Yulong River

To get to the Yulong River tour you need to hire a bicycle.  After I rented my bike, I met my guide who led meup river several miles to where I would board our raft.  The bike ride was quite nice and I passed by lovely mountains, rice paddies and quaint little villages.  Everywhere in and around Yangshuo rest beautiful green mountains that make for such a nice horizon.

When I finally arrived at the starting point for my raft trip, I had to walk the last few hundred meters.  On the way I passed a woman who was walking her water buffalos.  Sometimes, when traveling, I just try to step outside of myself and realize where I am.  Here I am in rural China passing a woman who is walking her buffalos.  “Dorothy, you’re not in Kansas any more…”

At the dock, before I boarded the raft, I looked out to the horizon and paused to capture a photo of the beautiful mountains.  The mountains really do give this area a very special look.  Unfortunately, it was a hazy and cloudy day.  This did “kill” the colors a bit on my photos, but the trip was still quite beautiful and I enjoyed it very much.

As I lazily floated down the river, I had a chance to enjoy the tranquil quiet with the lapping of the water as my boat driver moved his bamboo pole in and out of the water.  The birds called as they flew back and forth and a family of ducks swam by quacking to their babies to hurry and follow along.

All along the route I passed little vendor “islands” that were actually floating docks that sold food and beer.  Additionally, other rafts with snacks and drinks plied me for their business.  My oursman, who I think received a kickback for any purchases I made, actively encouraged me to buy something – anything.  He kept stopping at every dock and boat and the trip was quickly becoming spoiled; instead of a relaxing nature boating, I was resisting the sales pitches of aggressive vendors.  Finally, I told our boatman that he should not stop at any more vendors.  He reluctantly agreed but did not look too happy about it.

Eventually I approached Moon Hill.  This mountain has a naturally occurring arch that resembles a huge donut – you can just see the opening in the photo below.  The actual opening is much larger than seen in this photo as we are viewing it at an angle.

I passed over a series of small dams that acted a bit like “whitewater” and my boat crashed down a meter or two to the water below.  It was quite exciting and I got splashed a bit.  At the bottom of the first of 5 or 6 of these waterfalls, my boatman stopped at a tent where a photography team was selling photos of me coming over the waterfall.  I think they wanted $10 for the photo.  I politely declined and then ordered my boatman to NOT stop at any more of the photo shops.  He reluctantly agreed and became even more agitated.

As I passed other boats, he would yell over to them and they would answer back.  I speculate that the other boatmen were asking about his sales and commissions based on his less than happy (sounding) responses.  I parodied the Chinese banter to myself:

“Hey Kang!  How’s the sales?”

“Horrible, these cheap Americans won’t buy anything!

Despite the gloomy weather, the mountains were quite impressive and beautiful.  The landscape along the river was fertile and green and provided some amazing vistas.  When I come back to Yanghsuo some day, I will definitely make the Yulong River rafting trip again, but I’ll be sure to go on a bright and sunny day.  I did stop a few times to get some snacks; sweet potatoes, baked corn and some other snacks.  I offered a snack to my boatman and he took it, but he still looked mad…

The rafting tour ended at the Moon Hill bridge.  Our guide had driven my bike down and I picked it up after I disembarked.  The drive back to town was probably about 10 kilometers and took 30 or 40 minutes.  It was quite an enjoyable trip and I highly recommend it to anyone who happens to be visiting Yangshuo.


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what’s for lunch

Outside of the “tourist” zones of many of the more popular Chinese cities, I was able to observe and sample some of the local cuisine.  But no discussion of chinese food would be complete without a discussion of sweet potatoes.  Sweet potatoes are plentiful and cheap, are good tasting and good for you and are a very popular snack choice for Chinese and expat tourists.  It seemed that every time I came up to buy a sweet potato from one of the locals, there was a line forming and the vendor was doing brisk business.  In the photo above, a Chinese man makes his selection from a hot-pot of sweet potatoes being sold by a local vendor.

I saw this cute dog and took his photo; I had thought him to be a pet but later I would learn that he was probably being grown for food.  On that note, before you make any judgements (I’m talking to my Western friends and family), you must take into account the cultural differences between Asia and the West.  I remember my first trip to China in 1999 and seeing (in a Western style hotel even) scorpion soup, caterpillar larva , and bull penis soup.  When you’re in the countryside, you never know what might be served.

Not all Asians look at dogs in the same “pet” way that we do.  In many places (Guilin and surrounding areas in particular), dog meat is a delicacy that is quite popular – I’ll be writing more about this and posting photos later.  You need not worry about being served dog by mistake, it sells at a premium to pork and you will only get it if you ask for it and are willing to spend more.  If the idea of eating a dog is beyond your comfort level, try to put yourself into the shoes of someone from another culture.  Solbeam writes about her experience wherein she imagines what it must be like to be from another culture in her story marbled black lab.

One thing that cannot be overstated is the variety of flavors in Chinese cooking.  The Chinese have such a wide range of spices and vegetables that each meal is a wonderful experience and an overload in flavor.  Of course, many restaurants load the food with MSG and you must tell them no “wenjen” or MSG.  Often, they’ll put it in anyways or argue that you should take it because it makes the food taste so good; and they want it to taste good so that you’ll come back for more.  I find that a strong dose of MSG gets my heart beating and keeps me awake all night, akin to drinking 5 or 6 Cokes.  That certainly can’t be healthy…

In the photos above and below you can see some of the varieties of peppers and spices that are sold in most every market.

Further along in the market I came across a variety of dried meats.  If you don’t recognize the meat on the left, don’t feel bad, I couldn’t recognize it either.  It looked to me like eel or snake or pig parts.  However, I did recognize the meat on the right (with the arms sticking out and tail hanging low).  In case you can’t tell what they are, I took some closer photos (below).

They look about like jerky, I wonder what they taste like?

Every fish that I ate in China had its head attached; I think that it is desireable to have the whole animal as it gives a sense of “freshness.”  However, as these rats are dried out, I wonder if there is some appeal to having the teeth intact – fangs and all?


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Longshen Village sites

While I did spend most of me time in Longshen hiking the trails around the rice terraces, I also spent a little time in the village itself.  Still only a week in China, I was still enjoying the “newness” of the people, the culture and language.  As a very simple town, Longshen provided quite a few photo opportunities and here are a few of some of  the more interesting photos I captured.  Passing someone’s porch, I saw this dog asleep on his back.  As I shot a few photos he woke up and I liked this pic the best out of the dozen or so that I shot.

In the photo below, one of the farmers is using the irrigation ditch to clean his sweet potatoes.  These irrigation ditches not only feed into the rice terraces but are also channeled to each home so that everyone has fresh mountain water for cooking and bathing.

What is more cute than Chinese kids?  I find the kids that are all bundled up for winter fun to watch as they waddle around with all of the clothes that their Mom makes them wear.  I remember as a kid trying to play with just a t-shirt and Mom insisted that I wear a jacket.  I’m sure that parents are always colder than their kids who are running around burning up all of their childish energy.

We walked past one home and saw this caged flying squirrel.  The family was offering it for sale, as a pet or for dinner - I am not sure.  I don’t think that animal rights have made it to China yet.  We watched as another Chinese family came along and seemed to take great pleasure in tormenting this frightened little animal who hissed and bit at any fingers that came near his cage.  I was tempted to buy him so that I could set him free.

A little Grandma was walking to market with her crop of sweet potatoes.

This little boy entertained himself for about an hour with only a stick.  It made me think of the difference from most American children who have so many toys and video games and are still never satisfied.  American children are so material in want and so lacking in good education that it makes me fear for America’s future (geez, I sound like an old man now).  Most Chinese children are well mannered and seem content with simpler things; I don’t think that I’ll every buy my children video games…


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