From Guilin one is obliged to take the boat trip down the Li river to Langshou. I had thought of taking the bus to Yangshou to avoid the tourists but the river trip is the only way to see the fantastic scenery. Anyway if it was good enough for Nixon , Clinton, Barbara Streisand and Bill Gates but perhaps not all together, then it was good enough for me.
And it is stunning, and as virtually all the tourists were Chinese it didn’t really feel as if it was a trip to Marbella.
The 4 hour slow chug down the river was amazing. The Karst limestone hills are impressive and one might think that 4 hours is long but a bend in the river here or an overhanging rock there was enough to keep the oos and aarhs going.
Arriving in Yangshou is a slight disappointment after the trip.
Unlike most of China here one is surrounded by sellers of everything imaginable as soon as you get off the boat.
The main street leading through the town is shop after shop of tourist tat interspersed with a couple good silk clothing shops and the odd restaurant. Yes you can avoid the shops but there are the street sellers ! I did find a double expresso, but for a price. There are two worlds where one can pay £3 for a coffee and the other where that feeds a family for at least a day.
I had signed up for the full tour which now included a manic bus drive to a village by the river with a bridge that was in the film ‘The Painted Veil’. Although still a working village, tourism was now the main employer. There were a fleet of little bamboo boats and one w as taken down the river to see the cormorant fishing..amazing .. and the herds of buffalo.
In all it was interesting tourism and the peddlers didn’t really try that hard.
After getting up early the following day to see the groups of both men and women taking exercise by the river Li, I bumped into Tang. It is quite something to bump into one of the only two people you know in a town the size Guilin. He persuaded me that Daxuzhen village really was worth visiting. So he called up a friend of to drive us the hour and half there.
Daxuzhen is a two thousand year old village on the river Li and although there were a few tables out to sell old Mao era badges, books and new plastic toys for children it was pretty Chinese village with no tourists.
After walking through the village and the small individual plots of farm land we noticed there was a crowd down by the river. Tang is unbelievably shy and didn’t want to go investigate. So I went off leaving him on the famous Dragon Bridge.
There was a long table and a man with a brush in one hand and a cigarette in the other painting a very long panorama with a crowd of photographers and admirers around. Every now and then he stopped and the crowd applauded and the photographers rushed forward. He took a break and I was introduced to ‘Huang Gie Sheng’, who I was told was the former president of the artists association of China and the current president of the Guilin artists association.
There is a strong painting tradition in this area and the mountains and valleys feature prominently in Chinese art.
Tangs father had been a painter and perhaps that was his reason for not coming down.
Later we went to visit a painter in the village who had been a friend of his father.