After thinking long and hard about the title of this particular post, I’ve decided upon the above to summarize the word-soup to follow. (Alternative title: Jimin Tries to Fit Two Days and Two Cities Into a Single Post Because She Is Lazy. To be fair though, you should try formatting on the WordPress app. This entire week I’ve been typing on a phone and it a) kills your pinkie and b) messes up all the line breaks. D’oh.)
As I write this post, I’m sitting in my bedroom back in Hong Kong. Truth be told, I couldn’t be happier. Travel is indeed a wonderful antidote to a bad bout of cabin fever… but perhaps my personal reasons aren’t so orthodox. One would expect travel to freshen your mind, so that you can return home with open eyes and open heart. In my case, being in Guilin for what felt like a very, very long stretch of five days makes being home the biggest blessing on Earth. Not only did arrival usher me into the world of uncensored internet access (hello to the six Snapchats that enticed me all week!), but it also made me appreciate how ‘at peace’ Hong Kong makes me feel. As I exited the plane cabin into the lush 5PM air, the distant hills of Hong Kong never seemed more romantic, more pristine. Rolling my suitcase along familiar carpets, surrounded by familiar smells and voices, I could just feel the viscous notion of ‘home’ flowing through my blood. And, of course, the true highlight of the HK landing experience – the super awesome fast-pass HKID immigration – was so hassle-free that I just about fell to the floor and raised my hands to the heavens in the name of efficiency. (Note: which I did not do, because otherwise immigration would have taken an extra 5 hours… and it doesn’t help that I’m Korean.)
Home, this is home! All the gleaming taxis in their Powerpuff hues! The brilliant, gleaming lights of a never-sleeping Hong Kong! The smooth roads, the beep of the meter, the smell of taxi leather, the lights in the tunnels, the skyscrapers, the lights, the black, whispering sea… oh, how great it is to belong somewhere. But more than that, how great it is to realize that a place you thought you could only tolerate is actually a place that means so much more.
Now, switching back to traveler mode…
To go or not to go to Guilin is one of the more pertinent questions in any traveler’s mind. In too many catalogues and blogs, it is described to be a place of unmatched beauty and serenity. It tops lists for its wonders of nature, the blessings of its earth. But what does a poetic (and slightly sarcastic) seventeen year old girl think about this (un)hidden gem of the Orient?
If you’re looking for pastoral inspiration and a rekindled love for the natural world, there are many other places that will serve you better than Guilin ever will. Sure, Guilin is beautiful. Sure, it sports impressive scenes of nature. Sure, you could enjoy all these things… if it wasn’t for the rampant and all too explicit tourist pandering that litters every corner of every street.
Every experience comes with a bit fat price tag that hangs in your line of sight as you try to admire whatever uncommercialized view there is. Somehow, I couldn’t shake off the fact that I was being cheated somehow. Every step you take is a potential cash cow, which is certainly the most unnerving and annoying feeling any traveler can have; after all, if you’ve come to a place for the purpose of feeling at one with whatever you see and experience, how can you do so when there’s a huge (figurative) ‘tourist’ sticker stamped to your forehead? It’s inevitable that you feel a huge sense of detachment and a rising sense of distrust. So poetry? Sketches? I came home with none.
True, the above might not apply to everybody, but it was certainly my observation. On a lighter note, there are definitely things to enjoy in Guilin – but you could enjoy these things elsewhere in China, as they don’t specifically and uniquely apply to Guilin. These things include great food and cheap things. I’ve had some of the best rice noodles ever in Guilin (16 yuan a bowl) and an unforgettable, drool-worthy experience in an utopian vegetarian all-you-can-eat buffet (26 yuan). I’ve had some of the best laughs with my family over the Chinese versions of Western sports stores and their conspicuous names; the ‘most ridiculous’ award has definitely got to go to New Barlun (and you can guess which sports brand it’s named after). Runners-up (literally) include Adidos, and the nameless brand that consisted of an inverted tick sign… Other great experiences include getting a two-hour massage – one hour for feet, one hour for the whole bod – for a total of 100 yuan, and being able to rent bikes for a whole day at a rate of 20 yuan per person.
Travel, like many other things, is incredibly subjective, so it’s best to take these words with a pinch of salt. I haven’t traveled enough to give a comprehensive response to the question of visiting Guilin, but I also believe there is credence to my views.
Before I close off this post and resume my daily life in Hong Kong, one final tip: if you’re thinking about traveling to Guilin, keep your trip short and sweet. Five days felt too long; four (or even three) would have sufficed.
Goodbye travel, hello home! Here I cease my stories of distant lands, and begin my insights and outlooks in a place closer to home.