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Li River Cruise: Guilin to Yangshuo

CHINA | Thursday, 21 August 2014 | Views [689]

Karst mountains on Li River

Karst mountains on Li River

“NOBODY GOES THERE ANYMORE, IT’S TOO CROWDED.”  Yogi Berra could have been talking about any tourist destination in China but it is especially true of the Li River cruises from Guilin to Yangshuo.  There is no China Through the Backdoor or Hidden China guidebook for foreign tourists.  Itineraries are limited for lauwai tourists with choices dictated only by budgets and time.  But no matter where you decide to go, you will never be alone.  There are always hundreds if not thousands of Chinese tourists keeping you company.

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    Sherry on the Li River

This is true even in Guilin, a small city of only 4 million, where every visitor is scheduled for a cruise on the scenic Li River.  Our guide, Sherry, told us the scenery has been made famous by many Chinese painters and it is even on the back of the twenty yuan bill.  She escorted us to the pier where we joined 80 other tourists for our cruise.  

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     Famous enough for 20 yuan

She failed to mention the 80 identical boats or the thousands of bamboo rafts that would share the river — but we’ll forgive her.  Her English is very good and she has quite a sense of humor, something not easy to acquire in a foreign language.

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    You'll never be alone

The water was brown from the recent rains but the scenery did live up to its billing.  Hundreds of verdant karst cones stretched into the misty distance as we powered past riverside villages.  We were surprisingly disappointed in the lack of bird-life along the river.  In 60 kilometers we saw fewer than 30 birds — not 30 species but, not counting egrets and domestic ducks — 30 birds.  Evidently Mao’s orders in the famine years of the 60s to kill the birds that were competing for the grain crops have had unintended consequences.

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     Impression Sanjie Lu

We spent the night in Yangshuo, a tourist “village” (by Chinese standards) of 700,000 where we were treated to the Impression Sanjie Lu light show, choreographed by Zhang Yi Mou who staged the opening ceremonies of the Beijing Olympics.  The cast of six hundred mainly minority Chinese celebrated scenes from daily life and festivals with the karst mountains as an illuminated backdrop.  We couldn’t understand the language, of course, but we got the gist of what was happening.

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   Impression Sanjie Lu

 

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