The Road to Yangshuo

Trip Start Oct 22, 2007
Trip End Dec 12, 2007

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Friday, December 7, 2007

There once was a man from San Francisco
Who across the ocean did want to go
He hired a boat
Which did not float
Alas, that Chinaman is No Mo

The Pecoskid    age 11

I thought I'd start this segment with a contemporary literary classic.

 When I arrived in Guilin, the big city entry point to the Li River region, my response when I first looked at the river was succinct. "Li looks low." Or, as some would say, "Ri rooks row."
In fact, the Li River water level was quite low, somewhat normal for approaching winter and especially this year due to the minimal rainfall this summer. Still, through the haze you could see a few of the karst peaks the region is famous for and I was told, much more abundant toward Yangshuo, some forty miles south down river.
The road to Yangshuo began with an overnight sleeper bus from Lijiang to Kunming. Bunk bed on wheels, a mobile dormitory, we road through the night arriving in the pre-dawn hour. This time of year pre-dawn is before 8AM and in the diffused city gray light, the sun's light arrives even later, if at all. 
Kunming is a pleasant enough city albeit slightly mediocre and mundane. People stroll the city streets at night safely like they would a small town. An interesting addition that's peculiar to Kunming is the small minority of Chinese muslims that moved to Kunming several centuries ago.
I'm reading an excellent contemporary book on China called Oracle Bones, written by Peter Hessler. In one chapter, he refers to the ever changing city landscape in Bejing. When an old city block or neighborhood is deemed doomed for demolition, a specific Chinese character with a red circle around it is painted on the property. Sure enough, I saw such a symbol on an old apartment complex painted on its walls in Kunming. The old building was the last along a city block that gleamed with new splashy department stores. Where do the displaced people go?
In Kunming, I briefly debated whether to pursue a visa to travel to warmer Vietnam, since the Vietnam consulate is located in Kunming. Extra expense and too much consumed travel time to reach Halong Bay, I decided to stick with original China plan. Bought cheap flight to Guilin and next day...Guilin.
The highlight in the evening in Guilin was a man-made waterfall that flows like rain over the side of a large hotel. In English, a sign mentioned the waterfall was in reference to a poem called Waterfall by Chinese poet Li Bai. Classical Chinese music was playing in the background. A considerable crowd showed for the event. The water show was quite poignant yet also felt sad. With rivers being damned and natural waterfalls disappearing, man had to recreate a waterfall in the city.

Good morning Yangshuo! Cycling through the countryside of Yangshuo, surrounded by mist-enshrouded karst peaks along the Li River is definitely a China travel's highlight. Just being out in the countryside, participating in a little exercise is a highlight.

First night, while walking along the riverbank searching for a free vantage point of the night theater performance, a woman invited me to see a free theatrical performance across the street. The play was performed inside a carved section of one of the karst peaks. The production and audience atmosphere was similiar to a high school play, the play's theme having to do with some Chinese boy meets Chinese girl ancient story. No extravaganza performance just very pleasant.

Leaving Yangshuo on another nightbus mobile dormitory I could see the Friday night fireworks illuminate the karst peaks along the river. Quite a sendoff I thought.

Back in Guangzhou (formerly Canton), another large city near Hong Kong. Like an older woman applying some rouge to her cheeks to bring forth some long lost color, Ghangzhou, like all Chinese cities I've seen, try to add some color to their gray surroundings by splashing the city skyline at night with multicolored flashing hues of neon.

People watching, for me, is a definite highlight of one's travels through China and strolling through the hustle bustle of old and new neighborhoods. There's always some activity happening to catch your interest.

I believe I've successfully taught a number of Chinese how to speak the dialect of "packa", the strange dialect Brad Pitt spoke in the movie Snatch.  I feel this dialect should spread like wildfire throughout China and soon a billion Chinese will be speaking "packa".
My job is done. I can go home now. Ciao!

To see more of my travel photos, please visit
To read more of my travel writing, please visit
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