Day 29, Grand Asia 2017
Monday, Oct. 30, 2017 – Guilin, China
There are some landscapes that are unlike anything I have ever seen before, and today I cruised down the Li River through just such an area. Towering spires of limestone surrounded us as we passed through on a shallow river in a line of tourist cruise boats.
After dropping our box lunches at our tables on the lower level of the three-deck boat, we headed for the top deck. It was a sunny day with just a little of the every-present haze in the distance.
A small group of Italian tourists had planted themselves around the front rail of the upper deck and refused to move for almost the entire journey. Perhaps they didn’t realize that some of the best views were looking back. Our guide called one such view the “money shot” because it is on the 20 Chinese Yuan bill.
The river wound through the majestic mountains, which rose abruptly like towers from the relatively flat terrain. My sister, who studied geology in college, said that most mountains are created when tectonic plates buckle and push them up. These “karst” limestone peaks were left after the surrounding ground was dissolved when the area was underwater. We passed by water buffalos, flocks of birds and school children relaxing on the shores.
After four hours on the river and a harrowing push through immense crowds coming off the dozens of boats, we headed to a market street in Yangshou for some shopping. Local indigenous people are known for their jade and woven designs, but I managed to only look.
Another feature of this geologic area is a number of caves. Our last stop of the day was at Silver Cave, which I hear from some in our group was outstanding. I was among those who chose to wait outside, as the cave had lots of flights of uneven steps without railings. My knee has fully recovered from my fall the day before I left on this cruise, but I was cautious and didn’t want to risk a slip.
The city of Guilin (try saying “we lean” but with a hard g at the beginning) has about a million people and seemingly a million scooters, mostly electric. You must be fearless to weave in and out of the traffic, even along the wide lanes set aside for scooters and bicycles. Because they are electric, they can sneak up on pedestrians. Somehow, everyone seems to get to his or her destination.
After a long day we were glad to return to our five-star hotel, the Shangri-La. Our group dined around the biggest round table yet, with a slowing moving lazy Susan. This time the food came with few descriptions, and the mostly vegetarian meal was mostly unfamiliar to us. I tried to take at least a taste of everything, but I have to admit it wasn’t up to the standards set by some of my other meals in China. The Chinese beer, on the other hand, continues to impress.