Tuesday, August 01, 2006
Karst Mountains in Yangshuo, China
Troy and I have traveled to many places in China while living in HK. Whereas most cities are interesting in their own unique way, I would never say they are beautiful. Yangshuo, China is one of the most beautiful places we have ever seen. It actually compares on the same scale as New Zealand and the Rocky Mountains in Canada and Colorado. This was also the only place in China that you could honestly stay for a full week with things to see and do everyday. Shanghai and Beijing... you're bored after three days unless you’re a shopper. What make’s Yangshuo so exceptional is the limestone karst mountains and all the caves and underground rivers within the mountains. If you have ever seen Chinese paintings showing ranges of pointed mountains, they were painted in Yangshuo.
Our first day was spent on a ferry down the Li River. We thought there would be four or five ferries. Oh no... there was like 30 or 40 of them. They would float down the river in a line while every once in a while a ferry would overtake another one to give their passengers better photo opportunities. I know it sounds like it was crowded, but it wasn't. The only time when you had any idea how many ferries there were was after the passengers were dropped off at the end and the ferries turned around to head back up the river. That was when we could see how many ferries there were as they all passed us.
The Chinese have definitely learned how to cash in on the uniqueness of their land. Not only are there dozens and dozens of tour operators offering everything from bike tours to raft rides down the river to mud baths in limestone caves, but they have the souvenir thing down. The drop off point from the ferries for the tourists is inundated by stand after stand selling every type of Chinese trinket you can think of. The worst part is you can't even pick up something to look at it. If you don't buy it they yell and cuss at you in Chinese.
That evening we watched a Chinese traditional way of fishing with Cormorant birds. As soon as it was dark, we headed out on the river in a small motor boat where we met up with an old man on a long bamboo raft. Tied to his raft were about 7 or 8 Cormorant birds with a string tied around their neck and another string tied around one of their feet. The string tied around the neck kept the bird from swallowing the fish it was catching. After bright lights were turned on to attract the fish the old man would push the birds into the river where they proceeded to dive down and catch the fish. When a bird was looking "full", using a long bamboo pole, the man would grab the string attached to the bird’s leg and pull it in. The fisherman would make the bird regurgitate it's caught fish then throw it back in the water to keep fishing. They obviously no longer fish like this, it is a novelty now for the tourists. At the end of it the man would take the strings off the birds neck and allow them to eat the fish they had caught. It was a very interesting thing to see. And to think the Chinese actually used to fish like this.
The next day Troy and I hired a guide to take us on a bike ride. The previous day we had tried to find our own bike route but ended up in old villages or on busy streets. Hiring the guide was well worth it because she took us to view some of the most amazing scenery there is. First we had to get past a group of 50 Chinese tourists on bikes. They were following a guide on a small motor bike with a huge flag attached to the back so the bikers knew who to follow. I swear, if the Chinese didn't have a flag to follow they would ride straight into the river. On our bike ride we came across farmers plowing their rice fields using oxen, saw how peanuts are grown (did you know they are a root) and got charged twice as much for an .18 cent bottle of water (the cashier girl thought she was sly for ripping us off).
There was one thing about Yangshuo that we were not sure if we liked or not: There were a lot of westerners.
We didn't like it because:
1) There were a lot of westerners (duh)
2) There was not much of a Chinese feel to the place
But we liked that there were a lot of westerners because:
1) Most everyone spoke English in the hotels and restaurants
2) There were a lot of western restaurants, coffee shops, bars and cafes to choose from.
Some smart foreigner at one point must have told a restaurant owner to serve Mexican food because everywhere we turned were burritos, enchiladas and fajitas (mmm… fajitas). This may not sound like a weird thing but trust me when I say Mexican food and China does not go together. We did make the mistake of eating at a restaurant that served steamed rat, grilled snake and fried dog. I kept telling myself "This is beef in my burrito, this is beef in my burrito!"
Hi Shelly, this is Mitchell, a friend of Troy's from Jato in Colorado. I didn't know you all had moved to HK, wow! Great site. I may be coming that way sometime in the next 6-12 months so I'll have to get the scoop for an American in HK. Great site. Take care. - Mitchell