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Published: February 13th 2013
Li River Tour
This view was called "Grandpa Watching Apple". Why does Grandpa always get the fun jobs?
The Li River far surpasses what you’ll see around Guilin. It boasts awesome backdrops of soaring limestone peaks and classic rural scenes of wallowing water buffalo, cormorant fisherman working the shallows, and farmers tending their crops. Arguably the most stunning section is the 24 km stretch between Yangdi and Xingping. Xingping’s landscape is featured on ¥20 banknotes. The feeling was surreal. I feel so blessed to be able to come and experience this remarkable place.
A bus picked me up from the hostel in Guilin and 2 hours later delivered me to the Yangdi pier on the bank of the Li River. For ¥120 ($20) a bamboo raft took us downriver passing under sheer peaks that drop straight down into the water. It felt like the end of "Fellowship of the Ring" when Samwise and Frodo go canoeing through the river canyon. I felt hobbit-sized. Then I looked at the 5'4" Chinese couple seated in front of me. Ok I'm feeling awkwardly big once again.
The many peaks surrounding the river have been given names after the animals or objects they resemble. For example, above the village of Yangdi exists two hills forming the shape of a sheep's hoof.
Li River Tour
Bamboo Raft Tour of the Li River - the No.1 recommended activity in Guilin.
The guide explained that the town get's got it's name from the hill because in Mandarin, "Yangdi" means "sheep’s hoof". Other memorable names include “Fish Tail Peak”, “Brush Tip Hill”, “Lion Riding Carp Hill”, and “Dragon Head Hill”. Over time, the trees on the peaks have changed and so some hills required you to use your imagination more than others. After about an hour on the river, the boats dropped everyone off back at the Yangdi pier where we then boarded another bus bound for the Yulong River.
The scenery along the smaller Yulong River is a different kind of amazing. The scenery along this slower, quieter river is simpler though it will still leave you stunned looking skyward. What makes the Yulong “yu-nique” is its countless number of swimming spots and numerous exploring opportunities. It's got that draw that'll make anyone say, “I want to spend the rest of my days here”.
Our transport stopped in the small town of Yulong. Stepping off the bus, our guide led us down to Dragon Bridge, a 600-year-old stone arched bridge that is 9 meters high (30’). A locals said the water under the bridge is "qi mi"
Li River Tour
"Sheep's Hoof Hill" (left), "Flawless Driving Record" (right)
meters deep (23’). During the hot summer months, this legendary bridge makes for an excellent diving platform.
Below the bridge I walked onto an even smaller bamboo raft piloted by a local gondolier. Using a long bamboo pole to push, the gondolier navigated us a short distance upriver to watch a cormorant fishing demonstration. “Cormorants” are a type of aquatic bird can catch fish underwater. Like a pelican, they have large beaks and can hold very large fish inside their mouths. A master fisherman begins training the birds when they are very young and after a few years, the fisherman places a band around the bird’s neck. The band serves to trap large fish in the bird's throat but allows smaller fish (and rewards) to be swallowed. If a bird catches a large fish, the bird knows to paddle back to the master's raft where the master pulls the prize fish out! A very clever trick and a fun demonstration to watch. Cormorant fishing: Made originally in China.
After the cormorant demonstration we pulled up to a small strip of shoreline where we were greeted by a farmer, his water buffalo, and it's 9-month-year-old calf. Handing each of
We had to stop several times after our motor stalled due to plastic trash bags.
us a small bunch of sweet grass, we were invited to feed the beast. It was a mockery. The children were running around giggling as the young calf would awkwardly gallop after its mother. Once all the grass had been fed, the farmer offered to give us rides on the water buffalo! As the only white person in the group, of course I was asked if I’d like to ride. An that's how I got to ride a water buffalo. “Yee-HAW!!” I yelled as the farmer walked us in a small circle. That thing was not safe, but I’m glad I did it.
Back to the raft, we turned around and made our way downriver. We passed under the Dragon Bridge and continued along the Yulong River. Our gondolier encouraged us to take photos of “Frog Hill”, “Toad Hill” to the East and “Cat and Mouse Hill” to the West.
At this one spot on the river, we had to go down a small concrete dam. Correction: we had to ride the raft down the dam! The gondolier yelled "hang on" and pushed our raft faster and faster towards the ramp down the backside of the dam.
Elgin and Marcus
Elgin Tam is my close friend from Hong Kong. He plays saxophone and helped translate for me.
I recorded the whole scene, watch it here: http://v.youku.com/v_show/id_XNTEzODQ2ODIw.html
The day was wonderful. Being early February and all, I really lucked out with the weather. I still like to come back and visit during the summer months. Maybe then I'll have the chance to join the 600-year-old rank of idiots who have leaped from the Dragon Bridge into the Yulong below. YOLO. You Only Live Once.
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