We had a 45 minute bus out to the place where we would get on our bamboo boats, which were actually made of plastic piping with motors on the back. The view was enough to take our minds off the electronic rumble, but still we’re hoping to get the more authentic experience somewhere in Yangshuo. We shared our boat with a pleasant woman named Angela from Hong Kong. She was happy to take pictures of us, so we were able to get some with all three of us together.
The cliff we turned around at was supposed to look like a painting of racing horses. I could see one, our guide suggested we return after some baijiu and we would see more!
We passed orange groves nestled between Karst cliffs, peered though leafy branches at small groupings of houses, and watched Chinese tour groups walking down paths through the forest. Clumps of bamboo rose in great tuffs next to evergreens. Our boat driver pulled us over towards the shore and chucked something in a police boat’s window. Some sort of tole fee perhaps. We knew we were almost back when we once again saw “Hello Kitty Mountain” a formation that looked like two cat’s ears.
When we docked, the harbour was so full that we had to hop across other empty boats to get to the dock! We were greeted by the citrusy smell of fresh oranges as rafts heavily laden with crates were unloaded onto the shore. We bought some and sat on a concrete wall sharing stories with Angela and asking her questions about Hong Kong, while we munched the oranges and waited for the rest of our group, and our bus driver to be ready to leave.
During the remaining hour to Yangshuo the tour guide tried to convince us to join her side tour. She was persistent but amicable. She was the one who told us that the mountains had been formed when the land had been covered in sea.
We stayed at a hostel called “Show Bizz” it was bare bones and located in the centre of the tourist hub, but it was cheap and convenient. We met a one eyed grinning tour guide with good english and honest prices who first talked to Nate on the street while Meiqi and I were distracted by the souvenirs. Later we ran into him again while eating dinner. Meiqi had discovered a patch of hair on her meat and pushed away most of her food in disgust (though the spring rolls where good) when he showed up and asked us how our food was. “That place is not very good,” he told us, and recommended some better places for breakfast.
We had a list of things we wanted to do, and a top price of how much we could spend and we were trying to figure out how much we could fit in below our budget. Paul (as the tour guide called himself) pretty much offered a day tour for our price, that combined a lot of the places for much cheaper then we’d be able to get on our own. It was a done deal.
That night Paul took us to the “Impressions” play and got us a bit of a discount by buying tickets for us as if we were part of a large tour group that was going in ahead. The guy seemed to be well connected. He was also the one who warned us about the old ladies on the streets selling fake tickets for 50RMB, saying they would sell the tickets and then disappear before the show started. You’d never see them again.
Paul walked us to our seats and didn’t ask for money until we were comfortable and satisfied with his service. (He also advised us never to take a tour with someone who asked for money in advance.)
we could see dark shadows on the water setting up, but with the lights still dark it was hard to see what they were doing. A screen turned on in the middle of the lake, and people in rice hats poled across the scene on bamboo boats, their outlines visible only in the flickering light. And then the screen went off and our focus was drawn to one lit up figure of a woman singing, and suddenly from almost complete darkness WOOM, the lights came on and the mountains appeared!
I sat mesmerized, not entirely sure what the story was about, but completely absorbed and wrapped up in the music and the light. Long strips of fabric turned the lake red and stormy as rows and rows of fishermen on bamboo rafts raised and lowered them rhythmically in perfect timing with each other and the music. As the cloth rose from the lake, droplets of water would spray from it adding to the turmoil, as if splashes of blood in a storm, and then suddenly all the people disappeared as they lay on their boats and pulled them selves along their red ribbons creating calm waves from the anger that had been.
Later rows and rows of women lit by spots of light on their uniforms waked across the lake on floating rafts, their dance was enhanced by the shutting on and off of their lights.
A woman danced naked on a moon before the women of light helped dress her in her wedding gown, and children and women ran in front of the stage to sing for us in their shrill voices that at times (especially because we were in the front row) hurt the ears.
The show was incredible.