Sunday, February 7, 2016

Visiting China--Yangshuo and the Li River

Li River, China

The karst hills of southern China have such an odd shape, it is hard to believe they are real.

But they are.

Really.

I recommend you see them for yourself.


Guilin and Yangshuo on the Li River in southern China (map) have been tourist destinations for centuries. Guilin is the bigger city and regional capital (map) Yangzhuo is the river town that has become a tourist destination. (map)

Cruises down the Li River to and from Yangshou are breathtaking, whether it is rainy,

Li River, China
 sunny
Li River, China

or misty
Li River, China


There are towering groves of bamboo.

Stand of bamboo
Stand of bamboo.
Bamboo along the Li River
Bamboo along the river, behind the grazing horses
The cities are pretty, too, surrounded as they are by the karst hills.

Guilin, China
Guilin, China

Yangshuo, China
Yangshuo, China
Karst, I should have said, is limestone. These limestone hills are very old and eroded. Many are full of caves.

As always, people keep some old technology and adopt new things they find useful. Here, along the Li River, a man in a traditional woven hat, carrying diving cormorants on a pole, walks in front of plastic pop-up tents.

Li River, China

Not many people make a living fishing with cormorants these days. Most of these picturesque fishermen do much better posing for tourists and photographers.

Li River, China

The Li River area draws tourists from around the world. Many of the photographers in my photo above were Japanese tourists. Other tourists were Chinese. On the Li River in 2007, I rode in a boat full of Chinese on holiday. The snacks offered to Chinese tourists, dried fish and salty pickles, for example, were quite different from the snack foods I was used to. Yangshuo has been a famous destination for Australian hikers and climbers for decades, and like the boat on the river, provides foods they like, for example shepherd's pie and apple crumble. And you can encounter American, English and German tourists, of course.

Karst hill with cel phone tower, China
Cell phone tower on karst hill.
Look, that's a cell phone tower on the top of that picturesque karst hill. Imagine if the tourists in this area were cut off from the rest of the world with no cell phones or internet. Many would be very upset.

Yangshuo, China

Yangshuo has good infrastructure for tourists: restaurants, shops, hotels. I enjoyed the shopping, saw things I liked as well as typical souvenirs, and had no problem dodging crowds. The first trip, we saw the Sanjie Liu Impression. It is a light show/extravaganza, done on the water in boats, very impressive. I didn't think to take pictures: see these on Google (link) and read about it (link). Sanjie Liu was a local heroine, so the spectacle has strong and interesting roots.

In 2010 I took an individual tour through Yangshuo neighborhoods, wanting to get closer to the plants. That showed me cucumbers and chili peppers in people's gardens, and yams and sesame. I spotted something bright red in many gardens. When I asked, the guide explained I was seeing the red cloth from the Sanjie Liu show. Practical local people used it their gardens when it was too worn out for the show. (From about 1:17 of this Youtube video of the Sanjie Liu Impression, you can see the red cloth in action (youtube)).

red cloth from Sanjie Liu show
red cloth from Sanjie Liu show in a Yangshuo garden

Li River, China

It is a tremendously scenic and interesting area! I've been there twice, I'd happily go again.


Comments and corrections welcome.

Kathy Keeler

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