Well today was possibly the best day that we have had since we left Australia. We left Guilin this morning to do the 73 Kms down the road to Yangshuo but rather than doing the road trip we did the leisurely bamboo raft ride down the LiJiang River. Now these were not really bamboo rafts, they were eight 4 inch poly pipes strapped together with two park benches on them, all powered by a whipper snipper with the chord replaced by a propeller.
That said, we slowly and quietly trundled down the River past all of the lumps (karsts). Now my main issue in Guilin was that you could not really get any good photo angles on the lumps without people or buildings getting in the way…problem solved. This was about 3-4 hours of ever changing landscapes, on the River, with no obstructions. Wow. At the end of the day we had over 100 photos of lumpy landscapes and had had an awesome time.
On arrival in Yangshuo we checked into the flashiest hostel we have come across. We are paying about $24 a night for both of us to stay in a hostel room that is on a par with and often better than a $200+ a night room in Australia. I certainly had worse rooms while travelling with the AFP and it is better than most novotels. The room directly looks out onto lumps and has an observation deck with almost 360 degree views of the town. We checked in, went for a noodle feed (about $5 worth) and then went to join the next leg of our journey from Guilin.
The next leg involved seeing some of the traditional farming and fishing etc (staged but who really cared) and an actual bamboo raft ride. About 15 km outside Yangshuo is a village where they have a 600 year old bridge and fishermen using cormorant birds to fish for them. Basically they tie the cormorant’s throat shut and send it hunting for big (ish) fish that the birds cannot swallow as their throats are tied. The dude then plucks the fish from the bird’s throat and sends the cormorant off again. Not the way that they still do it but a fascinating watch nonetheless. This was followed by a real bamboo raft pushed along by an old dude with a stick and a feed the water buffalo session. Possibly the most amusing part of the whole day was the sheer terror of a Chinese woman who was trying to feed the world’s tamest water buffalo. She screamed, she squealed, she ran, she cringed… It was almost as if my sister Karin was to hand feed a spider. The poor buffalo just wanted a handful of corn husks.
Now it must be said that Yangshuo is a soulless, plastic, tourist town in the midst of great natural beauty. Everything evil that tourism brings is here, knock-off shops, staged markets, touts, KFC, McDonalds, neon, laser light shows…the lot. Despite this it is clean, neat surrounded by lumps…and you can ignore the other stuff. There is a strip of bars and restaurants claiming to be from every country of the world which are charging obscene prices for everything. The German bar is charging 168 yuan for pigs knuckle and sauerkraut (bear in mind that we had noodles and dumplings for two for 12 yuan). The beers are about 40 yuan each while our ones at the hostel are between 7 and 12.
We wandered the streets for a meal that night and found a great feed in a back alley (as we usually do). On our return journey the bride was in need of the amenities. I have been practicing my Chinese but no matter how many times I told her to ask for directions, she would not believe me that the Chinese word for toilet was “Shi Thou Se”.