Written in limestone


Written in limestone

One of the highlights of our visit to China was a short sojourn at the picturesque city of Guilin in Guangxi Province.

 Guilin is famous for its mystifying limestone mountains punctuated by numerous caves and subterranean passages. Historically, Guilin attracted and still attracts poets and painters. It’s now a popular tourist destination as well.

Because of its limestone composition, the mountains have caves full of stalagmite and stalactite formations fashioned over millions of years. One of the mountains with the largest cave is the Reed Flute Cave. The mountain and the cave derive their name from a reed that grows nearby, out of which the locals make a very innovative flute.

During World War II, the citizens of Guilin hid in these caves to escape air-raids by the Japanese. Reed Flute Cave gave shelter to more than 1,000 people during the war.

A walk through the Reed Flute Cave is a bracing experience. Here, nature is at its best, architecturally. The limestone that is dissolved in water has dripped down over the ages and has solidified, taking all kinds of exotic shapes.

It is very easy to let one’s imagination run riot and see the Statue of Liberty, Venus, Dragons, Buddha, Snowman, The Three Monkeys and many more of the stalagmite and stalactite formations that have been given these appealing titles. Elegant pillars are formed where the stalagmite meets stalactite and they support the roof of the cave. Inside, the cave is artificially lit with various hues of psychedelic lighting, which gives the caverns an ethereal look.

The most spectacular sight is that of a huge space, appropriately named the Crystal Palace. There is a puddle of water in this area and some of the stalagmite formations that are backlit throw their reflection in the waters, resembling the skyline of a modern metropolis. This scene is fittingly named Manhattan.

Guilin is well connected by air and has a modern airport. It’s an excellent combination of an urban and a rural setting. The city has a busy shopping area.

The local government has come up with a very innovative offer to the public in preventing excessive vehicular traffic and pollution in the heart of the city. They have banned private vehicles in the city centre; and instead, provided about 60 well-maintained buses, which are free for the commuters. Besides, the taxis in the city are all electric buggies.

All these measures have kept the city clean, free of noisy traffic, and pristine. This will be a very good model for Bangalore to emulate.

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