Wednesday, 21-FEB-2007, Li River Cruise
That’s what you MUST do when going to Guilin. So at least all books and people say. The scenery is so famous that it even made it on the back side of the 20 RMB banknote, see my New Year article. OK, if we must 😉 actually, we again had very high expectations. We had secured our tickets already on Tuesday morning right in our hotel. You can buy tickets for this cruise virtually everywhere. As we (thanks to Carol) could book the Chinese way we ‘only’ paid 360 RMB (Lonely Planet says 460 RMB, which might indeed be a price a Westerner would need to pay when booking the trip in a group of Westerners). Ah, yes, per person certainly 😛
We should be picked up from our hotel at around 8 in the morning. We had learned our lesson of the day before, went straight to the Chinese restaurant for a Chinese breakfast, did not pick the expensive dumplings, but cheaper ones, and got away with just 60 RMB. Still much…
There was some confusion of us being on the bus or not…seemed somebody forgot to plan us in, but a call of the tour organizer confirmed that we are in. I believe that this bug in their planning led to quite some quarrel with nearly injured people later…keep on reading 😉
Well, so far we got on the bus. The bus stopped by three more hotels in the immediate neighbourhood, then it was full up to the very last seat. The guide (yes, we again had a Chinese guide…) started talking. Sure, I expected some information on the day’s schedule. But the lady kept on talking…minute after minute…and one loudspeaker right above my head. I couldn’t escape her high-pitched voice, 10 minutes, 20 minutes…she kept on talking while I had hoped for a few minutes of undisturbed sleep (so had Carol). When we passed by other busses on the road I saw the very same picture in all of them: In the front one person with a microphone it his or her hand talking, and all passenger listening in amazement. Believe it or not, but we later at the first stop even heard somebody playing a recording of the guide’s talk!
From the few pieces of translation I got from Carol I learned that the guide was not only giving the schedule (that was the most brief part), but basically was a walking guide book, something I would read before going on the trip…but the Chinese got this information, stories, legends, backgrounds live on the way. For some 30 or 40 minutes. It was pure pain for me.
Finally we stopped in the middle of nowhere at a deserted filling station with some poor houses on the other side of the street. Häh? Well…only too sure there was a Jade selling shop in one of the houses where every bus dropped off its load while waiting for the right scheduled time to go on for the actual river cruise. We got in and out in a matter of 2 minutes, bought some local fruit from a stall outside and starting eating it. Then it started raining.
Damn, the weather wasn’t great these days, but today it was actually really raining. On the day of the Li River Cruise, one of those things you simply have to do when travelling China. What a shame. But we had paid more than 700RMB to get here…we would have to accept it now.
(I got here once more in July, see here for sunny pictures.)
After a good half an hour we got on the bus again, drove on for five minutes, and reached the wharf where the ships start. Many ships. Very many ships actually. The organization was exceptional: The busses arrived, dropped off their people, who got directly on the ship, guided by their guides, having their individual tickets in their hands as distributed by the guide earlier. (We also had printed tickets, so there must have been at least something correct about the plan including the two of us: The number of boat tickets exactly matched the number of persons on the bus as we could witness as we sat in the very back and saw how the guide handed over the 2 last tickets to the couple next to us.)
09:57: The tourists enter the boats lying next to each other at the Zhujiang Warf.
10:04: Carol and me in our seats on the boat. Yea…to save time I skipped the shower in the morning… Watch the round yellow-white-green sticker on Carol’s jacket (I had the same): It identifies us as member of the tourist group and includes the number plate’s number of our tour bus.
10:11: Our tickets and the map of the Li River with all scenic spots. The tickets are professionally printed, including name of the boat and seat number (45, 46)…there seems to be a very big business behind that. And you can see that the actual boat ticket price is 210 RMB. All the rest of our 360 RMB is for the bus ride and other entrance fees as we were supposed to visit some more spots after arriving in Yangshuo.
Equipped with all that the cruise could start. Weather stayed to be bad, but at least it stopped raining after some while, but the clouds were hanging low all the time. So we could not see that very great scenery. But honestly, even with most of the karst hills covered in fog and clouds the scenery was amazing. It’s just impossible to catch this atmosphere with the small cameras we had with us. Here’s a selection of a few pictures, but for the really great views we later bought postcard books 😉 I have organized the picture not purely by time but by topic.
11:09: One of the first things we noted was that small boats attached to the tourist ships and handed over freshly fished fish. The men were paid right on the spot in cash: You couldn’t get any more fresh fish than that!
11:29: Every boat looked a bit different, but one thing was all the same: The ‘kitchen’ was an open space at the boat’s back. I am still surprised how such small a kitchen could serve the about 60 people aboard. But they could!
13:32 Our meal: There was some standard dish included in the cruise fare. We ordered additionally some fresh river shrimps (the small plate), which by themselves tasted pretty much like nothing, but came with a very good sauce on a base of vinagrette or so. That way they were very tasty. Well…for 45 RMB you do expect some nice taste 😉
11:23: For actual scenery viewing we spent much time on the boat’s top where it was a bit windy, wet, and, well, German’s would say ‘ömmelig’. I was very happy to have my rain jacket with me as it was also wind-proof.
13:06: Carol in front of some hills she characterized as “cat”.
11:40: Some unidentified tourists. I just saw that I could take a picture of a woman taking a picture of how her son is taking his first pictures…not sure if anyone made a picture of me making a picture of a woman making a picture of her son making pictures…but the trip was surely about making pictures with partly pretty big cameras.
11:36: Bamboo Rafts are the means of transportation for locals.
12:02: A Lonely Man on his Bamboo Raft on the Wide Wide Water – a phantastic picture, Carol!
11:47: Well, as romantic as it looks like: The bamboo raft people didn’t do bamboo rafting for the pure fun of it but to earn their living and take their share in the booming tourist industry. What they actually carry in their wooden baskets nailed to their rafts is jade handicraft work. At least so they say. Does not sound convincing as many people offered similar stuff. Nonetheless, their business is a tough one: They attach to the tourist boats (which at times run fairly slow, possibly in actual support for these bamboo rafts) and offer their pieces through the windows. In my picture you see such a bamboo rafter negotiating with a lady in the boat, Carol watching both of them. The lady actually bought a piece in the end. And some others did, too.
11:29: It was quite busy on the river.
11:37: And partly not much water in there.
11:54: Probably my best Li River picture…it faintly reminds me of paintings of the Li River area.
11:56: Here (at least in the big version, click on the thumbnail) you can see a bamboo raft trying to attach to a tourist boat. But the boats had sped up again already, the attempt failed and the rafter gave up.
12:41: A typical bend in the meandering river: shallow beach at the inner side of the curve, rough straight rock walls at the outer edge.
12:58: Another great picture, as great as it could become under the given conditions. Don’t ask me where… 😉
12:44: Some hikers at the river’s shore. Hiking along the river is also a good way of exploring its beauty, probably combined with doing some parts of it on a bamboo raft: See some waiting along the dam with deck chairs attached to the raft, protected with sun umbrellas. We will see more of that kind later in Yangshuo!
14:18: Towards the end of the journey one of the more interesting things was to watch the ships already returning from Yangshuo and how the ships signal to each other on which side they wanna pass each other on the meandering and partly very narrow river: They use a green flag on the starboat or a red flag on the larboard side to signal the side at which they pass each other. The oncoming ship has to confirm with a flag of the same color at the same side, then everything’s in order. Simple, but worked great.
15:10: Arrived at the Yangshuo tourist wharf. According to Carol we had some 20 minutes time to reach our bus. And the way turned out to be very long and was lined at both sides with booths selling souvenirs. I literally had to grap Carol’s arm and drag her along to get past all these stands selling more or less all the same stuff, promising she could get all that in the evening in Yangshuo (not knowing, but being pretty sure of it, and being actually right: West Street has all the same stuff once more).
15:23: At the end of the line of booths we actually had to pay an additional 10 RMB per person for an electric cart, which brought us to the far end of Yangshuo to the parking area of the tourist busses. A perfect organization, from which a lot of people profit: Foremost the souvenir booth owners and the electric cart company. The picture shows us sitting on that cart.
The trip now continues in Yangshuo!
Categories: Reise, Shanghai
Originally Created: 02/26/2007 12:37:59 PM
Last Edited: 02/26/2007