04.02.2012 - 04.02.2012 4 °C
Up at the crack of dawn today due to rain on the roof, which is disappointing start as its the cruise today from Guilin to Yangshuo my next destination. Anyway packed the backpack and and headed to check out, I'm about 30 minutes early for the transfer to the cruise so the hostel offers if you buy a coffee you get free breakfast (mind you the coffee is very overpriced). But the breakfast is good it's egg and tomatoes in broth, everyone eats it here and is nice on a cold morning.
The van arrives to pick me up and the guide says today is the best time to see the mountains and river as it looks all misty (the Chinese have a way of selling anything no matter how grim) so I'm a little skeptical. We arrive at the docks and there are hundreds of people so our guide has a panda flag to follow, but so do many others so it's really the colour you have to look for. Getting on the boat proves much more difficult than one would think, you have to cross the bowes of 4 other boats to get to the furthest one. So safely aboard we are settled in with some green tea and the cruise begins.
If you go to China and have to do anything it should be the Li River Cruise the scenery is spectacular, the mountains with the mist is incredible, although I think in better weather they would look much more magnificent. The pictures I have will not do justice to how amazing the landscape is but I took loads anyway. The cruise is 4 hours and included an less than average lunch (more of a western Chinese substitute) now I've had a taste for real Chinese food is never going to be the same. The trip cost about $60AUD so not bad in western standards. I booked 2 tours with the same guide, first bamboo rafts, old traditional village, water buffalo, and cormorant (bird) fishing and secondly a light show performed by local villages and fisherman.
Upon arrival at the dock in Yangshuo its a quick rush to check in to the hostel, before meeting the tour guide after the tours free time in Yangshuo before they head back upon which I will be staying. So I know I am already 2 days behind my schedule but I emailed the hostel advising them they will be late but upon arrival they have cancelled my booking, so now with no place to stay the hour I have to find somewhere is wearing short. So of I head to a place along the river called the 'Riverside Hotel Yangshuo' I walk in desperate to see the rate on the wall is 800 Yuan or $115AUD but head to the desk anyway to see if they have rooms as a last resort. The girl takes me to a room which is decked out and so it should be for that price and then says the room is only 200 Yuan or $30AUD so for a great room and views of river and mountains I decide to take it, she says it's their low season, and Chinese New Year/Spring Festival is coming to an end. So grab the room for 3 nights and dump may bags and run to the meeting spot.
I'm not the last one so after a little wait, we commence the 30 minute bus ride to the little fishing village, that is not done up for tourism, and it's not. The houses are dilapidated and the guide explains they build one floor for the parents, then the children have to go out and earn money to pay for the second floor and so on, so the whole family lives under one roof in a 3 story house. It's nice to see an untouched by tourism village and feels like the real China.
After a quick stroll through the village we get to the bamboo boats, which are also in a bit of a state but were so fun, first stop on this peaceful floating raft is the water buffalo, which you get to feed and pet. The guide jokes that like China they have a one child policy, as pregnancy is 11 months. It's fun to feed them and get really close you even get to lead the around. Next stop is for the Cormorant fishing, the Chinese fishermen tie a rope around their necks so they can't swallow the big fish, and these birds catch them and bring them back to the boat. The tour finishes dropping us off back at the departure point. The group of us decide to get something to eat and we get fried rice, where you add what you want into it after its cooked and cost next to nothing but very tasy after a long afternoon.
Next stop is the light show, after dinner the few of us going met at the departure point for the bus there, we arrive at the show got tickets and moved to our seats. Every seat at this place has a greater view and the stage is a tributary of the Li River with the back drop being the surrounding mountains. The show is a specticle not to be missed if in a Yangshuo, it's directed by the same person that directed 'Hero, House of Flying Daggers' and the olympic opening ceremony. The farmers and children from surrounding villages have done an amazing job just the costumes and lights, floats and boats used is incredible and the shear number of performers is immense.
After that the English girl I sat next to asked if I wanted to join her and her friends at a roof top bar called Mojo's, so we headed off to a somewhat dingy bar on the roof of a hotel. This bar has a fantastic view of the river and surrounds, which in any western country would being paying millions in rent, but it's just your normal outlook.
After a few Gin and tonics, darts and pool, we head out to get this Chinese equivalent of a kebab, street food, and it's amazing at 2 in the morning, even more so than usual. Short walk back to the hotel for some much needed rest.