Thursday, September 27, 2007

Guilin Trip

The obilgatory tourist experience in Guilin is a riverboat trip down the Li River (漓江). For the privilege of being stuck in a cramped cabin with a hundred or so chain smoking, loud-talking Chinese tourists one pats 245yuan. The trip lasts for 4 hours from Guilin to Yang Shuo, during which every attempt is made to squeeze one's wallet dry. Soon after the ferry got going a guy whom I thought was the guide took the mic and started to tell us about the various sights we'd encounter along the way. He began to talk about the kinds of camera lens most suited to taking in the panoramic mountain views, and I thought, how interesting, the guide was a camera buff. But of course he was really offering his service as a photographer. For something like 150 yuan one can get 10 pictures taken of one standing in front of various scenic spots along the way . Then there is lunch. It is included in the price of the ticket, but if one wants more than the soggy vegetables they serve, one can pay 300-400 yuan for a fixed menu for 4 consisting of soggy seafood, or rather river food. So a typical Chinese family of three could easily drop well over a thousand yuan on this crummy boat trip.
My happiest moment on the trip was when I took this picture. I'd arrived at this roadside restaurant after hiking for a whole day through the river valley. The hike was quite easy by Hong Kong standards. The paths were flat and well trodden. But it was quite long--20 km, and the day was scorchingly hot. All along the way bamboo raft operators and touts kept pestering me to take a raft. I refused them all, so I felt quite proud of myself when I arrived at the end of the journey. It was around 4pm. I guess since it was neither lunch nor dinnertime the owner made no effort to serve me. He simply invited me to take a seat and left me alone to enjoy this rare uncommercialized corner of China.

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