When we spoke to locals in Beijing, X'ian and Shanghai about our trip and we mentioned that we were going to Guilin, the Chinese would say, "Ah, Guilin is very beautiful." They said this, even though they hadn't been there, in reverential tones. Well, I must say, when we arrived in Guilin, we were a little disappointed. Guilin owes its fame to the surrounding countryside and, I suppose, its place within a strange landscape. Despite its setting, however, Guilin lacks any distinctive character. Nevertheless, its a good jumping-off point for visits to surrounding areas . . . which are beautiful in their own right.