Cruising in Guilin on the Li River

On the Li River (Photo Steve de Vroom)

We spent a wonderful morning cruising down the Li River on a boat which is roughly the equivalent to those Captain Cook cruise boats which ply Sydney Harbourt. But we were not alone. There were 17 other boats just like ours and each carried about 120 passengers. They cruised downstream in convoy. Half an hour previously a similar convoy preceded us. That is about 4,000 passengers each day, seven days a week doing the Li River Cruise.

Along the way we marvelled at the stone karsts, or small mountains made of limestone on either side of the river. The scenery was enchanting. The river was clear but shallow. In places it seemed no more than a metre deep. Water buffalo occasionally drifted by as they grazed on the water weed, their heads below the surface.

There were fishermen in their long narrow boats and motorised rafts of bamboo that you could hire, complete with driver and colourful umbrella.

Lunch was served downstairs on the boat. As usual, the table was crammed with an endless supply of Chinese dishes and as usual, we only ate about 10% of what was served.

Christian karaoke (Photo: Steve de Vroom)

There was something surreal about this cruise. On board was a table of eight Indonesian Christians who had brought their own electronic keyboard and spent the entire cruise singing songs of praise. But in the middle of all this, a couple of heads appeared at the window from outside the boat, offering fake jade carvings for sale. The two men were on a raft made of 5 sticks of bamboo lashed together and propelled by another bamboo pole used as a punt. Between the men was a large basket of trinkets which they offered at outrageous prices which quickly dropped when no one wanted to buy. They would manoeuvre their craft into position beside the boat and then attach it with a piece of rope and a steel hook. Balancing precariously, they would stick their head in through the window and start to bargain with the passengers.

The cruise continued until we reached our destination… Yangshuo.

Yangshuo is a pretty little river port resort style town, with shops and the ubiquitous gauntlet of market stalls selling just about everything that you don’t need. “Hello!!!” echoed in our ears as the stall owners spotted us approaching from the boat. “Hello!!!” they aggressively shouted, trying with their limited ‘Ingalish’ to attract our attention to their wares.

We wandered the streets of Yangsuo for 45 minutes until it was time to go. After a brief ride in an electric golf buggy to our bus, we headed back to Guilin.

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