Located just one bus stop away from the main railway station, Guilin's Botanical Gardens area has undergone a transformation in recent years with the addition of a large shopping centre and an amusement park. It all makes for a good day out before getting in the groceries.
Before, there wasn't so much in the way of shopping but now there are dozens of outlets to be found at Lianda Square Shopping Centre (联达广场), clustered around the Too Department Store (Too游乐园娱乐中心). The main entrance is clearly visible from the main road thus making for easy navigation. This, one of the most 'upmarket' shopping centres in Guilin, plays host to a cinema complex, a few Western outlets, several coffee shops and plenty of other things. You'll find odd items here that are hard to find elsewhere in town, but it's still Guilin so don't expect the variety you'll find in larger cities. Sadly for cheese, you're still stuck with the modest selection at the local Walmart. Still, you should be able to find plenty here largely unavailable in the taste-of-home desert beyond.
The Too Department Store at the centre of the shopping area still is the main attraction. Along with other outlets, the basement hosts a large supermarket with a few Western delicacies scattered around on the shelves. It also has its own bakery with a few loaves of bread not over-sugared or containing a red bean surprise. In this, at least, it scores a little over Guilin's Walmart. Overall it's certainly good enough for you to emerge laden with most of your weekly groceries.
The ground floor of the Too is a hodgepodge of outlets and strange amusements including one of China's most safety-oriented high-speed trains. It's not going anywhere and just as well; it appears to be made out of cardboard. On the more realistic side, there is an army tank which is a great attraction for children. The kitsch modernity with such bizarre extras sets the tone. It should also be noted that Too is not a 'department store' in the traditional sense but, rather, a large building playing host to a number of independent outlets.
The second and third floors are largely, (but not entirely), devoted to clothing. On the fourth floor one end is packed with children's goods and the other is a large food court area common on higher floors of Chinese department stores. At the food court you buy a ticket at a central location and then go around a large number of outlets, select different dishes, order way too much and overeat quite disgustingly. Good for an occasional splurge.
Having overeaten, you can bring it all back up again at the 100 Paradise Amusement Park, (100乐园), with plenty on offer in a passably large area. No coconut-shy temporary funfair this; it's a serious iron-girder permanent-installation amusement park complete with ghost train, big wheel, chutes, rails, boats and all those bizarre rides whose gyrations can leave your stomach feeling rather upset. This humble scribe can't guarantee its safety, but nothing fell down while I was there, and if anyone was catapulted into the stratosphere I missed it.
The park is at the rear of the shopping complex and next to Guilin's main railway line so, if being shaken like a bottle of ketchup isn't your thing, you can always pass the time with a bit of train spotting.
3) The Botanical Gardens
The park itself, (桂林园林植物园), doesn't quite do what it says on the packet though the occasional tree or shrub hosts a desultory sign to tell you what it is. No matter. In the heat of the Guilin summer, the Botanical Gardens are a shaded pleasure to walk around as most of the paths are shielded from the sun by trees and foliage. The park is extensive with numerous little paths branching away from the main ones letting you chance upon small rivers and ponds, statues and follies, occasional landscapes and new ancient buildings.
For those too lazy to walk, there are pedal cars for hire; for those too lazy to pedal, small electric cars for two are also available. For those too lazy to move at all, there are plenty of quiet areas in which you can go to sleep.
Two reservations. The peculiar Chinese addition of artificial rocks here and there serenading the passerby with mawkish Chinese pop music are an annoying intrusion upon the sound of birds and the wind in the trees; and some of the water areas wrinkle the nose a little. However these are minor complaints. The area is verdant, large enough not to crowd up, relaxing and cool in the months of high summer.
Overall it is a place where you can not only get your shopping done but also have a pleasant day out. The clever combination of relaxation, amusement and shopping makes Guilin's Botanical Gardens area well worth a regular visit.
4) Getting There
From the city centre, take bus route 1 from the central crossroads at Niko Niko Do or route 10 from the same stop or from Seven Stars Park heading south. Get off at Botanical Gardens, (植物园). Serving the same stop are buses 16, 23, 85, 97, 202. Alternatively, take buses 12, 20, 21, 36, 56, 201, 205 to The Public Transport Headquarters, (公交集团公司). From there, walk south 100 metres to the second turning on your right.
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Keywords: Guilin botanical gardens shopping in Guilin amusement parks in Guilin
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