Day 7: Yangshuo
This morning was the foggiest one so far; some of the karsts right outside our hotel were almost completely hidden. More rain was forecast, but it didn’t stop us from going for a short hike to a small village nearby and then bamboo rafting down the Yulong River.
As we walked, the rain began, sometimes coming down in drenching sheets. However, there was no wind, so with our good rain gear and large umbrellas, we sloshed on, staying relatively dry waist-up. We walked past houses scattered among lots of fields full of crops, with the occasional water buffalo munching away. One unfinished building looked like nothing more than an empty shell, with two artists painting the views from the top floor.
As we walked, we suddenly were surrounded by orange trees full of fruit. We had also seen these on our drive out of Yangshuo yesterday, with stand after stand of oranges for sale lining the road. Hoping to see one now, we were happy when one appeared almost immediately, with a smiling lady selling oranges for one yuan (~ 15 cents). The orange was so good we wish we had bought more, but that was the only stand we saw.
We arrived at the docks for the rafting, and it was easy to tell we were in the right place when about ten people came running up asking, “Bamboo? Bamboo?”. The docks were packed with a mix of tourists, vendors, raft drivers, and large trucks laden with rafts pulling in every few minutes. We watched the unloading process, which was basically to tip the truck far enough so the rafts all fell into the river at once; I suppose it was the fastest method! We paid the fee to one of the drivers, walked treacherously across a blanket of rafts, and were soon on our way.
The rafting was really pleasant and peaceful; the mist-covered karsts offered quite the backdrop as we floated along. There were several small dam areas throughout the river, and our driver motioned for us to lift our feet and smile at the camera that would take our picture as we came over the “rapids”.
Stationed throughout the river were concession stand “islands”, and our driver stopped at every one. Had it been a steamy hot summer day, a cold beer while rafting downstream would be a good idea, but today we politely refused. The strangest thing we noticed was the rafts that held Chinese couples would not stop at the camera huts after the rapids, but instead at other huts where they could have a still photo taken against a fake backdrop of the river. Pictures of screaming, smiling rafters coming over the “rapids” seem to be reserved for the foreigners!
Because our hotel was located along our rafting route, we had arranged to end the trip there. We rafted for about an hour, snapping pictures and watching for our hotel. When we arrived, we weren’t sure the driver understood we were finished; he was emphatically asking for more money as we jumped off (probably to wait for us), but we think he got the idea when we never returned. Ah, language barriers…
After resting for a while in the room, we went to dinner and then took a taxi into town for our next activity: the Impression Sanjie Liu, a famous light show directed by the same man who directed the Beijing Olympics opening ceremony. The hotel arranged our tickets (we bought the cheapest ones again), and we arrived at the entrance to the theater in a throng of tour buses and tourists. Somehow a lady found us, confirmed our hotel information, and asked us to follow another guy (he had a stick with a stuffed animal attached instead of a flag; we just joined our first tour group). We streamed into the theater, located our leader, and were given our tickets and a complimentary poncho. The rain was holding off, but the show would go on despite the weather. We found our seats and surveyed our surroundings.
The Impression Sanjie Liu show is performed in the world’s largest natural theater, with the Li river as its stage and the surrounding karsts as its backdrop. It tells the story of Sanjie Liu, a famous singer known for her beauty and voice through the myths and legends of the Zhuang people. Told in chapters, the show gives the audience “impressions” of daily life of the Zhuang people and features over 600 local actors and actresses. Since it was performed entirely in Chinese, we had no idea what they were singing about, but we loved how they utilized the river “stage” and the creative costumes and lights. It was an excellent show and another highlight of Yangshuo.
After the show, we found our taxi driver and headed back to the hotel. We have loved visiting Yangshuo but are looking forward to the next leg of our journey: Xian and the Terracotta Warriors.