For better or worse, we have completed our stay in Guilin and now heading to our final destination of our China tour, Yangshuo.
Instead of taking a train or coach, we chose to go there by boat. Li River (Wiki Here) is famously known for its beautiful landscape and if one has never been, you wouldn’t have been to China. Similar to Guilin, there are plenty of beautifully formed mountains. In fact, it’s so famous that if you are familiar with traditional Chinese paintings, you will find that many have used these mountains as subjects or backgrounds. So, why not take a boat, and enjoy the view? So we did.
The 90km journey from Guilin to Yangshuo took a good two and a half hours. The boat trip itself was quite pleasant if it wasn’t spoiled by the horrible weather, which I will come to it later. Before we got onto the cruise, we were forced to wait at the ‘tourist’ centre where they sold jewelry and stuff. Obviously we were not interested in any of them so we just stood there and wait. It was a good hour wait even though we had book in advance. I guess that’s their strategy to get people to spend some money but to be frank, the ‘tourist’ centre was a little tatty and dimly lit. I just didn’t feel I was in the mood to spend money there. I would, however, be willing to spend if they have a nice cafe there. But no. So all of us just waited there.
When we were finally called for our departure, we rushed towards the boat. As usual and a Chinese custom, you had to fight for your space on the boat. It’s all first come first serve rule in China, even if you have pre-booked a seat in most cases. But as we knew, all of us formed a human barrier and we got to the first deck and settled down with our seats.
A few minutes later, the captain started the engine and we were off. I really had high expectation for Li River because of what I’d read and saw on the internet. I had my camera and lenses ready and my mind already starting to form some pictures that I would like to take later. But 10 minutes in, I couldn’t see a thing. Not that there was nothing to see, it was because it was drizzling with dense rain and thick fog. I couldn’t believe it. I took a few shots and went back to my seat. Another 20 minutes, the situation didn’t improve so I took my chances and headed back to the top deck for more photos. This time, I had a different idea. I would try to use my 70-200 to get some detail shots of anything on either side of the river. That turned out to be quite interesting.
What frustrated me the most was the amount of tourists on the river. I know it would be the case in modern China. Not only they now have lots of foreign tourists, but as the Chinese economy improves and hence more mobile Chinese, these sort of destinations also flooded by Chinese tourists from other provinces. Li River was literally filled with tourist cruises and small boats. The once tranquil and peaceful landscape is now occupied by diesel exhaust smoke and engine noises. I am also certain that the water pollution level would have increased too as a result. Yet, I made the most of it by accepting changing China and embrace the convenience of all these transports on offer for anyone who wants to visit these magical places. But I do and I truly do miss the old-time muddy path and the 10 miles hike.
So here we were on the river. Half way up the river and we were a major bend of the river where the boat would slow down and there we were greeted by more tourist boats. It was just like the little water boat rides for children in an amusement park on steroid. But what I noticed, however, was the lovely mountains in the background. Despite the mist, I could still see the layers of shadows. It was like painting and all of a sudden, I couldn’t hear any engine and people noise, my eyes were drawn to these landscape. “This was what I was imaging to see”.
As I was on the boat, I couldn’t find myself a really nice vantage point to do some proper landscape shots so I just had to settle with some snaps. It was a memory for the trip so I didn’t disappoint. It was something that will stay in my memory for sometime. Perhaps, one day I would go back and this time by foot? Well, not with my kids anyway.
When we finally arrived at Yangshuo, we spotted a local fisherman with two fishing birds, the Cormorants. I guess those who had seen the HSBC advert in 2011 would remember what they were. These birds were fantastic. They were trained to catch fishes for the owner but the method was rather cruel, in my opinion. The owner would tie a string around the bird’s throat so it couldn’t swallow the fish after the catch. Then he will get the cormorant to spit the fish out before releasing it back into the water for another go. But the fisherman we saw was there for show only. He charged us 30 RMB (around £3) for a photo. We didn’t get to see the fish catching so all of use just paid to get some pictures taken. One of the cormorants were rather vicious though, kept staring at us and wanted to have fight with us!
So this is a rather short travel blog but as we are now in our last destination, and I must add that Yangshuo was THE place to see! So watch this space for my last China blog!
If you have missed my previous blogs of China travel, here’re the links:
Have a good day!