a raft trip down the li river: yangdi to xingping

Friday, October 3:  I’ve been told by Matthew at the hotel that I should be in the lobby by 6:45 a.m., but when I go down, the guard is asleep on the hard bench chair, and none of the other staff is in sight.  I panic a bit because I already paid for the raft trip down the Li River (220 yuan, or ~ $36) and was told it was non-refundable.  I’m supposed to be picked up by a moto-taxi to be taken to some park to catch a bus, but I have no idea where that park is.  I look all around and call out “Hello!” and finally one of the hotel staff wanders out of a back room in her pajamas and says, “It’s so early!”  I say, “Sorry, I was told to be down here at 6:45.”  She rubs her eyes and mumbles again, “It’s so early!”

She calls a moto-taxi and instructs him to take me to the park.  She also gives him a phone number to call because the Li River Raft guide has never called her back to confirm and she isn’t really sure where I’m to meet him.  Finally, after all is said and done, I get on a bus at Yangshuo Park and we’re on our way to Yangdi.

At Yangdi, I’m instructed to get on a particular boat with three young Chinese people, a man and two women. There are two small benches sitting on the raft which are not even attached to the boat.  I take the front seat, since I’m first on the boat, and since I didn’t come all the way to China to sit in the back on this boat ride!  We all put our life preservers on and take off from the shore.

I’ve come to the Guilin area to see its amazing karst landscape, which I’ve seen in pictures and in the movie The Painted Veil. I’ve dreamed of coming here for a long time.

Getting on the boats at Yangdi

Getting on the boats at Yangdi

According to Geotimes: Exploring karst in Guilin, China, “Guilin’s more than 5,180 square kilometers of karst landscape is the result of a perfect alchemy of geological conditions…Rising sharply at odd angles, limestone peaks look like giant teeth growing out of the green plain.”

Boats in Yangdi

Boats in Yangdi

Says Geotimes: Specific conditions for forming the magnificent topography of Guilin “are fourfold,” according to Ray Beiersdorfer, a geologist at Youngstown State University in Ohio. “First, you need hard, compact carbonate rock. In Guilin, it’s Devonian limestone. Secondly, you need strong uplift, in this case provided by the collision of India with Asia to form the Himalaya. Third, you need a Monsoon climate of high moisture during the warmest season. Finally, the area must not have been scoured by glaciers, which this region wasn’t.”

Boats in Yangdi

Boats in Yangdi

pushing off from Yangdi

pushing off from Yangdi

It’s a gray and foggy morning, but then as long as I’ve been in the south of China (a little over a month), it’s been foggy nearly every morning.  The humidity is very high, so it always seems to be hazy.  I’m a little disappointed because it seems we’re heading into the sun, and thus it will be a challenge to get good pictures.  I keep turning around and trying to take pictures behind us, but they don’t seem to turn out much better.

Heading down the Li River

Heading down the Li River

It’s quite noisy, as there are scores of the motorized rafts around us.  No peaceful quiet ride, this one.

fellow rafters

fellow rafters

Li River

Li River

Waterfall along the Li River

Waterfall along the Li River

Closeup of the waterfall along the Li River

Closeup of the waterfall along the Li River

My Chinese boat mates are snapping pictures in every direction, and naturally, I am captured in some of them.  They end up in some of my pictures too.  They don’t speak English and I don’t speak Chinese, but we do seem to enjoy each other’s company.

me taking pictures ~ what else is new?

me taking pictures ~ what else is new?

We cruise along for about two hours. I find myself getting choked up as we bounce along.  I can’t believe I’m here in China in this place I’ve dreamed about for so long.  I’m in awe of this scenery that looks so spectacular and, with the fog, ephemeral and dreamy.

Li River

Li River

At one point we stop at a little gravel beach where I get my picture taken with some cormorants (for 10 yuan).  The girls and I pose for a picture together, taken by their friend.

Back on the boat again, we continue to make our way to Xingping, where we’ll end our cruise.

Approaching Xingping

Approaching Xingping

Arriving at Xingping

Arriving at Xingping

view as we get off the boat

view as we get off the boat

view with a beach

view with a beach

Xingping is famous for the scene depicted on the back of the 20 yuan bill.  Of course, there are photo opportunities everywhere.  The prime spots are reserved for those commercial photographers charging a fee (15 yuan).  As hokey as it is, I stand along with everyone else holding up the 20 yuan bill and getting my picture taken.

I snap this shot of the male Chinese boat mate holding the 20 yuan bill

I snap this shot of my male Chinese boat mate holding the 20 yuan bill

some kind of momunent, probably to the landscape of Xingping

some kind of monument, probably to the landscape of Xingping

my Chinese boat mate, who took some of the photos of me

my Chinese boat mate, who took some of the photos of me

me in Xingping, holding the 20 yuan note depicting Xingping's landscape

me in Xingping, holding the 20 yuan note depicting Xingping’s landscape

Xingping

Xingping

monument mimicking mountains

monument mimicking mountains

karst landscape of Xingping

karst landscape of Xingping

After posing for our pictures in front of the magical landscape, we hop back in the boat to cross the river, where we disembark.

Crossing over to disembark at Xingping

Crossing over to disembark at Xingping

My 3 boat mates on a memorable cruise

My 3 boat mates on a memorable cruise

In the town, we have to trek quite a long way to get to where we’re supposed to catch our bus back to Yangshuo.  At the top of a steep hill, we have to wait in an interminable queue to take a mini bus to get back to the bus terminal.

souvenir stands in Xingping

souvenir stands in Xingping

After getting off the mini bus, we still have more walking to do to get to the bus terminal.  It’s packed, as you can see from these pictures.

Making our way to the bus terminal at Xingping

Making our way to the bus terminal at Xingping

Making our way to the bus terminal at Xingping

Making our way to the bus terminal at Xingping

When we arrive at the bus terminal, our bus is nowhere to be found.  Luckily our tour guide gave us his telephone number, so one of the girls calls to find out the bus will be another ten minutes.  While waiting, we see this young lady on her cell phone.  This is a common sight in China.  The little flower arrangement on her head is typical of those made and sold by elderly Chinese women to tourists.

Oblivious

Oblivious

My two female boat mates buy some fruit. They offer me some of what they bought.  I think it might be taro fruit, and after chewing on a piece of it for a bit, I return the remainder.  I’m not too keen on it, whatever it is.

Fruit snacks near the bus terminal

Fruit snacks near the bus terminal

While waiting at one corner of the bus parking lot, we see our bus pull in and circle around.  As it settles into an outward-facing position, several frantic young men come running and carrying something between them.  They lay their bundle down on the sidewalk directly in front of our bus and, shocked, we see it is a young man covered in streaks of blood.  It looks like his head has been horribly cut all over the top.  Our bus driver gets out of the bus in a leisurely fashion and talks to the young men standing around the victim.  We can’t get a good look at the bloodied man, but it appears no one is doing anything for him.  They’re just standing there looking at him helplessly.  He’s obviously had a very bad accident and I’m not sure whether he’s alive or dead.

We’re all shocked by this turn of events, but none of us knows what to do, and his friends don’t seem to know either.  Finally, after standing there for a while, waiting for something to happen, we get on the bus.  As a foreigner who can’t speak Chinese, I know I have nothing to offer to the situation.  This is my third time living abroad, and every time I’ve arrived in a new country, I’ve been warned not to get involved in any problems.  A foreigner on the scene will surely be blamed, I’ve been told.

Later, when I relay this story to someone, they say that we as foreigners can’t begin to understand the complicated issues involved in a situation such as this.  I am told that if an ambulance is called, the victim or his friends must make sure they have enough money between them to pay the ambulance.  Also, there are superstitions about saving a person and owing a life later.  There are probably more cultural issues about which I don’t have a clue.

scene at Xingping

scene at Xingping

We are quite shaken by this violent turn of events, and we’ll never know what the victim’s fate was.  By the time our bus leaves, it appears he has been moved somewhere, as he’s disappeared from our sight.

We make our way slowly out of the town.  It is so crowded that it takes us a half-hour to get out of Xingping alone, and it is a small town!  After crawling through the traffic, we make better speed to Yangshuo, another half hour.

It is a wonderful experience to float down the Li River through such a fantastical landscape, and even though the journey is marred at the end by this upsetting and mysterious accident, it remains a memory I’ll cherish forever.

Happy moments. :-)

Happy moments. 🙂

When we arrive back to Yangshuo, I go immediately to eat some lunch, as I never ate breakfast this morning.  I spend the rest of the day exploring bits of the town, and having dinner with Audrey and her friend.  Post to follow. 🙂

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Categories: Asia, China, Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, Guilin, Li River, Xingping, Yangdi, Yangshuo | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 31 Comments

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31 thoughts on “a raft trip down the li river: yangdi to xingping

  1. The scenery looks like something created for a movie, mysterious, foreboding but intriguing.

    Sent from my iPad

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    • Yes, Carol, the scenery in Guilin is truly beautiful and quite moody. Maybe my pictures look foreboding, but I didn’t find it that at all in person. 🙂 Mysterious and intriguing, yes!

      Like

  2. Oh wow, that looks magical, especially with the fog blanketing everything! So if you’re in an accident it’s not quite as simple as it is elsewhere? Ouch.

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  3. This brought back lovely memories, Cathy. The scenery is truly out of this world. 🙂

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    • I’m glad I could take you back, Sylvia. It really was a marvelous experience, and as Guilin is only 2 hours and 40 minutes from me, I think I may have to revisit on a weekend. 🙂 Yangshuo takes a little longer to get to, but it would be worth the trek now that I know my way around again.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I enjoyed your river trip very much. The scenery is wonderful – the misty morning just adds to the mystery of it. I think I may have to watch The Painted Veil now!

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    • Thanks so much, Elaine. I’m glad you enjoyed the trip. You should watch The Painted Veil. More than the scenery, it’s an excellent movie. 🙂

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  5. I laughed at the part about you not going all the way China to sit at the back of the boat! So funny! The photo of you taking pictures is AMAZING! It should be the promo shot of you on the back of your book once it gets published. 😀

    The images are haunting and evocative. I am so happy for you that you were able to experience a place you had dreamed of and were not disappointed. The tears of emotion are nothing to be ashamed of.

    Looking so forward to your next post!

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    • So funny, Mona Lisa. You know I have to say I felt pretty selfish taking that front seat, but I figured my boat mates, who were lovely by the way, are Chinese and they can come back any time!

      Thanks for the compliment about that picture. It was taken by the guy on our boat; I think it is a nice picture, though not my favorite of myself!

      I was really happy to visit this part of China as I’ve been dreaming about it for a long time. It was emotional, just as it was when I went on those other amazing journeys. I’m so lucky to be able to travel, and I hope I can continue doing so even as I get older! Thanks so much for your support, as always. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  6. A fascinating tour thanks Cathy! I’d always imagined it would be peaceful and empty, how naïve of me, of course there would be loads of tourists. How horrid that the poor injured man wasn’t helped quickly – what does that say about a nation?

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    • Thanks, Gilly. I’m glad you enjoyed coming along. I really don’t think it’s normally this crowded. This week was the one week of the year, the National Holiday, when everyone travels at the same time. My friend Audrey said normally it’s very quiet, except maybe a little more busy on weekends.

      I know, it really upset me about that injured, or possibly dead, man. It makes me really worry about what would happen if, heaven forbid, I got into an accident while here. Sad for sure.

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  7. A very enjoyable blog, Kat. Sorry about the accidented man at the end spoiling things. It happened to be in Thailand and the accidented man lay in the aisle of the bus for several hours until we reached Mae Hong Son

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    • Dai, I was very upset about the “accidented man,” although I fear he was already dead. I do hold out hope otherwise, however. What happened to your accidented man in Thailand. Was he still alive or dead? Did he survive, do you think?

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      • Well Kat I was travelling from Pai to Mae Hong Son in northwest Thailand. We left Pai in torrential rain and the bus floor was wet and muddy. The bus was packed. Then just before the bus left, a man in terrible condition was laid out next to my seat in the aisle. The bus took him and his carers for several hours to Mae Hong Son and during this time he just lay there with his eyes closed. I sometimes wondered if he had died and several times I considered getting off that bus but we were in a remote jungle area so I stayed on the bus right to the end. It was an awful journey and I never did find out what was wrong with the ‘accidented man’. I just now remembered that many years ago I was on a Royal Brunei flight landing in Bangkok and a man two rows behind had a heart attack and died while we were on final approach. I wouldn’t have known but the cabin attandants were rushing past me with oxygen and medical things when they would normally have been seated for landing.

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      • Oh dear, Dai, two horrible stories. That sounds like a really awful journey with that man lying in the aisle. I would have wanted to get off the bus too, but you can’t very well do that in a remote jungle area, can you? I hate bus rides under any circumstances, but I guess I have to get used to them if I want to travel in China. I’d prefer to take trains or planes, but they don’t always go to the best destinations. I always feel so trapped on a bus!

        That man who died on the approach to Bangkok is a sad story too. I’m actually surprised that doesn’t happen more often, as scared as many people are of flying. It must have really upset you when it happened.

        Thanks for sharing your stories, Dai!

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      • Yes two bad times Kat but most journeys are quite uneventful. A lot of things have happened to me over the years, while travelling. Some incredible things too. I was with my cousin Frank on a train between Jakarta and Bandung and the train caught fire. We did a sharp stop at a small station and were delayed there for some hours. The incredible thing was that a few weeks later exactly the same thing happened to me on a train between Bangkok and Kanchanaburi. Another incredible experience was when I was on a Royal Brunei flight between Dubai and London and whilst waiting to use the toilet next to the rear galley, a very drunken Finnish man became wild and attacked a male cabin attendant by his throat. He was too drunk and the crew refused to serve him any further mixes. He was drinking his own litre bottle of vodka or something. Royal Brunei is/was dry but the staff would happily bring mixers if we had our own booze. Anyway the captain or co-pilot came with other cabin attendants and the Finnish man was roped to a seat. He begged to go to the bathroom and the captain told him to pee in his seat hehehe. At Heathrow we were all told to remain seated while five policemen came and handcuffed the drunkard and took him away. Witnesses were asked for and I volunteered but I was not needed finally because there were so many witnesses. I never get such excitement when I travel these days Kat, Luckily I suppose

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      • Dai, I can’t believe you were on two trains that caught fire. I’m glad you were okay; otherwise you wouldn’t be here to share your tale. I can’t believe that story about the Finnish drunk. That’s crazy!! I think it’s good you don’t get that much excitement any more, Dai. Who needs all that drama? Here’s to peaceful easy travels from here on out, for both of us!

        Liked by 1 person

  8. Totally fantastic, Cathy! Beyond your wildest dreams, I imagine. I was getting choked up with you! It doesn’t matter about the fogginess- it adds to the atmosphere of the photos. Horrible way for it to end. Hugs, darlin’. Remember, you have to enjoy this for me too. I’ll never make it. 🙂 🙂

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    • Wow Jo! I’m worn out after checking out all your likes on my photos. I had to see which ones you enjoyed! Yes, I have to agree that the fogginess adds a mood to the pictures. It was my experience, so that’s how it will be, unless I can get back again. I don’t think you should ever say never, Jo. You can always come visit me while I’m here.

      Also, thanks so much for the tweets! You’re the best. 🙂 xxx

      Liked by 1 person

  9. So nice to travel vicariously with you, this way I can see the scenery and not have to suffer from the seasickness that I’m sure I’d get on those rafts! You seem to enjoy this trip so much. Love that photo of the turquoise doors (penultimate shot) and you are looking very well my friend 🙂

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    • It might make you feel better to know that the river ride wasn’t that bouncy; I really doubt you would have gotten sick, Jude.

      I really did love this trip. It was like a dream come true. I can’t wait to go back there one weekend!

      That turquoise door was near the bus terminal, not a very good location, but I liked it nonetheless. And thanks for the compliment. Some days are better than others. 🙂

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  10. Pingback: a motorbike ride through orange groves to xianggong hill | catbird in china

  11. Looks stunningly beautiful Cathy. We swapped this part of our trip for the less touristy Chongqing countryside and didn’t regret it. But I would love to see this too someday.

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    • Madhu, if you ever do decide to come back, I highly recommend Yangshuo, about 1 1/2 hours southeast of Guilin. It was crowded during the National Holiday, but I’ve heard it’s very quiet at other times. I went on a bicycle ride and then a motorbike ride in the countryside and it was wonderful. I will try to go back while I’m here for sure. I was really happy there, and I was even able to escape the crowds in the countryside. 🙂

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  12. Pingback: a cloudy day boat ride down the li river « catbird in china

  13. That was a magical trip. Amazing scenery.

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