06.08.2008 - 06.08.2008 30 °C
To appreciate some of the reputedly best scenery the Guanxi province has to offer, we took a cruise down the river Li. The irregular limestone peaks, often depicted on Chinese scroll paintings, have been contorted by the elements over thousands of years to create a surreal and oddly shaped landscape. We chose a bonafide Chinese tour over the soft English speaking guided, deluxe food option. Obviously being cultured types and not tight wads, this had EVERYTHING to do with wanting to sample Chinese tourism and NOTHING to do with it being almost half the price.
On the whole, Chinese people are small, so it was a shame that the tour company couldn't even find a bus big enough to transport us all in comfort to the boat terminal; several people had to stand. We ran into further difficulty when we were dumped off the bus and ushered into a large jewellery store, with obviously no English explanation. Reassuringly however, a number of westerners in other tour groups looked as bewildered as the Brunton's at this unexpected detour. After three quarter's of an hour of desperately trying to keep track of our tour guide (and failing) we were issued with boat tickets and herded along with thousands of others towards the boat launch. What a spectacle 50 flat bottomed boats full of tourists setting off convoy style makes. What a din a small Chinese tour guide with a microphone makes. And we'll tell you something that we don't understand....Chinese, which is why we escaped to the open viewing deck as soon as possible.
The low, misty clouds blanketing the karst peaks could have imbued a serene moodiness were it not for the constant clicking of cameras, elbows in ribs, cigarette smoke and clearing of throats accompanied by the inevitable gob on the floor. It just left us moody. Still, Lisa does have an irrational phobia of sputum, besides, the Brunton's were just put out that they were largely ignored by the other 98 passengers, who edged them out of their photo's instead of into them. And the views were really fabulous during the 4 hour journey. Along the way we spotted water buffaloes grazing in the shallow banks and lots of locals going about their business in their rowing boats on the river.
If mass tourism appeals we would suggest the boat ride. If you'd prefer to "be at one with nature" then we'd suggest you make your way to Yangshou (where the cruise ends) by bus and hire one of the many bamboo boats that tout for business at the water's edge, to take a ninety minute cruise on the Li. Apparently this still incorporates the best of the scenery, is cheaper, and ensures you wouldn't have to endure the Brunton's annoying habits.