Haiying County is the most popular area around Guilin to visit for autumnal colors. Most people head for Tongmu Village, and understandably so; nestled within Guilin's embracing hillside scenery with adobe-brick buildings to the fore it is indeed pretty with the yellow ginko leaves settled on black roof tiles enhancing the red of the walls.
However, Tongmu Village is not the only scenic spot in the area, nor is autumn the only time to visit.
- The pretty, unspoiled, adobe-brick village of Tongmu, locally known for autumnal colors.
- A Buddhist temple.
- A new – though traditional – tower.
- The traditional, rural area around Tongmu, set in pretty scenery and largely unvisited.
Haiying is becoming increasingly popular with Guilin's local population seeking scenery to photograph and within which to be photographed. Most of the tourists head straight for Tongmu and it's here the buses will take you, dropping you off at the path towards the village.
A little way back along the road you'll see a tower, a new one modeled upon one more ancient leveled in the Cultural Revolution. You have to find your own route through the roadside buildings to get to it, set incongruously amidst rice fields as if dropped there by mistake. You can get into it and climb up it, but our researcher – who made it as far as the second floor before getting anxious – does not recommend it. It may not be safe.
Back to the Tongmu path and linger a while at the Buddhist temple. A working temple it's free to enter but requires respect. The denizens don't mind photography but draw the line at being photographed themselves and would rather you didn't snap the religious statuary.
Cheap at the Price
Tongmu itself lies a kilometer or so beyond the temple. You'll know you're nearly there when you're stopped at a makeshift entrance and asked for the RMB3 entry-fee. You can escape into the fields and walk stealthily around to save money, but why would you?
The village itself is everything you could want from rural China. Nestled at the feet of hills, Tongmu is a higgledy-piggledy sort of a place, the adobe brick of the buildings – some in a happy state of collapse for those who like shots of dereliction – are set off well against the tarnished-bronze-yellow of the autumnal leaves of the ginkgo trees which linger unswept. Some of the buildings have a grander feel, old bricks somehow out of place and suggestive of some history here, but these now nestle in with everything else providing back-alleys, nooks and crannies to explore.
Get to the back of the village and a path at the base of the foothills gives you an elevated, pretty view across the rooftops. Chickens wander, puppies play, grandmothers feed noodles to young children and all that's there to spoil the idyll are hundreds of tourists and dozens of wedding couples having their photographs taken.
Not Autumn Alone
Don't worry too much about the Autumnal leaves. Tongmu is a rewarding visit without them. If you want to avoid the crowds, avoid Tongmu from around mid-November to mid-December and weekends. If you're lucky you may get to see ice on the trees in mid-winter, but don't plan on it. You would have to be lucky and turn up on an appropriate day as such days are rare.
If you have enough time, wander through the fields and explore beyond Tongmu. The crowds dwindle rapidly and there's a lot to explore, but keep an eye on the time. The last bus leaves around 5.00pm.
From the Railway Station
From Guilin's main railway station, go to the opposite side of the road and catch a number 16 bus. Get off at the San Li Dian crossroads and look for the small crowd of rickety buses on the corner. The fare is RMB10 and buses don't move until they're full and then some.
A Bumpy Ride
Be prepared for discomfort beyond Daxu, about half an hour along the route. The roads are a mess, muddy after rain and there are hold-ups aplenty. It's a bumpy ride. On a good day the entire journey will take you an hour in total; a bad day could be two hours.
Don't Miss the Bus Back!
When returning, please remember that the last of these buses departs around 5.00pm. These will pack out with stragglers until the vehicle takes on the air of a sardine can and you'll still see the price go up to RMB15 for the privilege of being one of the fish. It's either that or taking one of the RMB200 eight-seater vans waiting around to pick up those who over-straggled.
Pack a Lunch
Food in Tongmu isn't hideously expensive, but it's significantly more to eat in the town than you'd pay in Guilin city. If you're on a tight budget and aren't so interested in local cuisine, pack a lunch.
Visit Haiyang's Tongmu Village with China Highlights
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