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The Li River

Guilin to Yangshou

Before we left the UK Guilin had been described to us as "the closest place to Avatar on Earth" so you can imagine how excited I was not only to be going there but also to have my birthday in this beautiful place!

Despite not getting in until midnight we had too be up early to head to the Li River to start our 4 hour cruise to Yangshou, the southern most part of our China trip. Just a note here that Guilin is known for spicey food which I had not realised until I had a big mouthful of noodles at breakfast...that definitely woke me up! As we were spending a couple of nights in Yangshou before coming back to Guillin we repacked our day bags with a few bits and left our big bags in Guilin. Jennifer was our new guide and on the journey to the river she told us more about the Guilin area. It is much smaller than other cities we had been too but still had a population of 700,000! With the karst mountains in the background it was nice to be somewhere that was not overpowering with high rises as none of the buildings here are allowed to be over 12 storeys high and there definitely seems to be a bit more of a laid back feel. Guilin takes its name from the Osmanthus trees that are everywhere here ( I think Guilin means Osmanthus Forrest) they have tiny yellow flowers which are used to make a local fragrant tea.

The Guilin area is home to several minority tribes in China, including Yao, Zhuang, Hui, Miao each with their own dialect and traditions. The various dialects in China is why Mandarin was made when the country was united to provide a common way of communicating with everyone, although the old dialects are still used by the ethnic groups today to speak to each other. The ladies of the Yao people have really long hair over a metre long and they only cut it once in their life when they turn 18. This hair is then kept and tied in various ways on top of their head to make elaborate headresses. A big tradition in Guilin is singing, Jennifer told us that the people here like to sing all the time and it was used as away to communicate between villages and they have big festivals each year. There are even competitions in song where one side sings a question and the other side has to sing the answer, the one who can't answer loses! Another tradition at these festivals is for girls to have a small ball which they carry with them, if they see a boy they like then they throw the ball to him, if he catches it then he likes her back

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(I bought one last night so hopefully Dan will catch it!)

When we got on the boat it was quite an overcast day but this would only had the the mystic of the mountains that the river ran through. There was a bit of a crowd at the back of one of the boats which seemed to be focused on a man who was holding a red ribbon that was going into the water and I was surprised to see a big fish at the end. The ribbon had been threaded through where its eyes would have been and tied round it's head. I am not sure why they had this, maybe it was for good luck but it looked like they were keeping it like a pet rather than catching it for food.

As we waited to start our journey down the river we had some tea and looked at the other boats. It was interesting to see the kitchens at the back of the boats preparing the lunch for the day.

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The river is still used today as part of everyday life for the local people and not just for tourism, and it was great to see life on the river as we started our journey.

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Each bend in the river revealed another spectacular backdrop of limestone karst mountains covered in green foliage. The photos don't do it justice!

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We also saw a lot of wildlife on the river from fish in the water ( which was surprisingly shallow) to eagles soaring overhead. Water buffalo lined the banks grazing, they are used to plough the rice paddy fields but at this time of year they can rest as there is no work for them to do. There were also lots of ducks which were owned by the farmers and had been trained to return back to the village after a day eating weed on the river.

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This area is famous for the Cormorant fishermen who use cormorant birds to catch the fish. They tie a ring at the base of the birds neck so when it catches the fish it can not swallow it. The bird is trained to bring the fish back to the fisherman on his bamboo raft who then takes the fish and sends the bird out again. At the end of the day the ring is removed and the fisherman gives the smaller fish to the bird to eat. This partnership was used in an HSBC advert and since then more people have wanted to come here. We did see a couple Cormorant fishermen along the river but none were fishing. This usually happens at night when the fish are attracted to the lights on the bamboo boats and also when there aren't so many tourist boats on the river!!

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At one point there was a mad rush to the top deck and all the Chinese tourists were looking in their wallets for 20 yuan note. It turns out that the part of the river we were on was used as the image on the back of the note, which was kinda cool.

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After 4 hours on the boat we were ready to stretch our legs as we pulled into Yangshou and it was a 15 min walk through the town to our hostel.

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Whilst some people had a nap (Dan included) some of us explored this picturesque town built amongst the mountains. It was fun to walk through the markets and whilst we looked at postcards a man came up to me who had cut out my silhouette on a piece of paper, which I then felt obliged buy of him although managed to get it down to 20p!

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This looked more like old China but we soon found that the modern world had found it too!

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Everywhere in China seems to be obsessed with angry birds!

After all the walking it was time for a birthday meal and the guys had found somewhere for pizza which served white wine!! Which was served cold!! Such a treat! :)

It is no surprise as Jude and I shared the bottle that we ended up looking like this on the way back!

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Another great birthday!

Sxxx

Posted by doyledan 20:19 Archived in China

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