Lured by the prospect of good shopping, we decided to take a bus to the nearby city of Guilin. Guilin has about a million people and so is much larger than Yangshuo which has about 300,000 in its whole county. Guilin is a modern-looking, clean city with wide tree-lined streets. The traffic lights here include a countdown timer so you know how many seconds until they will change.

Our first stop was Elephant Trunk Hill, a park next to the Li River. The park is named after a hill which resembles an elephant coming down for a drink from the Li River. The park was strongly elephant-themed with carved elephants playing musical instruments and many other elephant artworks. Climbing the impressive stone staircase that was cut into the hill provided an excellent view of Guilin and the Li River.

Exploring around the park revealed a couple of caves, one of which was being used by several local acapella groups. The resonance provided by the cave is particularly attractive to musicians and these singers used it to full effect, belting out some piercingly high-picthed notes. Down by the river there were more singers and people playing the two stringed erhu.

The park extends across to the other side of a tributary river, and once we crossed to the other side it resembled an amusement park, with market stalls, a stage for performances by Chinese minority groups (a common form of entertainment in China), and simple rides and attractions. For a small fee you could have your picture taken with a monkey. This side of the park didn't impress us much and we were quick to leave. More impressive were the beautiful lakes, one of which featured a couple of pagodas surrounded by water.

As we were walking around the streets, on two separate occasions a local resident came up to us and started chatting in very good English. They were very friendly and gave us much information about where to visit in Guilin. However, before long each of them mentioned casually that they were artists and that they had a studio convenienty located around the corner and would we like to have a look? We had recently read something about art students befriending foreigners and taking them to studios where they would be pressured into buying works of art. So, we politely declined their offers and parted with them.

One of these artists got us interested in trying some tea made from Osmanthus leaves, which is a local specialty. We went into a tea shop where the proprietor served us several cups of the tea, which turned out to be absolutely delicious. It had an amazing sweet aftertaste that lasted for a long time. We bought a small amount of the tea but when we tried to brew the tea for ourselves we were never able to recreate the impressive flavour we sampled in the tea shop.

We visited a spacious shopping mall which had a very interesting food court on the top floor. On entering, we were assigned a table (lucky number 88!) and given a small card. We then walked around about a hundred different food vendors who had ready-prepared foods on display. This ranged from small plates of vegetables or small snacks to whole meals, soups, desserts, and drinks. As we wandered around, we pointed at items that caught our eye, whereupon each vendor would stamp our card and the item would be delivered to our table a couple of minutes later. The system was impressively efficient and allowed a great variety of foods to be tasted.

After lunch we located an underground shopping mall that one of the art students had mentioned to us. This had a wide range of clothing and shoes at better prices than the street shops. Georgia hunted out a pair of nice sandals for around $13 and we spent an hour or two window shopping and getting disoriented before we headed back to the bus station to return to Yangshuo.

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