Day 232-233 (23rd & 24th April) – Yangshuo

19 05 2011

If you want to escape the pervasive influences of western culture visit rural China. There are of course some superficial influences like clothing. With myself and Jen’s over worn, over washed and ‘seen better days’ clothes, the young Chinese are better dressed than the pair of us.

It pains me to say it, but we have had no choice but to join one of those awful tour groups – fortunately not the ones where the tour guide has a flag and the tour group have baseball caps. You see with our limited time and wholly inadequate knowledge of Chinese, it was looking silly to navigate the Li River any other way. Our day began at 8am with a cruise down the Li River. A lovely experience if not slightly marred by the stupid number of tourist boats also making the same journey, all of which formed the endless procession. However, as we sailed deeper into the jaw dropping countryside, the smog cleared and the sky colour turned to a more conventional blue, so all was good.

Four and half hours just wasn’t long enough up on deck in the sun on the Li River. Fortunately we had somewhere better to be, punting on the Yulong River (a much smaller and quieter tributary of the Li River) on small bamboo rafts. Here the peace was only broken by local kids throwing themselves off Dragon Bridge into the river below.

From the relative peace of our bamboo raft we could really gain a better appreciation for the truly stunning surroundings we were in. While floating down the river we watched locals working the land and water buffalo grazing on the lush green river-bank grass.

I don’t know if you remember the HSBC advert, the ‘local knowledge’ one – it showed a westerner trying and failing to catch a fish with a rod on the river, then showing a local Chinese fisherman catching many fish with the help of a cormorant. We were very fortunate to get to see this in real life. A very impressive display, if not a little cruel on the poor bird, as its lower neck had string tied around it to prevent the cormorant from swallowing the fish and probably had its wings clipped. The fisherman would release the bird; the bird would dive and catch a fish then fail to swallow the fish due to the string. Finally the fisherman scooped up the cormorant and pull out the fish.

Late that evening we saw a very impressive open air sound and light show directed by the same guy that directed theBeijingOlympic opening ceremony, Zhang Yimou. Instead of using the 16,000 people he did for the Olympics, he managed to limit himself to just 700 for this show. Well 1.2 billion have got to do something…..

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