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Li River and Karst Mountains, Yangshuo

Li River and Karst MountainsView All Sizes

JOURNAL : August 31, 2012

Rafting on the Li River

Yangshuo > Guangxi Province > China

Series Rafting on the Li River

The Li River between and around Guilin and Yangshuo is famous throughout history for its fantastic landscape of karst peaks. Ancient paintings, modern photography and even Chinese yuan all celebrate this magical land.

Lijiang Cruise Boat docked at Yangshuo Embarcadero

Lijiang Cruise BoatView All Sizes

The Classic Li River Cruise

There are basically two kinds of boat rides on the Li River (Lijiang). The first and most widely known is on a large cruise boat capable of transporting hundred or more people. These make the daily trip up and down the river between Guilin and Yangshuo in a long string.

You can go down to the embarcadero and book passage, or sign up with a tour group through an agency or hotel. English and Chinese guides are available.

Li River by Raft

The second is on a small raft made of bamboo trunks or plastic tubing.

Family Outing on the Li River

Family Outing on the Li RiverView All Sizes

This vessel generally holds from one to a dozen people and the ride is is typically less than a few kilometers.

While intending to take the more commercial cruise from Guilin I accidentally found myself in Yangshuo and decided to take a small raft down the river. This is much more my style.

Yangshuo Embarcadero

Yangshuo EmbarcaderoView All Sizes

Scenic Lijiang

Scenic LijiangView All Sizes

Cool Dragon Raft on the Lijiang River

Cool Dragon RaftView All Sizes

On this particular day I was just bicycling around Yangshuo. During a pause to snap a photo a woman at a stand asked if I wanted to go on a boat ride. The price she gave seemed rather expensive, so I continued on. Near the riverfront another woman approached and gave me a far better price for two hours down the river on a raft piloted by her father. I asked about just one hour and bargained with her for a much better deal at less than half the original price.

The only condition I had was that I had to take my bicycle, since I was concerned it might be stolen and would have to pay for it. An elderly gentleman poled his boat towards the dock and I bundled it aboard.

Lots to See, Nothing to Do

It was just me on the boat. No hordes of tourists packed into a big clunky boat. No circus of tour guides trying to convince their group that some mountain looks like a water buffalo. After being on a crowded bus for three hours this relaxing whisk over the fresh water was exactly what I needed.

Numerous interesting sights roll by. Some boats are colorfully painted or elaborately decorated, like this raft with a carved dragon on the bow. Others contain colorful passengers from all over. People were generally friendly and enjoying themselves. I waved and said ni hao and some responded with hello in English.

The captain of the raft didn't appear to be in any hurry. He dipped the propeller into the cool water and alternated between buzzing down down the river and just cruising lazily with the current.

Old Factory on the Lijiang River

Old Factory on the Lijiang RiverView All Sizes

Old Houseboat on Lijiang

Old Houseboat on LijiangView All Sizes

A few curious structures like an old dock or this factory graced the shore. At other times pockets of civilization rolled into view, like low buildings or temporary tents housing clothing shop or other touristy riverside shopping stops with cormorant fishermen or women in vibrant traditional dress.

Impression Liu Sanjie

Nightly, an extravagant show called Impression Liu Sanjie floods the karst peaks on one side of Yangshuo and a love story is acted out with spectacular dance sequences. The venue sits on the banks of the Li River surrounded by bamboo forests. It's supposed to be a must-see show while in Yangshuo, but I didn't find out about it until the day I left.

Stadium for Impression Liu Sanjie

Stadium for Impression Liu SanjieView All Sizes

Among the multitudes of blue cruise boats moored hither and thither was this antique houseboat so picturesque it deserved a photo. On the way down it appeared derelict except for clothing drying on the bow. But on the way back an elderly couple lounged about on its decks watching the traffic go by.

A Raft of Ducks

A group of ducks on the water is called a raft. Don't they look like one?

A Raft of Ducks on the Lijiang River

A Raft of DucksView All Sizes

Cormorant Fisherman with his Birds on the Li River

Cormorant FishermanView All Sizes

Cormorant Fishing

An age-old technique, fishing with cormorant is still alive today, though often as more of a tourist attraction. Along the banks of the Lijiang fisherman of this variety could be seen working on their boats or posing for photos with their birds.

Catching fish is actually done by the birds, and the fishing is done after dark. Fitted so that they cannot swallow the fish they catch, the cormorants cruise alongside the skiff until they see a fish. They'll dive for it or simply snatch it out of the water. The owner then relieves the bird of its prey and stashes the fish in a basket. Pretty neat.

Point of Departure in Yangshuo

Point of DepartureView All Sizes

Binjiang, or Riverside Road

Binjiang (Riverside) RoadView All Sizes

Karst Topography

As you know, karst topography began as coral reef on the primeval ocean floor. As the land rose and the sea receded, the limestone was subject to pressure, upheavals and the elements which over millions of years eroded both the surface and subterranean regions. Water often passes through porous karst topography via underground caverns and galleries — mostly unfiltered — and exits in other regions.

Karst Limestone Peak

Karst Limestone PeakView All Sizes

What we see nowadays are the heavily eroded remains of compressed coral beds. Most are often very abrupt, vertical peaks like this one next to the river.

Family Outing on the Li River

About this day

Rafting on the Li River

August 31, 2012

Yangshuo > Guangxi Province > China

Tags   Boating · Rivers · Mountains · Country · Favorites

China Series | All China Locations

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Nestled within this mystical landscape is the bustling town of Yangshuo. Growing rapidly it maintains well its character and charm. For its proximity to the Li River, or as antidote to busy, smoggy Guilin, for its nifty shopping, climbable peaks or vigorous nightlife, Yangshuo is a highly recommended destination.

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