In the beautiful Guangxi province, South-East China
05.05.2009 - 08.05.2009
The jagged Karst peaks pierce the ground & scrape the sky. Covered with lush green foliage that is taller but less dense than it appears from a distance they dominate the landscape for miles in every direction. The small patches of ground between them are filled with rice paddies, but in Yangshuo tourism is undoubtedly the main source of income. There are three leisurely ways to escape the centre of town; boating, cycling and moped-ing and I give each of them a go.
Taking a bamboo boat upriver is incredibly serene, but I'm a restless person and too slowly for me the scenery moves by the wide flat water I share with bathing water buffalo & cormorant fishermen. I strain to see what's around the next bend, but the raft's tiny engine cannot fight against the current of the river and our driver turns us around & heads back.
Cycling out of town makes the scenery move by a little faster, though the roadsides are too filled with touts to feel quite as out of it as you do on a boat. I reach Moon Hill, a recommended view point, in the blazing midday heat & am slick with sweat before I've climbed 10 steps. The panorama, when I emerge from the tree line after 30minutes of climbing, is definitely worth it.
On my second night here I went to see Impression Liu Sanjie, directed by Zhang Yimou of 'Hero' fame. Performed at night on the Li River, with the surrounding peaks lit up as a backdrop and involving 600 people a show the scale alone is impressive. The show is equally so; beautifully choreographed boating & lighting (No computer controlled movers, just really heavy looking followspots!) with oxen and cormorant fishermen thrown in for the spectacle. Gorgeously intricate jangling metal jewelry, vivid costumes and spectacular boat creations; the show was extraordinary.
A hungover day was then spent with a group of English TEFL teachers on Mopeds, jolting around the countryside on the tiniest dirt tracks imaginable, looking for a place to swim. I didn't drive, just clung on tight!
On my last day in Banshee I went to 'The Water Cave'. A boat takes you into the caves through an entrance so low you have to assume the brace position to make it through. Straightening up, I adjusted my eyes to the gloom and there in front of me was on of the most beautiful rock formations I've ever seen. (Though, to be fair, it's not often I call a rock formation beautiful.)
On a level above a pool had formed and eventually spilled calcium-rich water over its edge. Over the years this water had left a rock impression of its cascades, petal-like; smooth and rounded at the top tapering off into folds and twists at the bottom. We continued inwards, alighted from the boat and began the hour and a half tour of the cave system. Narrow winding corridors of stalactites were interspersed with huge booming caverns and one felt alternately claustrophobic and tiny. The torches we all carried cast shadows behind the rocks that flickered as we jolted along the uneven path. We took a route beside an underground river & as I scrunched along its pebbly shore I felt like an explorer in search of a mythical beast. No dragon was to be found, however, so instead we trudged back to the mud baths where I discovered the joys of floating in slime (Yay!) After this was the more group-accepted hot springs. You could see from a distance the steam coming off them & as well as the warmth the formation of the rocks lent itself perfectly to hot springs. At the bottom there was a large pool (big enough for the tiniest swim ever) & at the top there was a collection of smaller pools in various shapes and size. I picked a deep bath-sized one & lay back, staring at the distant ceiling & sharp points hovvering overhead. It was lovely.
Relaxed and cheerful
Carol x x x