Sunday, June 17, 2007

Cruising the Li River

We left Guilin by boat on Friday, heading for Yangshuo. So far on this trip we’ve traveled in a taxi, an airplane, a van, a train, a bus, and now a boat. The scenery on the cruise was wonderful; our local guide, Cristy, told us to look for four things:

1) phoenix tail bamboo (that’s what all the curly-cue stuff on shore is). It seems we have Chou En Lai to thank for the bamboo – it was his suggestion that it be planted near the Li River. And since, according to Cristy, Chou En Lai was so beloved by the people (he was always kind to the people, it seems, when Mao was imposing hardships on them), the provincial government leaped on the idea.

2) waterfalls. There were small waterfalls, and only a few, seemingly runoff from the land rather than another river or stream. But they were lovely.

3) water buffalos (OK, so these weren’t real eager to pose for us!). On this trip we’ve learned that water buffalo are highly prized by the farmers in Guangxi Province. They are costly, running about 2,000 yuan (or was that a motor scooter that cost 2,000 yuan? I've forgotten!), and families build a stall for the water buffalo near their front door so that they won’t be stolen.

4) Chinese painting rock. We were told that the elements had “painted” nine horses on this rock, and if you could see all nine you were very clever. Well, I’m not at all clever – I couldn’t see even one! (I THINK I see one in the photo, but that still doesn’t make me very clever!).

The clever one was Cristy, our local guide, who had a wonderful plan for keeping the girls occupied during the 4-hour boat ride – the traditional Chinese craft of paper cutting. She showed us some very intricate ones – she can make twin cats, double happiness characters, and much, much more. But the ones she showed the girls were simpler, or so she claimed! They were still pretty complicated for Zoe and Maya, though they gamely gave it a try. Cristy said that the style of paper cuts she was showing the girls (you can see one in the saucer between the teacups) were often found decorating shop windows in small villages.
Zoe preferred “free-style” cutting over the intricate Chinese patterns!

The cruise ended up lasting only three hours – as Cristy says, “We’re so lucky! The flood made the river faster!” We disembarked in Yangshuo, and walked down Western Street, the touristy-shopping area of Yangshuo. We didn’t stay there long since it was thronged with tourists and aggressive salespersons. We soon headed for our hotel outside of town, the Yangshuo Mountain Retreat.
It looks more like a pivate villa than a hotel, doesn’t it? It’s larger than it looks, but it is very cosy. It’s right on the Yulong River – Jade Dragon River, sometimes called the Lesser Li River – and surrounded by those awesome limestone karst mountains. Our room had a perfect view of mountains and river, and we were lulled to sleep at night by the sounds of the river. And if you're used to Chinese mattresses, the 2 inches of cotton batting on top of a board which constituted our mattresses here presented no difficulties!
The first afternoon here, we sat in rockers near the river, and enjoyed watching bamboo rafts full of tourists shaded by colorful beach umbrellas cruising down the river. I could have happily sat there all day. Even the girls, not known for their ability to sit still, happily spent 45 minutes rocking on the banks of the river.
And it helped that there was plenty to look at – we even saw a hot air balloon skimming through the mountains.
As afternoon drifted into evening, we could see the mountains and bamboo reflected in the water.
Yangshuo Mountain Retreat lives up to its name – a restful refuge from the world.


mimifrancoise said...

What beautiful trip! It sounds like you and the girls had a lot of fun. BTW, I see 3 horses in the 9 horses photo....not very clever of me.

Chinazhoumom said...

Please Please write down all of the names of the places you are going to - some great places to visit - also - how much should one expect to pay for a guide in China - what about a driver - would it be expected to pay for their airfare if they went different cities with you - and what about hotel rooms- Any suggestions?
Thanks so very much
mama to Kimberly
(you can post to my website and I will reply - I did not want to leave my email here...)