Li River, Yangshuo, China
Hey there all! Kellie here.
We started out our day today with a hearty breakfast of jam and toast at the rooftop bar of our hostel. I’m not sure if the boys have detailed quite how magnificent the view is from this thing, but it’s breathtaking. A wonderful way to start the morning, eh?
Afterwards, the hostel keeper walked us to the bus station to get us onto a bus that would take us to YangDi. This small town was about an hour north of Yangshuo on the Li River. Our mission for the day: hop onto a bamboo raft and float for several hours down the river and surround ourselves with some of the most incredible natural landscaping available in the modern world.
After a jostling bus ride that made several unmarked stops, impossible passing maneuvers, and treacherous turnarounds, we were dropped off at a bank of the river where at least a dozen of these “rafts” were waiting. Now, by bamboo, they meant six-inch PVC piping with ridges to look like bamboo, powered by motors, as seen below.
Brad and Will on the bamboo Li River boat cruise
Brad enjoying the cruise
Will and our boat driver
Will and Kellie
Our bamboo boat
Heading down the Li River
However, we quickly learned that there simply was no better way to enjoy the river. We had the option of take a large, two-decker tour boat that would provide us with freshly made lunch and offer indoor solace if the weather turned nasty. But seeing these boats from our tiny-in-comparison raft made us glad for our choice. These ginormous entities careened down the river at a pace that wouldn’t allow even the fastest shutter speeds to capture the astounding surroundings. In addition, there were so many people packed onto the top open-air story, it would have been difficult to breathe, let alone take a decent picture. So we sat back on our raft and enjoyed our peaceful stroll down the stream.
Typical tour boat
While pictures do better justice than words could ever hope to, even photographic comparison is simply inferior to actually seeing this landscape for yourself. The river is nestled amongst what appears to be mountains, withered and weathered by seemingly multiple millennia, enrobed in a delicate mist that simply enhances their mystery and magnificence, utterly unparalleled by our smoky Appalachians. These, however, are not really mountains, rather they are Karst mountains, rock pockets left over after the limestone that once surrounded them had dissolved away over time by the groundwater passing through it. While Karst topography can be seen in almost any area of the world, the extent of its size here is almost exclusive to this part of China. Needless to say, the sheer organic loveliness of these formations is enough to make a trek to the Guangzhou region alone.
The amazing Karst Landscape of the Li River
On our journey down the serene water of the Li, our driver made a couple of stops. We first pulled over to an incredibly tiny town on the bank of the river. We aren’t sure exactly what it was, but it was interesting nonetheless.
Another stop brought us to another small town where we sat down for some beers and a bite to eat. As Will and Brad explained to me, this is a standard stop for tours like this. The tour guide gets free food and the tourists are forced to pay an absurd price for mediocre meals. Regardless, it was a nice change of pace from the river and gave me a chance to practice some of my Mandarin (which failed miserably).
Will acting silly back on the boat
Farther down, he banked us at a series of tents where some people offered to let us take pictures with native birds. Typical tourist trap with people begging for you to buy their wares with “Hullo! Hullo!”, but good fun.
Our final pit-stop brought us to the scene that is pictured on the 20Y bill.
Our guide finally pulled us over to the opposite bank and bid us farewell. We waited on the bank for a tram to drive us into the nearby town where we would catch another bumpy, heart-pounding bus ride back to Yangshuo. The rest of the day was spent relaxing with a nice meal at a local restaurant and catching up on all of our email.