Author: Lara G
Date of Trip: October 2012
October 4, 2012:
Today we enjoyed a half-day excursion cruising the Li River, with its dramatic limestone peaks and serene scenes of rural Chinese life that is so different from the city life. The Li River is the only river in China that runs from north to south, all other rivers run from west to east. The Li River is relatively clean, especially compared to the Yangtze River – we could see the pebbles on the bottom; the water was low. The Li River is a very popular tourist attraction and about 150 cruise boats sail every day up and down the stream.
The 83-km-long waterway from Guilin to Yangshuo is like an artist’s masterpiece. The landscape is decorated with rolling hills, steep cliffs, fantastic caves.
The Li River scenery is like nowhere else but the best scenery is located about half-way between Guilin and Yangshuo. In fact, the back-side of the Chinese 20-Yuan note has a picture of the Li River hills at around this half-way point of the cruise – check it out.
Once in awhile we were passing by little villages, where women were washing clothes in the river; water buffalo wandered in the greenery; sometimes ducks – entire families with little baby-ducks were gracefully crossing the river from the one bank to another; flocks of Cormorant birds were resting (or fishing?) on the floating wooden pieces; little fishermen boats or bamboo rafts were scurrying around doing their business as usual…
Cormorant fishing is an age-old art practiced in China and Japan (as well as a few other countries) that is long past its glory days. Today, it exists largely due to the tourism industry, but is no less intriguing for that fact.
Guilin and Yangshuo, places where Cormorant fishing is still practiced.
Dressed in traditional costume, the fishermen ride on small bamboo rafts lined with Cormorant birds. On the raft, lit by a simple lamp, the Cormorant fishermen of the Li River (Lijiang River) paddle out slowly and then use a pole to encourage the birds into the water, where they dive for fish. A small snare is placed around the throat of the birds so that they cannot swallow any large fish, which then enables the fishermen to remove the catch from their throats when they return to the raft. It is a traditional fishing technique that does initially seem to have a small element of the cruelty to it, as the birds are dunked into the water to do their job and then dutifully re-appear with their catches without being able to feed. Like any such process, the Cormorant birds are trained and well kept to produce the most efficient results. With a history spanning over 1300 years, the practice of Cormorant fishing along the Li River yields large catches that provide not only a feast for spectators but for some hungry consumer later.
We disembarked at the Yangshuo (‘Bright Moon’) village that has a little market nearby for vegetables, fruits, handicrafts and souvenirs. Our bus was waiting for us to take us to the airport for a flight to Hong Kong.
On our way to the airport we made a stop near the rice paddies along the road. Behind the rice field was an “ancient” little house and local people walking by – a woman with a baby on her back and the older woman, perhaps, her mother. Their faces were dried out from the long hours of working on the rice fields under the hot sun. I took few pictures of a woman with the baby on her back. By gestures, she asked me to show her pictures that I just took and I did. Then, again by gestures, she asked me to give her a picture and I was almost ready to ask her what is her email address, but very quickly I realized that these people in rural China, probably, never have seen a computer or even a photo camera…