CHINA Spring 2012
|You've seen dozens of these Chinese brush paintings, depicting exotically-shaped mountains wreathed in fog and mist, with hanging trees and occasional pavilions... that's the Li River near the town of Yangshuo. This was hanging on the wall of our room there.
|Getting there from Jinghong was an all-day affair: departing in the morning, a long lay-over in Kunming, then a delayed late evening arrival in Guilin. Since we were getting in very late, we'd pre-arranged for taxi transport the 40 miles down to Yangshuo. We arrived after midnight, then looked out to discover that the city played floodlights on one hill during the night.
|But in the morning, the mists lifted to reveal that the paintings are fairly truthful. This is the view out one of our room's windows,
|...and this is the view out the other window, showing Green Lotus Peak, the one that had been illuminated during the night.
|Our room (with its two windows) at the Li River Retreat.
|We came to the realization that we probably had the best room at the Retreat. It's that room jutting out up on the 3rd floor on the left. But there probably isn't a room in the place without a stunning view. A sign on the roof announces it is also the home of yangers.com, one of the better infomation sources we found in researching the trip.
|Even the hallways offered spectacular views, in this instance the Li River and a saddle between peaks.
|From the 3rd floor balcony, looking down on the outside dining area and the river.
|Looking towards the north, showing the motorcycle parking area.
From the ground floor dining room, watching the groceries being delivered by motorcycle. The food was very tasty and the helpful English speaking staff could modify things to deal with Karen's dietary restrictions. We ate our breakfasts and dinners here instead of dealing with the walk to town.
We shouldn't have let our guard down when lunching in town. Places with English speaking staff and English menus seemed so much like home compared with what we had been seeing in other cities that we ate a few things we shouldn't have like ice-cream and drinks with ice in them and something gave us both the runs.
|We spent quite a bit of time just watching the river. Here a "bamboo" raft (now they are plastic pipes made to look sort of bamboo-like) heads down the Li towards Yangshuo.
|A tour boat that spent the night in Yanhshuo, heading empty up the river in the morning: more on this below.
|Green Lotus Peak, and the town of Yangshuo nestled beneath it.
|Looking a little closer at Yangshuo, note the pillars and long pavilion roof above the river on the right.
|The weather was iffy... the day would start with rain, but that would usually stop by 11am. Then the mists and clouds would slowly clear and lift, giving us a continuously changing view of more and more peaks as the day wore on. We'd head out at 11am for the 2 kilometer walk to town. The temperature hovered in the low 40's.
|Although there was a village further along, the road was narrow and rarely travelled. There would be a motorcycle or bicycle every ten minutes or so. The road was a continuous source of wonder and wonderment (what's that pipe for?).
|Here's a close up of one of the karst hills, showing the caves that could form as the rock weathered away.
|Sometimes the erosion became almost personal... (if Dick had been standing there overnight during the storm)
|Bamboo scaffolding ain't just for buildings. We suspect they were preparing to stabilize the rock face.
|Remember that pavilion with pillars? It turned out that it's a long covered street market. The road is closed and the booths set up every day to be ready a little after noon. This also shows a river-rock mosiac that ran along a concrete retaining wall behind the stalls.
|At about 12:30, dozens of tour boats from the up river city of Guilin (where the airport is) start arriving.
|Each disgorges its complement of pennant-waving guides and tourist passengers. Thousands per day to walk along the covered kilometer of street market...
|Some of the shops are permanent, such as this candy-pounding confectionary... they're hammering recently molten sugar to make a hard cruncy layered treat.
|After walking the gauntlet of street vendors, many tourists hop aboard electric carts to be toured around the town
|At one point along the street vendor scene are housed what we came to call the "wholesalers". Crates and crates of the trinkets that were sold on the individual vendor's tables.
|The "wholesale" aspect became clear when Dick asked for a T-shirt design in a size that wasn't on the table... the booth-keeper dashed into the "warehouse" and pulled it from the shelf. No paperwork or money changed hands between the wholesale personnel and the booth-keeper... we'll always wonder how the economics of the system work. Perhaps simple honesty.
|As we neared Yangshuo proper, we came across the piers for the "bamboo" rafts... street hawkers plied the crowds to go for rides down the river to additional tourist traps, er, sights.
|A little further down, the creek that runs through Yangshuo dumps into the river at this waterfall. Due to the heavy rains that blessed our visit, the main river rose almost two feet, putting these piers under water. The boats just pulled up to the next level of steps.
|People leaving for bamboo raft tours pass through this waterside gate
Now we're reaching the real town of Yangshuo... or at least the tourist-dominated section. More booths are set up in case you somehow missed buying them earlier in the walk.
As it turned out, there was something Dick wanted. A booth-less street vendor offered him a scarf from her overflowing shoulder bag.
|Green Lotus Peak itself is surrounded by a dragon-pillar guarded, pay-to-enter park. The primary attraction is a stairway-assisted climb to its peak. (we passed on this opportunity)
|Our first day in Yangshuo was the wettest... we wondered where all of the tourists that had come down through the gauntlet dissappeared to. Probably into restaurants to watch us splash through the shop-laden streets.
|The next day was drier, so we started earlier... many of the shops hadn't opened yet.
|The middle of the town had a scenic pond with views up to Chenbo Hill, Xilang Hill and others. Plus a familiar set of arches, just beyond an arched bridge
|One of our known-safe meals was a "wrap" from McDonalds. And this McD had the best view we've ever seen from a lunch counter. (see? there really were arched bridges). Cunning tree placement blocks the KFC sign on the far building.
|Dragons abound in this area, too... (and the "K" of KFC is just peeking out to its left)
|Walking through Yangshuo's central park eventually led us completely around Chenbo Hill. On the back side we were greeted by streetlights being clambered up by dragons, with bulbs in each paw.
|Hiking along the main road, we passed through this tunnel under the hill beside Green Lotus Peak
|...and discovered where the tourists went... large hotels were situated south of Green Lotus Peak (and explained why they flood-lit the "back" side from Yangshuo). This district is nick-named "China Town"
|Looking back north shows Green Lotus Peak and this smaller spike-with-pavilion. This highlights something which completely surprised Dick: how small the hills and peaks were. Many had a "footprint" the size of only a few city blocks, and were only two to five hundred feet tall.
The Li River bends to the east as it passes Green Lotus Peak, with another sprawling tourist area across the river, easily accessible by bamboo raft or bridge.
|Our walk around Chanbo Hill found a statue of Buddha at the mouth of a cave, behind a wall with ticket booth.
|Wandering through the back residential streets of Yangshuo kept coming across idyllic scenes with glorious backdrops.
|At one spot we came across this tunnel which we didn't take time to explore but it lets you see how small the hills really are.
|When it comes to tunnels, this is the entryway to the Yanshuo Liriver International Youth Hostel that's built into one of Dragonhead's fissures. It's located near the town-end of the covered street market.
|The tourist boats cease arriving after about 3pm, and by 3:30pm the street market is completely deserted and turned back into being a street.
|Without the hubbub of the market, it's possible to notice little things... like this tiny cemetary behind the market stalls.
|The pier, now deserted (and still partially flooded) awaits tomorrow's inrush.
|The river falls silent, except for the empty boats heading back up to overnight at the beginning of their route. Another mystery to us is the fact that you cannot book passage up the river on these boats... tourists can only come down. If you want to travel on the water back up, the only answer is the bamboo raft fleet.
|As afternoon drifts on into evening, we hike back up the path to the Li River Retreat.
|One day we looked out our window to find water buffalo being grazed on the far side of the river
|Another day we walked north on the path going by the Retreat, to visit the village of Gaozhou. We came across citrus (orange) orchards that had been flooded by the rains. Note the rafts of oranges floating in the water.
|The village itself looked somewhat prosperous... new buildings were going in, with a few extremely weather-beaten old ones still existing.
|The time came to leave Yangshuo... as with the arrival, we had to depart in the dark (4am) to catch an 8am flight in Guilin, 55 miles to the north. This was the road we drove down, Chenbo Hill looming ahead of us (but unseen in the dark). Our flight's destination was the Schenzhen airport, where we'd catch the bus back to Hong Kong.
|Hong Kong (again)
all text and images copyright Karen and Dick Seymour 2012,
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