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Biking in Guilin
2005-07-28 14:00:40
Escaping from the crowd and noise of cities, we came to Guilin.

Text by Peng He / Photo Source: China Pictorial

Escaping from the crowd and noise of cities, we came to Guilin, whose enchanting scenery was traditionally acclaimed as "the No. 1 in the world". With great passion, we choose bike, not car, as our transport to enjoy the joys of nature.We started from Guilin to Xing Ping, a small town on the east bank of the Li River, 63 kilometres from Guilin. It took about half of the day to bike there.

Slowly biking along the tranquil country road, it was as if we were taking in a tremendous painted scroll. The vast rice paddies rimmed with mist-enshrouded hills in the distance form the background of the artwork. And the local farmers, dressed colourfully as they work the land: They appear as decoration and the points of activity in the painting. Each hill has its own beautiful name and tale behind it. And their bizarre shapes can really get your imagination going. It was along this stretch of road where I came to realise why this piece of land nourishes so many poets and artists. The great harmony between nature and human beings must ignite the creativity.

Sometimes we came across a herd of water buffalos lingering right in the middle of the road. They tended not to move off their patch of road no matter how loudly you protested! Here, they are owners and kings. We are guests. Of course, we need to show respect to the local landowners. We got off the bikes and reverently tip-toed around them. And they mooed us goodbye in return. It is a tradition that local people never kill water buffaloes when they become old. Farmers just let them be without forcing them to do any fieldwork. People allow them enjoy the rest of its life. If any buffalo is found dead due to age, local people bury them rather than eat their meat.

The trademark small water wheels, going round with a "chih-gah" sound, are still peddled here to help irrigation, even after thousands of years of use. Visitors stop to try out the waterwheels to review a taste of history. The nostalgic aroma combines with refreshing village air to tell you why visitors come and why they do not want to leave.

When feeling the sun, we bought a bamboo hat. The hand-made hat is the most effective of ways to keep scorching sun away. It is round and big with a taper on the top. Putting it on, we started to feel we are very local and are becoming part of the environment.

We stopped so many times to take pictures and say hi to the local people that it was getting late when we arrived the destination, Xingping. But to me, the most indulgent scenery is at dusk. When the sun is setting down between the hills, everything is shed in soft sunlight. The picture with farmers and buffalo working in the field at sunset can stay imprinted in your mind for years.

When you're stressed, when the headache of city hustle and bustle is getting to you, when you have friends and family to whom you really want to show natural beauty, bring them to Guilin. Rent some bicycles, and go!

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