Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Guilin, China

Guilin (say "Gway-leen") is a beautiful village famous for the amazing "gumdrop" mountains all around it.  We boarded a boat early in the morning for a cruise on the Li River down to Yangshuo through the peaks.

Li River Cruise

The river is very, very shallow, and our boat was flat-bottomed.  There was wildlife along the route, including water buffalo, goats, sheep, horses, fish, and ducks.  Remember the children's story about Little Ping?

Little Ping on the Li River


Cormorants (more about them later)

Water buffalo

Cormorants on a fishing raft--they catch the fish!


We saw typical village life going on along the banks.

Wash Day on the Li River

As soon as we were in the water, a couple of these boatmen came up beside the boat to try to sell us fruits from their supply.  No one seemed to worry whether or not it was safe!  The boats were made from bamboo poles, or, in recent times, a PVC-type pipe.

Washing vegetables--I love his "Cossack" hat

Washing clothes

Transporting gravel

Harvesting sand to use making cement--it's a woman digging while the men watch

Bundles of branches

An unknown burden
Every turn in the river brought another beautiful view.  I couldn't take enough pictures.  There were some interesting caves along the way.  Most of these peaks actually have a cave or "honeycomb" labyrinth inside of them.  They were formed by an ancient sea bed which developed channels of water that eroded away, creating the caves and leaving the limestone "walls" of the mountains after the roofs caved in.

A tributary and village along the way

The guide said this cave river goes back for 12 kilometers!

A couple of the mountainsides have white patches on them, and many people have imagined seeing shapes of animals, etc.  This one supposedly has 9 horses--see if you can find them all!
Nine Horse Mural Wall
This one is called the "Cat's Head" from the outline of the peaks.
We thought this one looked EXACTLY like Picacho Peak in Arizona.  Both peaks do, actually.
My "Rose" pose on the boat. (Watch for more to come!)

Pretty waterfall

We were served lunch on the cruise.  It was Chinese food, but pretty good.  We were happy that we didn't have any rain, even if there was a bit of a mist--we'll have to look at postcards to see what the mountains look like in the sunshine.  Our guides both said it was one of the clearest days they'd seen, so we were happy.  

At one point in the cruise we came to the spot that is replicated on the 20 RMB note of Chinese currency. 
A famous spot in China.
Towards the end of the cruise, we could see plastic sheets covering the citrus (mostly tangerine) trees to keep off the chill.  This is a major area for growing.  The trees were on steep hillsides and we wondered how they could harvest them.  Do they just shake the trees and they all roll down to the river?

Tangerine trees

Loading fruit (pomellos?) onto boats.

We were here on the off season, so we were grateful we didn't have huge crowds of people to mob with.  Although that meant that the shopkeepers tried extra hard to get us to buy.  Our river cruise ended in Yangshuo and we "ran the gauntlet" of sellers along the waterfront.

In case we hadn't seen enough gumdrop mountains, we were loaded onto small electric buses and driven out through the countryside to view some more.  We also got a peek into the lives of some of the minority people. 

Yangshuo has several mountains in the town.

Rice paddies

Homes in the foothills.

Working people
Non-working people!  There were lots of vehicles like this one--crazy!

Tombs in a graveyard.

Dry rice paddy

Tomb in the courtyard!

Li River

Rice stacks (instead of hay stacks.)

We went for a walk across "Liberation Bridge" on the Li River right in front of our hotel in Guilin.  They had some sculpture and some clock towers with times in Beijing, Moscow, Tehran, Karachi, Rio de Janiero and Vancouver!  We couldn't decide why they picked those time zones!  

In front of a restaurant

Photo under the bridge--cool!

The evening itinerary included a ride out on the river nearby where we were able to watch the cormorants who have been trained to catch fish.  The men tie lanterns to the end of their boats to attract the fish.  The birds dive in the water and catch the fish in their mouth.  The birds have bands tied around their necks so they are unable to swallow the fish.  They come back onto the raft and the fishermen turn them upside down and force the fish back up their throats into a basket.  They just do this for the tourists, now, but they used to fish that way in former times.

This boat we went on was so scary--there was only one single light bulb in the center of the boat to see by, and we have no idea if there were life vests.  We all went outside on the same side of the boat to see the fishermen, so it was listing to one side.  Fortunately, we were on a narrow river!

Next morning, we went to see a famous cave inside one of the mountains.  It was called the Reed Flute Cave because of the reeds that grew around the entrance which can be played like flutes.  There is a large "room" inside where 1000 people can fit.  It has inscriptions dating back to 792 AD, but was rediscovered in the 1940s by refugees who hid inside from the Japanese invaders.  Today it is lit up with colored lights and they even have a music and light show inside.  It reminded us of Kartchner Caverns in AZ or Timpanogos Cave in UT. 

See the "lion"?  (Or it looks like a frog, too.)

Looks like string beans, squash, mushrooms....

This is a lake reflection.  It's called "The Crystal Palace of the Dragon King" (from a Chinese fable).

What a beautiful and amazing place!

Guilin was on the southern Silk Road, and we stopped by a silk "factory" where they demonstrated how they make the silk comforters.  First, the cocoons are soaked and the "worm" inside is removed.
Silk cocoons

Silk worms
Then the wet cocoon is stretched over a couple of frames.  I can't believe it doesn't rip and tear.

Silk Factory

Then it is hand-stretched and it's amazing how easily it pulls apart!

I felt like my ancestor, Susanna Goudin, who brought the silk trade to Utah from Italy.
Then they add several layers of the same thing and bind the edges.  The silk never bunches up, so you know if you are truly buying a silk comforter because it won't have stitching in the center like a quilt.  Also, silk doesn't burn very quickly, so she demonstrated by trying to light some on fire.  It was all pretty fascinating, but not enough WOW to make me buy one--they're expensive, even in China!

As we left our hotel, I admired the tangerine tree in the lobby hung with lucky red ribbons.  The Chinese think the tree will bring good luck and fortune to their home and/or business if they bring one inside on Chinese New Year.  For the rest of our travels, we saw these trees all over Asia!

Next stop:  Lijiang

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