Li River Cruise




October 2009 • Canon 40D • Canon IXUS 100 IS

It was a misty start to the morning as we left Yangshou and drove to Li River 漓江. From the Mao'er Mountains in Xing'an County, the Li River runs southerly through Guilin, Yangshou and Pingle. Loud engine noises could be heard from the bank of the river. As we approached we saw where the noises were coming from—the bamboo rafts. Having thought the rafts were real, I was a bit disappointed to find out they were made out of PVC and shaped like bamboos. Instead of the driver having an oar like the gondola's in Venice, a motorised engine was strapped to the back where the driver would steer the raft. In the middle was some seats (4 or 6 depending on which raft you take) with steel handle barriers on either side and a roof.

The engine rattled away as we left the bank. Over time you will ignore the loud engine sound. The scenery would capture your attention and you'll forget everything else. The pebble banks was lined with small green trees with the towering hills above. It was still misty so the karst hills looked mystical as we started our hour and half cruise of the river. From what I recall (I didn't write it down at the time) we took the popular section of the river to raft from Yangdi to Xingping, which they say, is the essence of the Li River.

As we gently cruised along the river the mist and fog gave way to blue skies and the temperature went up. The enchanting karsts peaks in all its glory was visible for all to view. You can see why for centuries, painters and poets were fascinated by this fairy–tale scenery.

There is an old Chinese saying “Guilin hills and water best under heaven”. And you can't argue with that. As the river weaves, each bend reveals a more picturesque landscape that feels out of this world. It's as if you were in a painting.

Did you know...

The Karsts hills are a distinctive landscape formed on the surface of our earth. The geological process to create a landscape of karsts occurs over thousands of years. They are generally created when water dissolves carbonate bedrock such as limestone, marble or dolomite.

A lot of the karst hills had names and Ollie, our tour guide, would every once in a while point them out. There was a famous hill (Mural Hill) where on the surface is supposed to resemble a mural of 9 horses in different formations. But I could only spot two horses. From time to time you could catch the reflections of this scenery on the Li River surface.

Along the banks you could see locals doing laundry and some people set up some stalls to sell drinks and food. After a while I had to stop taking photos and video and just admire the view.

The temperature was now 30℃+ and blue skies everywhere. Luckily the raft had a roof cover so we could sit in the shade. I think the landscape here no matter what the weather would still look spectacular to see. I wondered how magical these mountains would be if it ever snowed here.

We were now coming up to the end of our cruise and would heading into Xingping town for some lunch before heading back to Yangshou to spend the rest of the day sight seeing.

Final thoughts

This must be one of the most photographed places in China. The scenery is breathtaking and with the misty start gave the area a mystical feeling. Although the bamboo rafts were not made of bamboo it was still a great experience. Along with the small rafts there were a few larger cruise ships on the river too.

But I recommend you go for a small raft to get a more immersive experience of the river then on a big boat filled with tourists. The river was calm so it was easy to get out of your seats to stand and take pictures and video. It is definitely an experience you have to do if you are visiting Guilin or Yangshou.

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