30 September 2009

Natural wonders in Guilin

After the day in Chong Qing we flew to Guilin where the pace and nature of the holiday changed dramatically. We left the big industrial cities behind and spent the rest of the holiday in small picturesque towns and in fantastic countryside.

First it was another short cruise, this time along the Li where we meandered slowly past stunning limestone karsts that towered over us like a giant's teeth.

Also along the way we also saw plenty of wildlife, there were water buffalo grazing at the water's edge and cormorants (more on them later) sunning themselves on pontoons.

Interest was also provided by the enterprising but apparently desperate people who rowed out to the passing boats to try and sell their wares to tourists through the windows of the cruise boats.

It was also interesting to see the other cruise boats going past as they all had their busy kitchens at the back open to the elements. The guide warned us that seeing another boat's kitchen would put you off eating from our boat, and he was right. The locals were less concerned about the hygiene standards and the kitchen did a roaring trade.

The boat took us some way from Guilin and we took a coach back. Here the local tour guide (we had a different guide for every city) did us a favour and we stopped off along the way to have a close look at some typical Chinese agricultural land.

We walked past several small rice fields that were at different stages, from freshly planted to ready to harvest.

The water also brought small boats and bridges to add to the natural beauty.

It was all very peaceful and all very lovely and was a welcome change from the big bustling noisy cities that we had spent the first week of the holiday in.

The next day we were taken to another natural wonder, the Reed Flute Cave.

Here the water has eroded the soft rock to make stalactites, stalagmites and other spectacular formations.

Many of these had names that were meant to reflect their shape but you often had to stretch your imagination more than a little to see the resemblance.

The system of caves is around 1km long and was illuminated colourfully throughout to highlight the detail of the rock formations very effectively. More use of light was made in the large cave in the centre of the system where we were treated to a short son et lumiere.

Somehow using the unnatural light and sound to enhance the beauty of the natural rock worked well and the trip was a success.

Cormorant fishing is famous so we just had to take the optional trip to witness it.

Of course it was nothing like the real fishing that is done with cormorants to get fish, this was just a brief display for tourists, but it was still special.

It was night, the river was dark, the little boats were dark and the cormorants were darker too so it was quite hard to see anything and even harder to photograph it but I hope that this picture gives a reasonable impression of what we witnessed that night.

With natural beauties like those that we saw in our two days in Guilin it is no wonder that this is a popular place for tourists and it was here that China started to feel like the China we see in the west.

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