Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Li River - Guilin to Yangshuo

On the tourist route and loving it!

If you squint you can see a row of cormorants on a raft
(in the centre of the photo) waiting to work.
We were allocated a boat up the Li River with a large group of Italian tourists so being the only native English speakers on the boat, our guide seemed to spend the four hour trip scampering up and down decks to find us and point out particular notable scenic spots. Bless him, he also sped off with my camera during lunch to snap a particularly stunning curve in the river. For the Italians, it was their second to last destination on a two week package tour, and many were showing the exhausted signs of an intensely jam packed itinerary.
Impossible seeming shapes.
Soaking up the sublime scenery, many flopped in the seats, making the most of the opportunity to relax and chat. What a great opportunity to strike up a conversation! Thank goodness other countries acknowledge that it's important to learn more than one language. My sign language and pantomime sketches are adequate to communicate basically; but one of the many joys of travelling is having the opportunity to rub shoulders with people from around the world and  discuss world events, politics and compare outlooks.

Extraordinary mountains, seem to stretch forever.

How did such and such an event affect them? How was it reported there? What was the particular bias of their politicians? Did what we read in the papers and see on TV accurately reflect the event?  What a privilege we have being able to do this. I love the amazing conversations you have when bumping into someone from Brussels at breakfast,  Cologne at lunch and maybe London at dinner. Not to mention all the wonderful local Chinese people I met and conversed with.

The Li River is a very popular holiday destination.
 Not entirely surprisingly on the Li River, money was one topic that was raised. Not the cost of the boat ride, but the fact that this is where the sketch for the 20 Yuan note was done. A simple conversation starter could lead to show and tell about your own country's currency, how notes are impregnated with all sorts of metals and embossing to attempt to prevent forgeries, with a watermark here, a fine strip of metal there, a raised portion here for sight impaired people, and a particular compound placed just so, so that when the note is at just this exact angle it shimmers like a rainbow.
People power for washing dishes.
Best not to think that cold river water is used for the dishes.
The amazing topography is called Karst - a detailed description is here. Karst features are formed over hundreds of thousands of years from what was originally the seabed; but as the lands have changed the limestone has eroded and been uplifted producing extraordinary hills and mountains, underground rivers, caves of all shapes and sizes with awe-inspiring stalactites and stalagmites. Similar mountains are found in other regions of the world, but I am assured that China's Guilin area's claim to fame, is that the mountains cover the single largest region and extend south through to the Philippines and Indonesia. 
A fan souvenir and welcome refreshment at a local cafe.
The haze in the photos is a result of the extremely high humidity; fans are regularly used by men, women and children. Many are much larger than the souvenir 'gift' from the boat trip, and produce a welcome cooling breeze. I discovered (unintentionally) that sitting next to a vigorously fanning man and making "ahh" noises produced much hilarity and coy directing of the breeze on to my dripping face. Bless everyone who takes pity on a sweltering western woman!



Anonymous said...

Where do you begin with a trip to China? The scenery is spectacular and awe inspiring. Glad you were able to balance things out with a beer!

Barb said...

Hi Sue, Looks like you had an amazing journey through scenic China. I was there just after the country opened to the West in 1986 - much different than today! I noticed how modern Shanghai looks. It was a mix of colonial architecture and traditional Chinese back then.

sue said...

Stephen, it's such a huge and varied country it's hard to know where to begin. This time we booked a hotel in Shanghai ourselves, (wotif is fine, but a local similar company will give you a greater variety). For tours out of the big cities, it's still easier to use a travel agent and book a car/driver and guide, but it's certainly possible alone if you're adventurous - it would help to speak some Mandarin.

Barb, I too was there in the early 80's, but sadly can't find my photos (they seem to have been mislaid in too many moves). I remember Beijing had few if any neon lights, and very little heating even mid winter. It's been fascinating to return and see the immense cultural and architectural changes. No Chinese music in shops now, and none of those incessant announcements on the trains! This time I felt positively archaic with my old model phone and demure clothing.

sue said...

Stephen, I forgot to say beer is readily available pretty much everywhere :) and it's worth trying the regional brews. Wine and good coffee are easily found in Shanghai, and the popular tourist areas, I haven't been to Beijing lately, but am confident it would be the same.

Ms. Becky said...

wow, what an adventure this must have been. and such a dramatic landscape. my jaw is dropping at these photos. wild and beautiful and I want to go there now...
happy day to you Sue.

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Sue .. great story and pics again .. presumably the cormorants are the ones that catch fish, which are then sold - known sort of as 'cormorant farming fishers' ...

Beautiful part of the world .. despite the humidity.

Glad you had such a fun time and were able to talk to so many from around the world ..

Not too sure either about the river water being used to wash the dishes - in 100 years things will be different .. though we won't be around.

Cheers - loving your thoughts and posts on China .. thanks -Hilary

Talli Roland said...

Lovely photos! My parents were there and loved it.

M Pax said...

What amazing scenery. Looks like an incredible trip.

jabblog said...

Glorious scenery! I remember my father telling me about the working cormorants when I was a child. Many years later my brother taught in China for a couple of years and took photos of fishing cormorants.

sue said...

Becky, it is extraordinary scenery, absolutely stunning. Have a wonderful week - you must be nearing a change in weather soon I think with lovely Autumn colours.

Hilary, yes those are the cormorants, although we didn't see any working. I'm not very comfortable about the dishes being washed in the river from a number of points of view!

Talli, thankyou. I wonder if your parents tied you to chairs to watch the endless photos like we did with our children?!

Mary, It was a wonderful trip - I'm sure someone could use the scenery in a book!

jabblog, the working cormorants sound so odd don't they, yet the system works well.