How can one even try to describe the beauty of the Li River? And how can we even try to choose a few pictures to do it justice? This is an impossible task,, but we’ll try.
From Guilin, we took a bus shuttle to Zhujiang where we boarded a ship for a four-hour, 83 kilometer cruise down this indescribably beautiful river. This entire area was formed by eons of weather and water erosion of an ancient, soft limestone sea floor. The result: huge numbers of oddly shaped, almost vertical verdant pinnacles above ground and huge sinkholes and deep, eerie caverns below.
Every bend of the river, particularly along the 20-km stretch between the towns of Xingping and our destination of Yangshou, afforded sublime views of the karst formations that are so frequently represented in Chinese scroll landscape paintings. Absolutely awesome. Although the brochure, the guide and others that had done the cruise before told us of the images (horses, ducks and so forth) to look for on the rocks, and the specific angle we should look for to find the image on the back of China’s 20 yuan note, we preferred to just take in the beauty, without trying to name or categorize it. After all, if Bill Clinton couldn’t see the 9 horses one was supposed to see, why would we?
We also learned the trick of surviving the incredibly uninspired buffet food that is included with the price of the cruise. Just as you get on the boat, you can order optional dishes from the menu. The ship’s cook then buys seafood fresh from local fishermen and prepares it for you. We loved the osmandious fish steamed with soy sauce, ginger and garlic, and also the candied taro cubes (coated in sugar and lightly fried). We were also able to buy appetizer portions of a few other dishes including tiny fried local crabs, shrimp and fish, as well as steamed snails. The crabs, eaten whole in one bite, were fun snacks, although not especially tasty.
But one comes for the scenery, not the food. And is it beautiful. Especially on a somewhat foggy/misty day. No wonder this is one of China’s top tourist destinations.