Amazingly there was no wake-up call this day due to a late start so was able to get up at 07:30 for breakfast. We could have got up later but the luggage was being collected at 09:00 and we were unsure how many choices would be left if we waited to have breakfast until after that.
We checked out at 09:45 and headed out on the city tour. The first stop was the Calligraphy museum. This was divided into three sections, the first of these was for paintings from various periods including the civil revolution when they converted to socialism.
The next was a place where we saw older paintings. Even though they were behind glass in a carefully controlled environment, these ones were all replicas.
The final section was where we were all given some rice paper and then instructed on how to use the brush and ink to write various Chinese characters. Of course, there was then a chance to buy the artwork they had, made from local art students and professors, some of these were particularly pricey though.
We then stopped at the Small Wild Goose Pagoda, a library of Buddhist scrolls dating back to 652 AD, during the Tang Dynasty under Emperor Zhongzong of Tang. We stayed for about an hour exploring the grounds that included a big bell that you could ring for a fee. Here we saw plenty of Azure Magpies flying around, but they never really settled which made it difficult to photograph them. We didn’t get to look inside the pagoda, though it has Buddha statues carved by Yan Liben. There is a big Wild Goose Pagoda elsewhere in the city, though apparently our guide said it doesn’t look as impressive.
The dinner was at The Tang Dynasty restaurant and for the first time was a buffet lunch. The food wasn’t that warm or big in variety, but it was edible and better than a few of the places we’d been. The building though was amazing – and the dining room which doubled as a theatre room for Tang Dynasty show productions looked very grand. The quality of the building was so good that people were even commenting that they had fish tanks in the bathroom.
The afternoon was a short tour for visiting the Great Mosque and the surrounding parts of the city. They don’t allow tourists into the mosque so you can only take photographs of the outside.
The Great Mosque is one of the oldest in the country and dates back to 742 AD. This mosque doesn’t look like others as it has a distinctly Chinese architectural style to accommodate the community of Muslim Chinese. The only outward hint of Muslim culture is the Arabic writings on one of the walls.
During some free time here we took short walk to the nearby bell and drum towers, both of which charge admission. We didn’t bother going inside either of these but still took the time to photograph their exteriors. The place is so modernised that one of the tower is basically on an island in the road which can only be accessed via the underpass. Nearby there is also an underground shopping mall with shops that have similar (but not quite the same) names to ones you’d see elsewhere in the world. One of the shops in the mall sold many different types of electrical equipment, inclusive of Canon gear. We did waste some time looking at the lenses, etc. and from what we could tell they did appear to be genuine products.
Personally I thought two hours was too long for this place as we had run out of things we wanted to do by 15:00 and spent the remaining hour wandering aimlessly. We did have an attempt at photographing a fountain, but by the time we got close to it they turned it off for the rest of the day.
We reached the airport by 16:50 and was waiting by the gate at 17:15. Sadly there is very little choice of food at the airport. The boarding time was also delayed from 17:55 to 18:20, reducing the chance of getting dinner when we arrived in Guilin. As it got closer to the adjusted boarding time, the flight then got delayed again until 19:05 due to the amount of air traffic.
By the time we reached Guilin it was 20:46. Leaving the plane and collecting the baggage took until 21:42. Somewhere between leaving the hotel in Xi’an and arriving at the baggage carousel in Guilin they did however manage to break the only handle on my brand new suitcase. Apparently the zip on someone else’s suitcase had been broken on the flight to Xi’an earlier in the trip. We reached the hotel at 22:10, but was not settled into the room until 23:30.