a bamboo boat ride down the yulong river & home to nanning

Monday, October 6:  The Yangshuo River View Hotel must truly be a family affair, because today Vivian’s husband drives me in his van to the launch spot for the bamboo boat ride down the YuLong River.  It’s supposed to be a two-hour drift down the river to a bridge near town.  Sadly I don’t remember either the launch site name or the bridge.

When we arrive at the bustling spot, the boats are all jumbled together waiting for customers.  It’s nearly 11:00 a.m.  I need to leave Yangshuo this afternoon around 3:30 or 4:00 to head to Guilin for my 6:10 p.m. train.  I’m not ready at all to leave this place, but my holiday ends tomorrow and it’s back to work on Wednesday.

Starting off on the bamboo boats

Starting off on the bamboo boats

I’m guided to my own private boat by a young man who will be my boatman.  I have to climb unsteadily over a bunch of bobbing boats to get to mine.

a jumble of boats

a jumble of boats

special viewing seat

special viewing seat

I guess the river must be really shallow because the boatmen use long poles to push the boats down the river using the river bed for leverage.

heading down the river

heading down the river

traffic jam

escaping the traffic jam

We finally break free of the other boats and drift down the river.  The views again are stupendous, with the karsts around us in every direction.  Everyone is cocooned in bright orange life vests and shaded by rainbow-colored umbrellas.

karst backdrop to the YuLong River

karst backdrop to the YuLong River

my boatman

my boatman

another boat

another boat

cruising

cruising

My boatman has to work hard with his pole.  He doesn’t speak any English and of course I know no Chinese.  There is no need for words, so we drift silently.

my boatman in his conical hat

my boatman in his conical hat

The boat passengers and boatmen on the other boats are pretty friendly, saying greetings of “Hello!” or “Nǐ Hǎo!”  I enjoy taking photos of the Chinese on the boats around me, and they equally enjoy taking pictures of me, the only foreigner in their midst.

there are moments of peace

there are moments of peace

pretty scenery

pretty scenery

I love the karst scenes

I love the karst scenes

floating

floating

beauty along the way

beauty along the way

Click on any of the photos below for a full-sized slide-show.

I enjoy watching these little girls standing at the end of their rafts in pretty dresses.

Little girls stand on their rafts

Little girls stand on their rafts

i see some farmers and water buffalo along the shore, framed by picturesque haystacks.

water buffalo on the shore

water buffalo on the shore

We pass another launch site that looks a little deserted.

another launching point along the river

another launching point along the river

bamboo rafts

bamboo rafts

shady passage

shady passage

the karsts are ubiquitous and ephemeral

the karsts are ubiquitous and ephemeral

YuLong River

YuLong River

Peaceful cruise

Peaceful cruise

We pass by the Yangshuo Mountain Retreat.  Audrey and I stopped here on our bike ride and saw the boaters going down the river.  Now I’m one of the boaters.

I like their sign for “Romantic Riverside Dinning.”

Yangshuo Mountain Retreat, where I stopped on my bicycle ride: casual "dinning"

Yangshuo Mountain Retreat, where I stopped on my bicycle ride: Romantic Riverside “Dinning”

Yangshuo Mountain Retreat

Yangshuo Mountain Retreat

The water here is very shallow.  The grass rippling in the water is a little hypnotic.

flowing grasses

flowing grasses

There are some places where people are stopping to eat, but my boatman just keeps pushing us downriver.

lunch stop for others but not for me

lunch stop for others but not for me

This little bridge is a cute one.

pretty little bridge

pretty little bridge

passing under the bridge

passing under the bridge

At another stopping place, I see this young lady checking her cell phone.

checking that cell phone

checking that cell phone

On the way downriver, we cross a lot of dams, going down chutes and landing hard at the bottom, with water washing up over our bow.  It adds a little thrill to the ride.

geese on a dam

geese on a dam

I don’t think this couple is very thrilled at being stuck on the dam.

stuck on the dam

stuck on the dam

looking back at the dam and the hotel on the shore

looking back at the dam and the hotel on the shore

We pass some more pretty hotels along the river.

pretty peak

pretty peak

Finally we come to this bridge.  I look at my watch and see we’ve only been on the river for one hour.  I figure my boatman is taking a break or letting me out to buy souvenirs, but then I realize he’s telling me this is the end.  I was told this is a two-hour ride, so I don’t want to get off the boat, but the boatman keeps gesturing for me to get off.  I’m not very happy about this as I paid for two-hour trip, so I call the hotel to talk to Matthew, the English-speaking manager.   He talks to the boatman and then explains the situation to me.  Apparently, the two-hour boat ride is for people who make stops along the way, like for photos or for meals.  My boatman never offered me any stops, probably because he couldn’t speak English, but also partly because he could finish early and go upriver again to pick up another customer.  I’m not very happy about being misled.  I really did expect a full two hours of a BOAT RIDE, whether I made any stops along the way or not!

the bridge where we disembark

the bridge where we disembark

I call Vivian to have her husband pick me up, and he comes shortly and takes me back to town.  My Rough Guide to China had recommended the Pure Lotus Vegetarian Restaurant.  I had tried to eat here another evening, but something was wrong with their cooking facility when I stopped by.  Now I ask Vivian’s husband to drop me off here.  I sit on the lovely patio and order some grilled eggplant.

sitting on the back deck of Pure Lotus Vegetarian

sitting on the back deck of Pure Lotus Vegetarian

When the eggplant comes, I don’t recognize it as eggplant; it looks like the mushy fringe of a damp mop.

Grilled and fringed eggplant

Grilled and fringed eggplant

The eggplant tastes good, but it’s cooked in a lot of oil, and immediately I can feel my stomach churning.  Again I’ve made the mistake of assuming that if I’m eating vegetables in China, my stomach will be okay.  I’m going to have to face the fact that if the food, meat or vegetables, is cooked in oil, I’m possibly going to get sick.  I don’t know why sometimes the oily food makes me sick and sometimes not.

Pure Lotus Vegetarian

Pure Lotus Vegetarian

Feeling sick from this meal makes for a long trip back to Nanning.  I don’t feel like taking a bus this time to Guilin, so I hire a taxi for 260 yuan (~ $42).  I get to the train station way too early, and the whole time I’m sitting there, my stomach is churning.  On the 2 hour 40 minute train ride home, my stomach continues to churn.

When I finally arrive back at the Nanning Railway Station, the crowds getting off the train are unbelievable.  We move like cattle off the train platform and are chuted into two stairwells.  We are so packed that I feel claustrophobic.  I have a lot of anxiety; television shows I’ve seen about stampeding crowds flash before my eyes.  I imagine getting crushed in a tired and irritable crowd of people anxious to get home.  Finally, after what seems like an interminable time, we are released outdoors.  It doesn’t end here. At the bus stops, the crowds are pushing onto the buses that come up to the train station.  I don’t want to be packed on a bus with all those people, so I look in vain for a taxi.  There are none to be found; every one seems to be taken.  I’m tired and I just want to get home.

Finally, an older guy on a motorbike asks me where I’m going.  I tell him Guangxi Daxue (university).  I must not be saying it right because he doesn’t seem to understand me.   In desperation, I pull out the Pleco app on my phone and show him the word.  He repeats what I thought I said, and then he sticks my suitcase between his legs on the motorbike and tells me to hop on.  In some countries this might be dangerous, but I don’t think it is in China.  I’m so happy to be back on a motorbike again and on my way home.  It’s quite cool tonight and the breeze feels incredibly refreshing on my skin. I love the sense of freedom that riding on a motorbike brings.

We ride directly to the university gate, where I hop off and pay him 20 yuan (~ $3.26) and walk back to my room. There, I collapse on my bed after a long day.

What a fabulous holiday.  I’d say my first solo trip in China was a great success. 🙂

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Categories: Asia, China, Expat life, Guangxi University, Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, Guilin, Language barrier, Nanning Railway Station, National Holiday, Pleco app, Pure Lotus Vegetarian Restaurant, Translation, Travel, Yangshuo, Yangshuo Mountain Retreat, Yulong River | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 17 Comments

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17 thoughts on “a bamboo boat ride down the yulong river & home to nanning

  1. There are some real gems among these river pictures, Kat. Sorry about all the oil. I already said that I always have this problem in the PRC. I don’t have a problem with fried food but in China it’s the sheer amount of oil which turns on me. I love eggplant by the way. We have it here sometimes…. potato and aubergine curry. That was an expensive way to get back to Guilin but if I had a tummy upset I might do the same thing. No pictures of the train and passengers ?

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    • I’m glad you like my pictures, Dai. Some of these are really special to me. My whole time in Yangshuo was a photographer’s dream.

      That oil really is a problem. I thought I’d be okay with eggplant, which I also love, but it must have been the way it was cooked. I know it was an expensive ride to Guilin but I was really worried about my stomach; at least on the train there is a bathroom. Sorry, guess I didn’t feel up to taking pictures on my way home. I have some pictures of the train and passengers on my first post for this trip.

      It took me a number of days to get over my stomach upset from that meal. By the way, that potato and aubergine curry sounds delicious. I’d sure love to try some of that. 🙂

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      • Kat, we haven’t had it for several weeks so possibly the season has finished now. Are you cooking at home this evening?

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      • I don’t know that you’d call it cooking, Dai. I had these quail eggs I bought this week, and I’ve become quite addicted to them. I couldn’t stop eating them this afternoon, and then after eating so many, I was too full for dinner. So I ate some bread with peanut butter to top off my quail egg snacks!! I know that’s a lame excuse for just being too lazy to cook. 🙂

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      • Peanut butter is lethal, Kat. I sometimes eat a large spoonful if I’m peckish in the afternoon. Then I’m never hungry for dinner. I’ve never eaten quail eggs but I love normal eggs cooked any way. Then will you at least have a glass of wine ?

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      • Peanut butter is always a temptation, Dai. Someone recently told me about the quail eggs, and I bought my first little bag of them on Friday. They are so good!! I ate the whole bag already. I’m like you, eggs are good in any variety of ways. I tend to eat eggs at least once a day here in China, where in America I ate them about twice or three times a week. As for the wine, I already had a beer, but now that you mention it, I think a glass of wine sounds awfully good. Cheers!! 🙂

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      • So I guess I’m going to be blamed for your wine this evening. Anyway enjoy it. Kat. Until two or three weeks ago we had warm evenings here so ice cold beer was great but now the evenings are getting chilly (cold, not spicy) so I’ve stopped drinking beer. Go on then, if you’re forcing me to have a glass of wine hehehe

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      • Yes, I guess I can blame you for my wine, but it’s okay. 🙂 At least now I’ll have a partner in crime. Enjoy your wine, Dai, and enjoy the rest of your weekend. I’m planning on a very lazy day tomorrow.

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  2. The river trip looks so peaceful in the photos, but I wonder if actually it might be quite noisy with so many rafts, and people? Your photos are stunning, as ever. 🙂

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  3. I still do not understand how those flat rafts do not tip over! The photos are spectacular, your eye is exceptional! That eggplant dish however did not look too appetizing I have to say, glistening with all that oil! I am not a fan of eggplant at the best of times but that did not even look like eggplant! What a shame – but in Africa to avoid a roiling tummy, I stuck to omelettes, fries or boiled potatoes and some local fresh tomatoes for something like 99% of my meals over those two years whenever I went out for a meal, and I never got sick of that dish or sick from the dish. Oil is always dodgy I find and there is not always a WC nearby when you need one! However, over time I imagine you will slowly get used to their way of cooking. Thank God for eggs and my #1 packed emergency food item – peanut butter, as it also saved me in Tibet where food was scarce and the bread tasted like it was made of plastic.

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    • Thanks, Mona Lisa. I’m glad you liked my photos. I didn’t feel those rafts would topple easily; I don’t know why. That eggplant was really soaked in oil, way too much, and it obviously wasn’t good. I’ve been eating a lot of eggs while here; eggs and steamed dumplings. Those seem to be the best thing for my stomach. Lately I’ve discovered quail eggs and I’m addicted. I’m afraid I won’t be able to stop eating those! The bread here is not good either; plastic is a good description!!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. It looks absolutely blissful, Cathy! (aside from your queasy tummy) Could have been tricky if you’d got stuck on a dam and missed your bus! Those boats look flimsy- I’d have had a ducking getting on board for sure 🙂 Bet they don’t go when it’s choppy!

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    • It was really lovely, Jo. I never trust my stomach here; I never know if a meal will affect me or not. I guess the best bet is to find a few restaurants that I don’t have a problem with, and stick to those. Yes, a good thing I didn’t get stuck on one of those dams. 🙂

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  5. This has to be one of the most scenic boat rides in the world. Great photos, Cathy. I do feel you were a bit cheated by your boatman. It would have been nice to have a stop for lunch at the “Romantic Dinning” place. 🙂

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    • It was a lovely boat ride, Sylvia. I really enjoyed it so much; it’s just too bad it was shorter than I expected! Yes the “romantic dinning” would have been fun if Mike had been along!

      Liked by 1 person

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