Reed Flute Cave, Elephant Trunk Hill and Guilin Xiongsen Bear & Tiger Refuge


After driving an hour an a half from Yangshuo back to Guilin, we spent an afternoon in Guilin before flying to Hangzhou.

Reed Flute Cave


First, we visited the Reed Flute Cave, which was a good choice because it is underground and the rain still hadn't let up.
At one time the entrance to the cave was distinguished by clumps of reeds used by the locals to make musical instruments, hence the name Reed Flute Cave. Now, it is often referred to as the “Palace of Natural Arts.”
We saw many incredible rock formations including stalactites, stalagmites, stone curtains, stone flowers and stone waterfalls.
We saw rocks shaped like fruits and vegetables, a Christmas tree, a snowman, a pagoda, and a jellyfish.
This rock formation is known as the Christmas tree.
Many of the rock formations have wonderful names like “Morning Sunrise over the Lion Jungle,” “Waterfall Splashing down from a High Gorge,” and “Bumper Harvest of Melons and Vegetables.”
This one is known as “Mushroom Hill.”
Here we have the jellyfish.
Some more great names include “Signing Birds and Fragrant Flowers,” “Cloudy Mountains Outside the Window Curtain,” and “Magic Stick of the Monkey King.”
The Crystal Palace of the Dragon King cave can hold roughly 1,000 people, although many more people crammed into the cave during WWII, when the cave was used as an air raid shelter.
This rock formation is called “The Big Apple,” in honor of the New York City skyline.
Here's the Monkey King's magic stick.
Some say this rock formation looks like a woman's petticoat.
These are the cow udders.
Limestone grows 20 centimeters in 100 years. The Chinese are searching for additional caves, since the breath of millions of tourists is turning the rocks black.
Yet another incredible limestone jellyfish.
Followers of Taoism believe that mirrors keep away evil, therefore, this rock formation, which sits above a clear pool of water, is called “Centipede Frightened by a Magic Mirror.”
We made a quick stop at the Guilin offices of China Highlights in order to meet Carol Wang, our wonderful travel advisor, who helped us plan this incredible trip. She gave us some very memorable gifts from Guilin. First, we were given fragrant sachet bags with sweet osmantheus flowers. Sweet osmantheus is the flower symbolic of Guilin. While in the area, we tried sweet osmantheus tea, cake and candy. We were also given bookmarks shaped like Elephant Trunk Hill, the most well-known attraction in Guilin.

Elephant Trunk Hill


Cormorants sit on a fishing raft in Elephant Trunk Hill park.
Fisherman with small boats wait to take tourists to the base of Elephant Trunk Hill.
At the southern end of town, one of Guilin's best-known sights is Xiangbí Shan or Elephant Trunk Hill, which actually does resemble an elephant dipping his trunk into the Li River. It is a national 4A scenery spot.
The Elephant Trunk Hill sits at the confluence of the Li River and Peach Blossom River. The Water Moon Cave is close to the river. The water flows through it and the cave looks like a moon floating in the water.
Attached to Elephant Trunk Hill park by this lovely arched bridge is the charming Love Island, which was given the name based on the numerous love themed statues throughout the park.
Perched on top of Elephant Trunk Hill is a pagoda in honor Pu Xian, the Buddha of Wisdom, who is associated with elephants.
There's a saying in Guilin that if you want to find love, take a bath at night in the Peach Blossom River and your dream will come true.
Love Island has several trees decorated with lucky red lanterns, so that visitors to the island become lucky in love.
We got to watch a performance of native dances by Zhuang minority youth.
Traditionally, the dances are performed at the Harvest and New Year, however, these dancers perform for visitors to the island on a regular basis.
One of the many love themed statues on Love Island. We love the hat!
We already feel pretty lucky in love, but a picture with the statue can't hurt.
Notice the statue to the right of a lovers' embrace.
Nina was particularly fond of this darling statue.

Guilin Xiongsen Bear & Tiger Refuge


We had some extra time before our flight to Hangzhou, so we stopped for an hour at a tiger and bear refuge on the outskirts of Guilin. But first, we had a wonderful lunch at the McFound Sichuan Restaurant. We had seriously spicy chicken with peppers, beef and veggie dumplings, pancakes with veggies, a local specialty rice noodle with beef and peppers and some wheat tea. It was awesome! Claire told us that Chinese parents often predict the fortunes of their children by how they hold their chopsticks. Held close to the bottom means they will marry close to home, holding the chopsticks far from the bottom means they will marry someone and move far from home. She was the guide for a German couple who held their chopsticks very close to the bottom and she found out they were neighbors who fell in love!
The tigers and bears have their own private islands surrounded by large moats. Life for them seemed pretty good and because of this they were much more active, natural and entertaining than animals you see in most American zoos.
The bears' ears were tagged; left for males and right for females.
These bears are lining up to try to nab apples hanging from sticks.
Nina paid five yuan to feed the bears and this bear remained front and center the whole time.
Check out them paws!!
Look at that greedy little bugger...
The bear on the left became very fond of Nina since it managed to get both of her apples. Nina however was mad at the bear for single handedly absconding with all of her apples.
We can only assume the one on top of the tree is showing off. cute! Hard to image this little guy is anything more than a fuzzy, wuzzy bear!
Believe it or not, the refuge has 4,000 bears and 1,300 tigers! The Siberian tigers are the largest tigers in the world.
This cute little guy sleeps just like our dog Otis... on his back, hugging the wall.
This tiger cub was just getting ready to join in a game of tag with two other cubs.
Isn't she adorable?
The cubs had a great time chasing and hiding in this mini bamboo forest.
It's tough work being a tiger mom!
These naughty tigers were planning their escape route! According to Claire, the refuge employees live on-site, in this apartment building, with bars over the windows. However, these tigers came up with the clever plan to dig under the establishment!
The refuge also houses some peacocks and a rather hostile one-eyed ostrich.
Wow, that's a lot of tigers! There is a story the Chinese like to tell about tigers. One day, an old monk and a young monk went to the market. The young monk saw some young women and asked the old monk what they were. The old monk replied, “They are tigers.”  Later that night the boy couldn't sleep.  The monk asked him, "What is the matter?"  The boy replied, "I miss the tigers."
How cute is this tiger cub pile up? There had to be close to a dozen in there!
The refuge even had a few of these rare white, tigers. Just beautiful...

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