Down by the Li River
Contemporary China is a synonym for megalopoli packing with tall skyscrapers, traffic chaos and aggressive technological modernization. If you want to see an absolutely different, yet, authentic China, visit its most beautiful city, Guilin, and venture out on a cruise to see the magical landscape of the Li River.
Ever since China became the leading global economic force, it has turned into a necessary destination for many business travelers from all corners of the Earth. Most frequently, they travel to big cities which really are impressive and provide countless options for experiences which facilitate getting to know China, however, if you have the opportunity, make sure to single out a day, two or three during your stay in this beautiful country and get to know it from the inside, on a rural level, through its natural beauties and the wilderness.
The best contrast to the hectic urban centers is the Guanxi Province, which borders with Vietnam in the South of the country, as well as its central city Guilin. This is a favorite tourist attraction for the Chinese, but is slowly being discovered by foreigners because good news about Guilin travels fast. Once you get here, be sure to book a ticket for a boat trip down the Li River, to the even more authentic city Yangshuo and you will provide yourself with the privilege of witnessing five hours of the most beautiful view you have ever seen in your life, all for a small sum. There is no massage (nor a happy end) which relaxes and regenerates as spending some time in this scenery does.
Gorgeous Karst Peaks give you surprises at each bend of the limpid river under the blue sky. Water buffalo patrol the fields, peasants reap rice paddies, school kids and fisherman float by on bamboo rafts… This is China, as it once was.
This is Guilin. For Chinese terms, the small town has ‘only’ 4 million residents. Luckily, it is not the least bit urban and its architecture, the locals’ lifestyle and atmosphere are entirely subject to the unique scenery of Karst topography. Life expectancy is among the highest in the world here and the city has many old people over the age of 100.
The trip starts from the dock South of Liberation Bridge in Guilin downtown area. You will see Elephant-Trunk Hill nearby, the first impressive landmark this area has to offer.
Many transporters will offer you cruise down the Li River to Yangshuo, at various prices, but don’t be stingy. You will probably visit this place once in a lifetime and splurge on the most luxurious ticket which includes the most comfortable boat, lunch on board and a ride back to Guilin. It will cost you about $100.
You will see countless scenes like this during the 52-mile trip (83 kilometers). Type in ‘ Li River’ to Google Images and you will find thousands of images like these! Huh, I want to go again…
You will come across fishermen down the river, whose only tools are these birds that catch prey with their beaks. Their necks are tightened with a ring, so that they don’t swallow the fish…
A part of the scenery you will see halfway down the river is also depicted on the back of a 20-yuan bill.
Occasionally, your boat will be beset by river fruit vendors on rafts. They will throw a few pounds of mandarins, oranges or pomelos over and you’ll throw them some bills.
Don’t forget to click hundreds of photos during the cruise, and not just of the scenery, but also of yourself in this land. I didn’t forget, of course…
The ride is coming to an end, which means we are approaching Yangshuo. Take a deep breath, cast a few last looks of the Li River and Karst Peaks and store it deep in your memory…
Yangshuo is a small town with a total of 300.000 living in its surroundings, which means this is a hamlet for Chinese terms. It is full of restaurants offering authentic local, as well as Vietnamese cuisine, silk traders and hidden boutiques with the best knock-offs of designer bags in the world.