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Published: April 18th 2013
Arriving in the morning we see the scenery has changed and there are the amazing limestone peaks (or karsts) that I've so been longing to see. They were formed years ago when changes in sea levels and erosion from rainwater caused the caves that had formed to collapse leaving the peaks that are seen today. Dennis tells us that during the second world war some of the larger caves in this region were used to hide airplanes.
We are very near Guillin, which translates as 'forest of osmanthus' from a famous poem that Dennis read to us. He explained that the poetry expressed the emotions that the rain and mist of the area provokes. The region has 9 ethnic minority groups including one muslim one. According to our tour guide this region, along with Tibet, was so large that the PRC (Peoples Republic of China) didn't have sufficient energy or will to take over and bring the people into line regarding Chinese ways and rule, so they were allowed to continue with their traditions. Now, he says, the government gives help to the people in the form of financial assistance and building of new railways etc. Ok! Not so sure
Extended umbrellas attached to the mopeds
There were many interesting ways of dealing with the rain on the mopeds and bicycles including this extended umbrella set up.
about that one! I think there is a tad more tension and unrest there than he is letting on or maybe even knows about. Tibetans must have a reason for protesting and human rights have been questioned by outside authorities regarding PRC treatment of ethnic minority peoples in the region. The harsh crackdown on rioting in 2008 was condemned internationally.
Aside: The region is not only famous for its karst scenery but also its rice noodles. Why is rice made into noodles you may ask? Well, historically some soldiers from the north moved down to this region and were so missing their favourite wheat noodles that they started making noodles from rice to remind them of home.
It was just about coming to the end of the rainy season here which means the farmers were all in ploughing mode. There is just one rice growing season in this region. In other more south westerly regions they have two and sometimes even three rice growing seasons. Also in the paddy fields are kept fish and ducks who help to fertilise the fields. After the rice crop is finished water chestnuts are grown. The rest of the year the farming
Poncho style rain gear for the mopeds
Here's an alternative way of keeping off the rain.
families have an easier time of it, but for now it is work, work, work! We saw some farmers in the fields at work in the rain - with umbrellas! Dennis explained how farming in China is based around very small family units which is providing a problem for the government at the moment who are keen to move to more intensive farming production, only possible with combined larger farms. They are in the process of setting up farmer agreements whereby the small farmers join together to produce larger scale farm units that will be able to move into intensive farming mode. It is proving difficult - presumably many farmers are reluctant to give up their land as many will no longer be able to work in farming any more as a result and will need to be found alternative employment and their families relocated. As with many solutions to problems in China is seems that one problem solved often creates another problem. It will be interesting to see how this move affects both the people and the wildlife, already a neglected aspect of the Chinese way of life. Intensive farming is well known for adversely affecting biodiversity in the
west with special measures put in place to legally protect wildlife and habitats in western agricultural set ups. I suspect China's move to intensive farming will initially further harm the already neglected Chinese wildlife and habitats.
During the 2 hour drive I noticed that quite a few people had mopeds here, but not in the numbers that are seen in Vietnam. There were all sorts of strange contraptions used to keep off the rain. Some just carried umbrellas as they rode, some had extended umbrellas attached to the bikes, some had specially adapted waterproof ponchos. We saw one poor little kid standing at the front of his or her mother's moped holding on to the handle bars with the poncho going over their head - they literally couldn't see a thing!
We saw many of the protruding bumps and hills that are so famous here. The tops of some were hidden in the mist and rainy haze and looked quite beautiful.
As we pulled into Yangshuo we saw a horse statue 'Yiu shuan' or 'swallow' which is one of 5 belonging to the emperor who conquered the larger region that extended from here to as far as
parts of Russia and into Tibet. His tomb had 5 horses guarding him after he died and now the one horse is the symbol for the Tourist Training Centre which is based here.
Aside: Confucious said 'people should be like jade; pure of character'. Because of this saying people in China still like to have jade items. There is green and white jade; the green is imported from Burma. The craftsmen at the border have the name 'fen choi' or 'bet on the rock' as there is a custom of betting whether a rock will have jade inside and how much, when it is broken open. The more experienced craftsmen can make quite a bit of money. It is said that some craftsmen even bet with their lives on some rocks, the potential jade rewards inside a stone are thought to be so great.
We see large, yellow fruits called pomelos stacked at the side of the road which are supposedly a bit like grapefruits. Hopefully we would get to try these later on. Dennis said that when he was young his parents would partially peel the pomelo and then put a candle in the top so he
View from our hotel room
We had a view of the misty mountains from our fourth floor hotel room in Yangshuo.
and his friends could run around in the dark with their pomelo candles.
We arrive at a tiny little hotel and find we have to carry our packs up 4 flights of stairs - no lift here. The standards of hotels in China we had been warned would not be as good as in Hong Kong and it seemed this was true of our first hotel. The shower was open to the entire room, flooding everything, including the toilet! We were overlooking a busy street below and in the distance were some of the beautiful karst rock outcrops.
Having looked at my gps I saw that there was a geocache hidden only 150m away, only very high up, on top of the rock hummock just behind my hotel. Having read the description it was a 5/5 for physical difficulty and what with all the rain we had been having I decided it wouldn't be wise to attempt this first spotted Chinese geocache.
We dropped off some laundry at reception and then head off to explore Yangshuo.
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