China Expat & Travel Blogger. ATTRACTIONS & THINGS TO DO IN CHINA. See My Fun TRAVEL Adventures in China!
Karsts hills, bamboo rafting, 5-hour cruises, scenic bike routes, hiking trails, and the most beautiful natural scenery you can find across China. What an awesome way to celebrate my 30th birthday in Guilin, China!
First and foremost, you should know that I never thought I'd turn 30 years old in China. Heck, when I first arrived back in 2012 at the ripe age of 25 I knew there was the possibility that I'd stick around for at least 2 years, but I never imagined that I'd go on 5 years strong. I guess living abroad and loving the experience really does that to you.
So, after taking on so many travels, adventures, and unique experiences around China over the years, I decided early on that I'd celebrate my 30th birthday with my girlfriend in none other than Guilin, my favorite tourist destination in China. And here ... we ... go!
It was December 19th, and I started my 30th birthday in Guilin with a prayer. I thanked God for His many blessings and prayed for more to come in areas of happiness, love, health, wealth, and safety, to name a few. A few of my older friends had joked that "life is all downhill from 30", so I was happy to be starting the new decade with a bang.
The first task of the day was setting off on an early morning cruise to Yangshuo from Mopanshan Pier, the docking point for 5-hour tours down Li River.
Ever see the back of a 20RMB note? There's this picture of a man sailing on a bamboo raft down a river surrounded by karst hills. Beautiful, isn't it? And well, that's what we were in for, and I couldn't wait!
We departed at 9:45am, and over the next 5 hours Jill and I would move back and forth between the boat's deck and cabin, chatting, snapping tons of pictures, recording videos, and taking in Li River's breathtaking natural scenery.
And it was just as I imagined–a perfect escape from the endless congestion and hustle and bustle of the big city. We'd pass a bunch of karts hill ranges, lots of lush forestry, bamboo rafts, and traditional Chinese homes lining Li River. Crazy as it sounds, the views were nothing short of spectacular at every turn. And I mean every turn!
What's more, I did make time for myself to do a little reflecting. After all, it was my 30th. Career, personal goals, family, friends, the ongoing road towards entrepreneurship–you better believe that all the important topics were covered.
By the end of the cruise my phone was overflowing with notes about how I'd take in this new chapter in my life. What a soothing adventure down Li River!
We arrived in Yangshou just before 3pm, took a bus to our hotel, snacked on some Yangzhou fried rice, and were off on bicycles—free of charge by our hotel—and cruising down a road adjacent to Yulong River.
I vouched for the electric bikes available at 80RMB for the whole day, but Jill insisted that cycling was more of the romantic activity. Hey, sometimes you just have to give in! Regardless, we only spent about 30-minutes cycling before we were caught in the rain and had to U-turn back to the hotel.
And as more rain crept over Yangshuo, we'd end up watching TV, grabbing a big Chinese dinner, and prepping for a busy next day. What a great way to bring in my 30th birthday in China!
Ah, day 3. Savory breakfast? Check. Read up on birthday wishes on Facebook and Instagram? Done. Next up? A short cycling trip and bamboo rafting down Yulong River. So let the adventure begin!
Truth be told, hitching a ride on a bamboo raft down Yulong River was something I've always wanted to do since moving to China, and what better time to do so than my 30th birthday? We boarded a raft and funny enough, were pushed by some young 20-something year old rocking jeans and a sweater, a far cry from the elder, picture-worthy long bearded locals donning an Asian conical hats, or farmer's hats, that I always had imagined.
All that didn't matter though, cause for the next 45-minutes we'd sail along the green water of Yulong River, passing through Yangshou's karsts hills and over several small waterfalls. We laughed, we joked, and took in nothing but fascinating views all around.
I'll add the bamboo cruise as one of my top travel experiences in China. And guess what? The night would only get better.
Before long we'd arrive Moon Hill, a sprawling karst mountain that took about a million steps to reach the top. At least, that's how it felt.
The first site we reached was this colossal natural archway. It was probably the largest arch I've seen aside from "Heaven's Gate" at China's Tianmen Mountain. It's pretty surreal standing under those things!
And that wasn't even the best part. The best reason to visit Moon Hill was for its spectacular view of Yangshuo's karst ridden landscape from above. It was one thing to see the hills from ground level, but it was definitely more of a mind-blowing experience getting a bird's eye view.
It was 7:45pm. The Yangshuo Impressions Light Show--the reported largest water show in the world—had no trouble brining in guests. Heck, it was as if everyone in the city showed up for the spectacle.
For 90 minutes we'd mostly be entertained by a number of songs, chants, and performances carried out by hundreds of members from Guilin's local residents and ethnic minority.
The two most memorable events of the night, though, had to be the performances by dozens of locals donning Asian farm hats and executing movements on bamboo rafts, and an awesome light show performed by a least 100 women cloaked in flashing ethnic minority garb.
I'd count the Yangshuo Impressions Light Show as one of the best live shows I've seen during my 5 years in China. Which shows have you seen?
DAY 4 - Guilin to Shanghai
And there you have it folks--a great way to end my 30th birthday in Guilin, China. Turning 30 in China was something I never imagined doing and I'm very humbled to look back over my experience in the country with a great sense of satisfaction. Likewise, spending my 30th birthday in Guilin, my favorite travel destination in China, and with my girlfriend of 3.5 years was definitely the icing on the cake. What an incredible way to start a new chapter in my life!