The 2008 Olympic Games officially open today…and I’m nowhere near Beijing! I am in the same country, though, and in a beautiful, serene part that is a great reminder of all the natural wonders China has to offer.
As with my other stops, I have met interesting people here in Guangxi province, south of Guizhou, including an artist famous for his “shan shui” (mountains and water) paintings. But this time, it is the stunning landscape that has made the deepest impression.
First, in Guilin city, there was the boat cruise along the Li River, which I enjoyed with the American family I was traveling with. Despite the misty weather, we had a chance to view spectacular karst peaks (weathered limestone formations) mingled with bamboo groves and villages. We also caught glimpses of cormorant fishing along the river, an ancient technique in which fisherman on bamboo rafts use cormorant birds to catch fish.
Perhaps feeling inspired by these fishermen, we decided to go bamboo rafting ourselves the next day in Yangshuo, a popular, small town southeast of Guilin. We had no birds with us, and unfortunately, no umbrellas, either. The big downpour in the middle of our journey was unexpected, but our views of the towering peaks and of village life along the water made it all worthwhile. Plus, who doesn’t look good in a bright orange life jacket?
After the family’s departure, I also had a chance to visit Longsheng county, 2.5 hours northwest of Guilin, with our guide Stewart, a soft-spoken, friendly man who is an avid photographer and hiker. The real highlight of my stay in Guangxi, Longsheng is famous for its terraced rice fields, carved into the hillside by the local Zhuang and Yao minority people.
The two hikes I went on in Ping’an and Dazhai villages not only afforded breathtaking views of the terraces, but also allowed for other unique sightings: traditional wooden houses built without nails; horses carrying loads of goods, including chickens, to and from the villages; and Yao women trekking up and down the hillsides with bamboo baskets on their backs, calling out with their ubiquitous “
In these last few days, I have taken in southern China’s scenic backdrop by car, boat, bamboo raft and foot. The one option I couldn’t bring myself to try? Being carried in a sedan chair!