Original Post: August 9, 2007
After departing from Xian we arrived in Guilin to spend a mere 12 hours so we could catch an early morning boat to Yangshuo. We were met at the airport by the service staff from the hotel. It was nice of them to pick us up from the airport, but their real motive was to attempt to up-sell us some much more expensive boat tickets. The Li River cruise is an absurdly popular way to see the mountains in this area, and we had pre-booked the basic boat cruise through Jenny’s travel agent. The guy from the hotel tried to tell us that cruise we had already booked was the super-bottom-of-the-line boat filled with drunkards and thieves who would be puking all over the place. He even went so far as to tell us that they hadn’t even sold any tickets for this particular cruise for more than 6th months. He was so full of crap that you could smell it a mile away. We stuck to our guns and he finally, after nearly an hour of refusing to upgrade, booked us the trip we wanted.
The boat people came and picked us up at the crack of dawn the next morning and sure enough, all very nice looking people, no scummy drunkards to be seen. The tour was not in English, we were the only Westerners on the bus and so we had no idea what was going on. We might not have even figured out which boat was ours (there were at least 20 boats at the docks and we were left in the parking lot with all our luggage and some sort of instruction in Mandarin and general pointing towards the docks) but luckily there was a young couple from Hong Kong who took pity on us and helped us find our way since they were on the same boat as us.
I tend to get violently ill on boats, so I was a little nervous about the prospect of being on one in the middle of China for 5 hours. Fortunately the river was very calm so I survived without any major trauma.
The scenery is really the only reason to take this cruise since you can get to Yangshuo by car in about an hour. There are these crazy mountains all over the place, like huge skinny hills that jut out of the ground. I believe they are made of limestone and interestingly enough look just like the formations in Halong Bay where we went on a cruise with my dad in April of 2010. This area is what is depicted on the back of their 20RMB bills. It’s hard to describe how bizarre these things are, and the photos really don’t do them justice.
It was like being in a movie, or a painting, very surreal and beautiful. We spent most of the time on the deck just taking a million pictures, and then inside for a few minutes taking pictures of the food that was served – river crabs, prawns, veggies, something that looked like a hot dog…
We made it to Yangshuo all in one piece, fought our way through the crowds at the docks, and headed off to our hotel to relax and figure out a plan for the next few days.