields and meadows can often be heard literally 'singing' with bees! Exotic, colorful and intriguing birds such as tropical cuckoos and bee-eaters can be seen and if you're lucky, mammals such as rhesus monkeys and bamboo rat (a large bamboo eating beaver the size of a domestic cat!)

At least two species of kingfisher can be seen dashing in and out and around the pools and streams here with their dazzling plumage - making them like emerald-blue jewels as they fly. Find a quiet spot and you can even watch them hunting!

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2. Guilin's 'Flower River' - Hua Jiang

Follow the valley road through the mountain pass past Yao Mountain, Lengshuitang, and the Aerospace University (G.U.A.T.) for around twenty minutes (by vehicle), and under the road tunnel; in itself a very scenic journey; and you will pass Guilin University of Electronic Technology's rural 'garden campus' (G.U.E.T.).

Go a little way further and you will come to a bridge and the most charming place for a riverside picnic and barbecue. There are many places to sit, rest, eat, and take in the natural beauty.

Bamboo Boat Punting

Bamboo Raft In Guilin

You can get ferried across the river to an island in the middle, from where you can rent a 'bamboo' boat and go punting along the river for just a few 'kuai' (Kuai is localspeak for Yuan / RMB)

Later, have your barbecue set up ready to cook upon your return - this can make for a whole day's entertainment. Local students often visit and there's sing-songs, portable mah jong games and campfires going on quite often. It's a mini riviera resort!

As with the whole area to the East of Guilin, the biodiversity and sheer natural beauty of the surroundings and very friendly local people makes for a most pleasant and relaxing day out.

3. Guilin Flower Market - Plants, Tea, and Much More

Guilin Flower Market

A little over a kilometre north of the city centre, about 5 minutes' walk from the Shangrila hotel you will find another of Guilin's charming markets.

Guilin Flower and Bird Market has all manner of flowers, trees, shrubs, plants, a plethora of 'knick-knacks' and a great variety of 'pet' animals are available there. Everything up to and including various teas and tea making sets, nuts, flower teas, herb teas, garden ornaments.

Other sections have myriads of birds, fish, amphibians, and a horde of small mammals. (Just beware of 'fake Jade' and the like - if you're not sure of an items worth - consider it worthless!)

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4. A Living Buddhist Temple

Zhusheng Si Buddhist Temple In GuilinZhusheng Si Buddhist temple, Guilin

Tucked away behind Seven Star Park, along a small concreted track (Lingqian Road), which runs around the karst park hills, is a hidden pearl of Guilin - Zhusheng Si Buddhist Temple (祝圣寺 /joo-shnng srr/ 'Praying Sage Temple').

Buddhism in Guangxi

One of the first centers of Buddhism in Guangxi (the provincial level region in which Guilin is the third largest city), this beautiful temple is carved into and under the backs of the peaks of Seven Star Park. It's a most peaceful place to be! The exterior has a splendid oriental pagoda style and everyone is welcome to visit.

Inside the main entrance is a prayer center and shrine with an array of golden Buddha statues, and going further you will find various carved representations of the Buddha and a fascinating grotto and stalactite pool.

Ornate Statues

There are many ornate statues and carved representations of the Buddha, and hand carved writing and calligraphy from Buddhists down the ages in various little shrines and nooks.

There are many ornate statues and carved representations of the Buddha, and hand carved writing and calligraphy from Buddhists down the ages in various little shrines and nooks.

This is a most serene and peaceful place of meditation and should be respected as such, though you will find a warm welcome within - they'll often give you some incense to light, and a sometimes a candy too!

This is a highly recommended and unforgettable visit - and costs nothing but your respect and peacefulness, although donations are gratefully accepted!

5. Guilin Spice Market (香料市场)

A little further back towards Liberation Bridge on Lingqian Road, you will find an equally fascinating and diverse market avenue where all manner of spices and weird and wonderful artefacts can be found.

Herbs and traditional medicines, nuts and knick-knacks and a thousand and one oddities: everything from a preserved goat's head to healing mushrooms and locally grown tobacco; it's all there.

Often the stall holders are in traditional ethnic costume, and there are more often than not gatherings of local people playing Chinese traditional music. Haggling is always recommended, but don't get fooled by any fake "genuine honeycomb" or "jade"!

6. Live Music in Guilin!

Live Music In Guilin Live music in Guilin

There are a handful of lovely friendly music bars, where some very high quality performers can be found playing a wide selection of Chinese contemporary songs, folk songs, and Western pop songs quite regularly!

You can even "rent" a performance with them and get up for a sing-song! Ever hear Pink Floyd played acoustic, Chinese style? It's a must!

Guilin is bubbling with live music! It's very much worth visiting the effervescent Ding Shang Bar, just along the river from Liberation Bridge before you get to 'Fir Lake' with the two pagodas in it.

Luan Le Cafe Bar is another lovely music venue - just around the corner from the Sheraton Hotel on the riverside.

Both have super musicians and music, drinks and snacks in a happy atmosphere!

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Travel Essentials - Directions to the 8 Places Above

Undiscovered Guilin Map

1. Lengshuitang (冷水塘) and Yanqian Cun (岩前村)

Bus 13 and 24 - Open all hours! Situated on the outskirts of the eastern suburbs of Guilin, a sharp right turn onto a smaller service track, off the main road that leads past Yaoshan (Yao mountain), and just before you get to the aerospace university (G.U.A.T)

Walk and wander (or cycle) down the concreted pathway (scooters and bicycles are available to hire cheaply nearby).

2. Flower River (花江)

Rural Guilin

Bus 13 and 24. Daytime visiting best! Directions: Take the valley road through the mountains and past Yaoshan, Lengshuitang and the Aerospace University (GUAT) - further on, twenty minutes (by vehicle), under the road tunnel, past Guilin University of Electronic Technology 'Garden Campus', (G.U.E.T) - half a kilometer further and near some orange groves to your left is a bridge - you're there!

3. Flower and Bird Market (花鸟市场)

Address: 111 Huancheng Bei Er Lu, Guilin's Flower Market is near the Shangrila hotel (a little further along from the Shangri-La, going away from the bridge, on the right).

4. Zhusheng Si (祝圣寺) Buddhist Temple

About 15 minutes' walk from Seven Star Park's Liberation Bridge entrance. Zhusheng Temple, like the Spice Market, is on the small road (Lingjian Lu 灵剑路) which runs around the edge of Seven Star Park.

5. Guilin Spice Market (香料市场)

The Spice Market can be described as west of Zhusheng Si, the north side of Seven Star Park, or the west end of Lingjian Road, Seven Star District.

6. Live Music In Guilin!

Ding Shang Bar (鼎上咖啡酒吧) is a short walk along the riverfront north of Liberation Bridge.

Luan Le Cafe Bar (乱了咖啡吧) is on Renmin Road, just off Binjiang Road, just around the corner from the Sheraton Hotel, which is on the riverfront, south of Liberation Bridge, 10 minutes walk north from Elephant Trunk Hill Park.

Both are open from 6pm 'til late!

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Take Your First Steps Towards a Deeper Guilin Experience

The Li RiverDiscover Guilin with China Highlights.

You could start from our most-chosen Guilin itinerary choices:

There's so much to see and do - you may want to stay longer... Let us know your interests for a quote on a tailor-made deeper Guilin tour.

Guilin is 72-hour visa free for travelers with an international flight transit in Guilin. See more on Guilin Visa-Free Travel - How to Make the Most of It.

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