Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Past on the River

It was my second trip outside of Shenzhen (and only about my fifth time outside of Bao'an district). Jia and I had been dating for a couple months and decided to spend the long Spring Festival holiday together. Being that my Chinese was almost non-existant, Jia made all the plans. Our first stop was Guilin and Yangshuo, where tourists gaze upon beautiful jutting mountains that have been painted repeatedly by Chinese artists over the centuries. This was the scenery I had envisioned when I arrived.

We took a boat tour down the Li River from Guilin to Yangshuo--five hours in the cold, light rain to stare at the mountains as we floated by. Zhong Yi, our Red Army driver and guide, would meet us at the dock to take us around the town.

In the winter, the river is low and locals collect rocks from the exposed riverbeds. This is not the time of year that is most picturesque, but there were still plenty of tourists on the boat. Of course, I was the only waiguoren on board.

There were announcements over the PA system to call attention to particular mountain formations or areas of interest, like the mountains that looked like a camel. Jia had a difficult time translating everything for me--it still sounded like gibberish to me. Every twenty minutes or so we were told to go upstairs on the deck to view the scenery through the mist and fog. Everyone would take a dozen photos and then head back down, only to re-emerge twenty minutes later. It was tiring jostling for prime photo-taking positions, and the weather didn't help.

As we passed villages along the Li River, bamboo rafts would drift alongside and men would try to sell souvenirs through the windows of the ship. I decided to follow the captain's orders to
ignore the hawkers and enjoy the scenery.
Halfway through the journey, I was tired of climbing the stairs and pushing through the crowd. The rain was heavy at times and I wasn't interested in pneumonia this early in my stay in China. The mountains began to look the same and I didn't take many more pictures unless instructed to do so by Jia. It was better to remain in the slight warmth of the ship and watch the river through the window.
It was mid-afternoon when we arrived in Yangshuo. Zhong Yi drove us around to see the countryside, which was difficult in rain. It let up for brief moments and we got out of the car for more photos and to walk around.

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