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February - March 2006


Travel

Guilin - A Paradise in China

by Bajrang Bahadur Mathur


Beautiful places and resorts are found all over the world. Some of these are truly of outstanding natural beauty. Guilin City and its environs in Guanxi Province – Southern China is also of immense beauty. It is therefore, worthy of inclusion in the list of paradises, if such a list exists.

China is one of the biggest countries in the world with an estimated population of 1.4 billion. In the October / November 2004 issue of the India Link part of north eastern China was featured to include Beijing, Great Wall of China, Xian and a Cruise of the Yangtze River. Here, there is an account of China’s most aesthetic region.


Mirror-like reflection in the river


The exquisite beauty of this area is due to geological activity, which took place some 300 million years ago. Limestone rocks rose from the seabed. The weather eroded these mountains, over years, into pinnacles of many attractive, peculiar and unusual shapes. The geological name given to these mountains is KARST formation.


Left: Range of KARST mountains along Li river; Right: Typical rock formation

Cruise: The 80 kilometres boat cruise on the Li River from Guilin City to Yangshuo town is an ideal way to experience the spectacular scenery. The cruise provides breathtaking views of jagged peaks and pinnacles. They are reflected in the crystal clear, calm waters of the river together with serene pastoral views of fertile valley with rice paddy fields, lush green bamboo groves and many sub – tropical plants. There are many villages en - route and much activity can be seen along the river including villagers going about their daily routines, fisherman on bamboo rafts, duck herders taking their flocks for washing, farmers tilling the land, women washing the laundry and water buffaloes – work horses of Chinese agriculture – bathing in the river.

Guilin with over a million residents, is a charismatic city and is situated on the banks of the Li River. It has recently become a major centre of commerce and tourism. It has two main tourist attractions. The first is Elephant Trunk Hill. This area at the junction of Li and Yang rivers is very picturesque and as the name suggests, the main rock looks like an elephant drinking water. The second attraction is the fantastic Reed Flute Cave. It derives its name from a reed that used to grow at the entrance, and flutes were made from it. The cave is chamber like Cavern, 250 metres long, 18 metres at the highest point and 93 metres at the widest. It is full of beautiful formations in various shapes and sizes of stalactites and stalagmites. The interesting aspect of the cave is the lighting scheme in brilliant colours, which adds quite a dramatic effect and highlights the amazing shapes of the formations. The scene in the cave is constantly changing with various shapes in the form of say a waterfall, lion, mushroom, pagoda, chandelier and even a velvet curtain over a stage. There are many more interesting features, which are left unnamed for visitors to use their imagination.


Colourful paddy fields of Yangshuo

Yangshuo is a small romantic town with magical scenery and superb views close at hand. Its resident population is 300,000 approximately. The activities in and around the town is walking or cycling in the paddy fields along the Yulong River and absorbing the wonderful delights of this famous river landscape. Another way to enjoy the scenery is to drift down the river on a bamboo raft, which is simply made of large bamboos slightly bent upwards at both ends and tied together with steel wires.


Drifting rafts on the Yu Long river

Night Show: There is an exciting and spectacular sound and light show of Chinese dance and music by some 1000 actors. The performance takes place on the river and is seen from a huge open-air theatre constructed on the banks. So the river is the stage with a magnificent backdrop of illuminated high mountains. The actors use decorated and illuminated rafts and barges to perform their acts.


Night show on the river: an actor dancing on the moon set

Fishing is also somewhat different and is characteristic of the region. The fishermen train medium size birds, called Cormorants, to dive under the water and bring back the fish for a small reward. The fishermen take out the fish from the Cormorant’s throat. The clever fishermen tie a cord around the neck of the birds to constrict them and the birds, therefore, cannot swallow the fish. In other words birds have replaced fishermen’s tools i.e. hook, line and bait. The fisherman dressed in the conical straw hats with Cormorants on the bamboo raft catching fish is a unique and memorable sight.

Inspiration for the artists and Poets: This wonderful landscape is so picturesque that it has always been popular with the artists and poets who interpreted the charm of the region over centuries. Now the region is open to all visitors for them to explore, enjoy, paint, write or photograph.

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