Guilin is a 2-hour flight south-west of Shanghai. We decided to spend the long week-end there – for the national Tomb Sweeping (Qingming) holiday of China which coincided with Easter this year. We didn’t actually stay right in Guilin but in Yangshuo which is about a one hour drive south of Guilin.
We arrived at our little country hotel in the night and when my daughter stepped out onto the balcony the next morning and exclaimed ‘The air is touching me like silk’ we knew we were going to have a nice time away from the hustle and bustle of Shanghai……..
But with a population of 1 372 583 323 – and counting – beautiful locations in China can get a little busy (especially on a long weekend) and the rapid ‘progress’ often leaves me wondering how much more beautiful many of these sites would have been a mere 30 years ago.
With a little effort we were able to escape the crowds (especially along Lijiang River) and endless construction sites. On one of the days we rode bikes for 4 hours to visit Fuli Bridge which was built over 1000 years ago. At one point we had to take a bamboo raft across the river and were relieved to get to the other side as we saw a few bikes needing to be fished out of the water.
Another day we took a pretty strenuous (especially for 5-year-old legs) hike in the mountains and actually saw people sweeping tombs: The Qingming Festival is an opportunity for people to remember and honour their ancestors at grave sites. Young and old pray before the ancestors, sweep the tombs, offer food and……let off a whole bunch of ear-bursting fire crackers.
It was interesting to witness the tradition, but we could have done without the firecrackers whose sound resonated in the mountains and was much less enjoyable than the magnificent bird song.
As with practically all Chinese domestic airline travel, our flights were delayed. The usual reason was offered ‘air traffic congestion’ which is not surprising when only 20% of air space is open to civil aviation and so instead of pilots adjusting their flight paths to avoid bad weather/turbulence, they simply remain on the tarmac whilst passengers eat instant noodles in the waiting area and the flight delays get longer and longer.
Our children were lucky to have an Easter egg hunt at all on the Monday morning because the usual shops for western goods (Marks and Spencer, Carrefour, on-line grocery store, local bakeries) had all sold-out of chocolate eggs and I had quite a hunt myself in order to find some.