Guilin--September 6, 2004--Li River Cruise
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Most tourists come to Guilin for the Li River cruise but we also found Guilin, a city much smaller than most that we visited in China, to be an unusually charming place. A city of about 600,000, it is famous for the limestone hills which are visible in the city and along the Li River. It has a large number of parks and lakes within the city, all very attractively designed.
We began our Li River cruise in the morning by taking a bus to Zhujing Pier, south of the city and then boarding a boat for the 35 mile Li River cruise to Yangshuo. From there, we would take a bus back to Guilin.
Quite a convoy of boats makes this cruise every day; there were 10-15 boats in our group and they glide lazily along past some of China's most beautiful scenery. The limestone hills are everywhere you look and much wildlife is in evidence, particularly the water buffalo (69, 82, 88).
During the trip a few vendors pulled their boats alongside, which is somewhat dangerous next to the larger moving ships (65). As far as we could tell, the vendors were not making any sales from these forays.
During these cruises of three hours or so, most of the boats serve a lunch--we found that they typically prepared the lunch on the deck at the rear of the ship. Photos 66 and 90 show these open air kitchens.
As we floated down the river, we came across the scene in photo 80 where it seemed a whole village had turned out to carry some cargo inland from the river. We were not sure what they were doing but they certainly were exhibiting lots of teamwork.
After lunch, the ship announced one of their specialties for sale--snake wine. Unfortunately, we do not have a picture of the bottle containing several snakes but after trying a glass and sharing it with several members of our tour group, most thought it wasn't too bad--like a strong liqueur.
Eventually, we docked at Yangshuo (91-92), a charming little town, about 50 miles from Guilin. There were many vendors there, all awaiting the arrival of the day's boats and we had a couple of hours to wander through the town. While there, we encountered some school children and a woman doing laundry in the river (93-95).
We took a bus back to Guilin and stopped briefly at a local university to visit an art gallery. Some of us instead ventured outside for a short walk and encountered something like a Chinese ROTC unit drilling on the university grounds (98). We were not sure if it was acceptable to take a picture of the unit but did so without any problem.
We returned to the hotel soon thereafter and rested a bit before going to an unusual dinner that evening at the hotel. The dinner featured Mexican food cooked by a couple of Mexican chefs, who not only did the cooking, but were also musicians who provided the restaurant's entertainment. In addition to their musical talent, they enlisted several of the wait staff in the performance. It was very unusual and totally unexpected in China as was a surprise birthday party that capped off the evening's dinner.
Afterwards. a few of us went out for an evening walk near the hotel and ended up at a beautiful park nearby where, across the lake, the twin pagodas were beautifully illuminated (103-104). They are of recent construction; one is built of wood, the other has a brass covering.
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