The Gudong Waterfall (古东森林瀑布) [Gǔdōng Sēn Lín Pùbù]; I think it means Old East Forest Waterfall) was really a series of waterfalls and cascades meant to be experienced firsthand by getting right in the river and getting wet while climbing it. We saw numerous people put on water shoes as well as some climbing gear then walk in the river and up the waterfalls. Given that the typical southern China climate tended to be hot and humid, this activity definitely provided a fun way to beat the heat. We even noticed that some of the tiers were man-modified to support footholds as well as poles and ropes to facilitate the climbing.
We generally believe that most tourists to the world famous Guilin (桂林 [Guìlín]; Osmanthus Woods) would be on a tighter and shorter itinerary revolving around the Li River (漓江 [Líjiāng]) Cruise, and thus we'd imagine they wouldn't bother with this waterfall. That was because we were probably one of the few overseas tourists in the park even though it was still quite busy with Chinese tourists. Nonetheless, Julie and I thought this place was a worthwhile stop, especially considering that we allowed ourselves an extra day to sightsee in the Guilin area.
Given that the Li River boat cruise tended to appeal to the sense of sight, we realized that that particular tour could induce a sense of detachment from reality as the grandeur of the karst mountains in the area easily skewed our sense of perspective. Conversely, the Gudong Waterfall excursion allowed us to stimulate more of our senses as we were able to hear the waterfalls, feel the mist, smell the vegetation, etc. in addition to visually seeing each tier of the falls and its lush surroundings. In a way, this more immersive experience helped us put the greater scenic allure of Guilin and the Li River in more perspective than if we did what most tourists would do and just do the river cruise only.
In any case, we had lost count of how many tiers were in the waterfall series that made up the overall Gudong Waterfalls. Most of the waterfalls were probably no more than 5m or so (maybe 10m tops) so on their own, each of the falls weren't really anything that special. So that kind of further reinforced the notion that this place was more about getting wet than taking photos.
Our visit started off by walking past an interesting sheltered bridge, which also looked like it was atop some kind of dam that created a man-made lake. We noticed there were some people who were able to boat on the man-made lake (probably at an extra fee), which we didn't do. But the lake itself was fringed by lush bush scenery as well as a few pagodas here and there, and that sort of gave this place that uniquely Chinese flavor.
Beyond the man-made lake, we then passed through a busy area with restaurants and souvenir shops. It was also in this spot that we noticed several tour groups would congregate before continuing further into the park to go onto the walking and/or climbing tour.
Then, we walked onto a well-developed concrete path weaving its way through a lush jungle area, and it didn't take long before we reached the first Gudong Waterfall. This particular tier ended up being one of the taller tiers that we saw, and right away we could see that people were climbing its steep slope (see photo at the top of this page).
We took the dry trail that climbed alongside the waterfall so we could see the falls (and its climbers) from all kinds of different angles.
Beyond this waterfall, we then continued along the well-developed walk that passed by a series of much smaller waterfalls. Some of these smaller tiers had names like "Embroidered Silk Sheet" or something about "marrying streams" as they were so named given their resemblance to whatever was being described. In many of the falls, we saw queues of climbers awaiting their turn to continue up the river as apparently these waterfalls also caused bottlenecks in the flow of climber traffic.
Amongst this series of falls, perhaps the most impressive one of the lot was a wide waterfall that fell like a trapezoidal sheet over a sloping wall. This sloping wall appeared to have been slightly modified to include footholds and bolts to facilitate climbing. But aside from the modifications, Julie and I gladly took plenty of photos of it, especially since we didn't see nearly as many climbers at this waterfall than further downstream.
Beyond the trapezoidal waterfall, the developed walk continued passing by more smaller miscellaneous waterfalls. Some of these had buildings or other types of infrastructure next to them, but eventually, the walk ended at the uppermost Gudong Waterfall where there were burning incense sticks fronting the plunge pool while a pagoda flanked the left side of the multi-tiered cascade. This combination of burning incense and shrines with an attractive waterfall was definitely one of the more interesting juxtapositions we could remember. In fact, Julie and I don't think we had ever seen this combination in our waterfalling adventures so far.
Anyhow, this was our turnaround point so we chilled out and savored this waterfall while the burning incense reminded us of what our parents would do (and made us do) whenever they had to remember loved ones by holding onto the burning sticks while bowing before an altar dedicated to them. Speaking of respect, we noticed that nobody climbed this particular waterfall so it might have been the lone waterfall in the Gudong Waterfall series where climbers couldn't (or wouldn't) go up.
All in all, it took us about an hour to do the whole round trip so it wasn't a very long excursion. But for such a relatively short time spent here, there sure were lots of waterfalls concentrated in this one place.
The Gudong Waterfall is located some 30 minutes or so (probably 25km) of riding in the car south from Guilin city. Since we did this waterfall excursion as part of an escorted tour, we can't give specific directions as we didn't do any of the driving.
We did realize that this place was very close to the Crown Cave (Guanyan Cave), which had a subterranean waterfall itself.
Geographically speaking, Guilin was a 90-minute flight from Hong Kong, 1,531km (16 hours drive or 3 hours flight) southwest of Shanghai, and 1,976km (20 hours drive or over 3 hours flight) south of Beijing.
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