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"If you don't want to work, you have to work to earn enough money so that you won't have to work." -- Ogden Nash

305--China: Guilin--Cruising down the Li River
@ CherieSpotting     Jul 16 2005 - 09:30 PST
cherie writes: Flashback December 2004
Shrouded in mist, Guilin’s wild hills and peaceful rivers have inspired poets and artists for thousands of years. Now the dramatic scenery inspires travelers and photographers.

Elephant Trunk Hill is on the west bank of the Li River in Guilin. The rock looks like an elephant taking a sip of water. There’s a cave between the legs of the elephant that has over 70 inscriptions from the Tang and Song Dynasties. If you don’t have the imagination to see the elephant, no problem—there are elephant statues all over the place.

Scott and I spent a day in Guilin drifting down the Li River on a boat cruise on our way to Yangshuo. We stood on the bow with a glass of wine, and savored the dramatic karst scenery. (We tried to savor the wine, but Chinese wine sucks.)

Scott and I sat silently and watched nature’s landscape emerge through the mist. Each karst peak comes with its own myth or legend, which I could write about if I spoke Mandarin. Our “English speaking guide” used the few words of English she knew to point and say: a lion, a lotus, a hairpin. (How did our “guide” know the English word for “hairpin,” and not understand the words “train station”?)

If you were smoking opium, instead of drinking wine, the pinnacles might have looked like horses, monkeys or dragons. But since Guilin is a magical place, I tried to be creative and use my imagination.

Scott and I gurgled down the Li River and watched wild plants explode from fissures in the limestone rocks. The collapse of the earth’s crust followed by a series of oceanic floods and uprisings, helped create Guilin’s unique karst formations and limestone caves. The forces of erosion created a labyrinth of mazes, channels and underwater rivers.

The boat cruise came with complimentary entertainment in the form of merchants peddling souvenirs. Floating on bamboo rafts, the salesmen paddled up to our tourist boat to hawk their handicrafts. Scott bought a heavy carved wooden Buddha that he had to lug around for the rest of the trip. He must be drunk already, I thought.

Cormorant fishermen gave us toothless grins and held up their daily catch with pride. Dear animal-rights activists: Don’t read this next part! The cormorant fishermen catch the fish by kicking back on a bamboo raft and letting their pet birds do all the work. The fishermen tie a string around the bird’s neck, so it can’t swallow its catch. Then when the bird emerges with a fish, the fisherman plucks it from the cormorant’s beak and tosses dinner in the basket.

Our boat 52-mile day cruise ended in the charming village of Yangshuo, which ended up being our favorite town in China.

Click on each picture to see it full size.

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Cherie and Scott take the 52-mile boat cruise from Guilin to Yangshuo in Guangxi, China.

Cherie and Scott take the 52-mile boat cruise from Guilin to Yangshuo in Guangxi, China.

Cherie at Elephant Trunk Hill in Guilin, China.

Cherie at Elephant Trunk Hill in Guilin, China.

Scott on a stone-safari.

Scott on a stone-safari.

Cherie climbs aboard "the little one."

Cherie climbs aboard "the little one."

Kids, don't try this at home.  Standing on an elephant is harder than it looks.

Kids, don't try this at home. Standing on an elephant is harder than it looks.

A walk in the park.  No wonder artists and poets find inspiration in Guilin.

A walk in the park. No wonder artists and poets find inspiration in Guilin.

It's a work-out to get to the top floor; stair-master Chinese-style.

It's a work-out to get to the top floor; stair-master Chinese-style.

Cherie with the spires.

Cherie with the spires.

We watched nature’s landscape emerge through the mist on a boatride to Yangshuo.

We watched nature’s landscape emerge through the mist on a boatride to Yangshuo.

China's red flag framed by Guilin's karst hills.

China's red flag framed by Guilin's karst hills.

Scott on deck.

Scott on deck.

The cormorant fishermen catch the fish by letting their pet birds do all the work.

The cormorant fishermen catch the fish by letting their pet birds do all the work.

Karst mountains veiled in fog.  (Beijing has smog, Guilin has fog.)

Karst mountains veiled in fog. (Beijing has smog, Guilin has fog.)

Can you see the person huddled in the cave opening?

Can you see the person huddled in the cave opening?

There's a big "goldfish boat" behind us.

There's a big "goldfish boat" behind us.

Merchants sell trinkets to tourists.

Merchants sell trinkets to tourists.

Paddling down the Li River.

Paddling down the Li River.

Each karst peak comes with its own myth or legend, which I could write about if I spoke Mandarin.

Each karst peak comes with its own myth or legend, which I could write about if I spoke Mandarin.

Local cormorant fishermen.

Local cormorant fishermen.

Souvenirs anyone?

Souvenirs anyone?

Don't feel too bad for these guys on bamboo rafts--Scott bought a Buddha statue, and paid 3-times its value.

Don't feel too bad for these guys on bamboo rafts--Scott bought a Buddha statue, and paid 3-times its value.

Sometimes it's better to take it slow, expecially in these dramatic surroundings.

Sometimes it's better to take it slow, expecially in these dramatic surroundings.

Anyone want to apply for the job of "rock carrier"?

Anyone want to apply for the job of "rock carrier"?

If you work on the shores of the Li River, you get to live smashed in this sturdy tent surrounded by some of the world's most beautiful scenery.

If you work on the shores of the Li River, you get to live smashed in this sturdy tent surrounded by some of the world's most beautiful scenery.

Sometimes you have to take your paddle out of the water, and let the current take you where it will.

Sometimes you have to take your paddle out of the water, and let the current take you where it will.

The scenery may be beautiful, but the work is hard.

The scenery may be beautiful, but the work is hard.

Rocks jut out of the river.

Rocks jut out of the river.

Life on a bamboo raft.

Life on a bamboo raft.

Cherie and Scott inhale the view and exhale their worries that they won't be able to find the train station because no one understands the English word: train.

Cherie and Scott inhale the view and exhale their worries that they won't be able to find the train station because no one understands the English word: train.

Hey I have an idea, why don't we just let the birds do all the work for us!

Hey I have an idea, why don't we just let the birds do all the work for us!

Cormorant fishermen live in a beautiful, but not glamorous, environment.

Cormorant fishermen live in a beautiful, but not glamorous, environment.

The fisherman is dwarfed by the massive spires of karst.

The fisherman is dwarfed by the massive spires of karst.

Hills roll by.  To me none of them look like a: lion, a lotus, a hairpin.

Hills roll by. To me none of them look like a: lion, a lotus, a hairpin.

Villages freckle the riverside.

Villages freckle the riverside.

Local workers keep warm by building a fire.

Local workers keep warm by building a fire.

The fire provides warmth and a chance to rest.

The fire provides warmth and a chance to rest.

Keeping dry with a splash of color.

Keeping dry with a splash of color.

Guilin was submerged under an ancient sea 190,000,000 years ago.

Guilin was submerged under an ancient sea 190,000,000 years ago.

In 314 BC, the first village was built along the banks of the Li River.

In 314 BC, the first village was built along the banks of the Li River.

During the Ming Dynasty (1368 to 1644) that Guilin became the capital of Guangxi.

During the Ming Dynasty (1368 to 1644) that Guilin became the capital of Guangxi.

Guilin acquired its present name in 1940 and means the "forest of osmanthus trees".  The fragrant flowers bloom each autumn.

Guilin acquired its present name in 1940 and means the "forest of osmanthus trees". The fragrant flowers bloom each autumn.

Tourist cruise boats arriving in Yangshuo.

Tourist cruise boats arriving in Yangshuo.

Cormorant fishermen, selling their catch.

Cormorant fishermen, selling their catch.

Men sell the fish.

Men sell the fish.

Women sell the fruit.

Women sell the fruit.

Cherie gets to know a few orange-eating musicians.

Cherie gets to know a few orange-eating musicians.

My ears are still ringing!

My ears are still ringing!

On the symbols.  Bang! Bang! Bang!

On the symbols. Bang! Bang! Bang!

Play it again, Wu!

Play it again, Wu!

Maybe Scott and I will blend in more if we wear a mask?

Maybe Scott and I will blend in more if we wear a mask?

Scott crosses a bridge in Yangshuo.

Scott crosses a bridge in Yangshuo.

Cherie warms up by a fire.

Cherie warms up by a fire.

The streets of Yangshuo, a back-packer's paradise.

The streets of Yangshuo, a back-packer's paradise.

Those are over a dozen live-chickens strapped to that guy's bike!

Those are over a dozen live-chickens strapped to that guy's bike!