Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Floating the Li River

We spent a full day with our wonderful guide Amy. We had busy day of sightseeing around Yangshuo, and she picked us up right on time at 9 am.
Amy had good news for us--the river was once again open for rafting, so we drove straight to the "loading area". It was a busy place--lots of other tourists taking bamboo raft trips. We hopped on board our raft--it was really quite small, with 3 bamboo double seats under a small canopy. There was just David, Amy and I onboard, along with our "boatman". We were some of the last to leave the boarding area, so most of the traffic was ahead of us instead of around us. Of course, the scenery was magnificent everywhere we looked, and we took way too many pictures!
Our raft:
 Beautiful karsts along the river:

Here we are!

It was quiet, peaceful trip down the Li River from the outskirts of Yangshuo to the small town of Fuli. After about an hour we pulled into Fuli, got off our raft and walked through the very oldest part of the town. Fuli is a very old village, and was once a prosperous river trade location. It's long been known for it's hand crafted and hand painted fans, and we were able to visit a family workshop and watch them make the fans--it's quite a process. Soon our driver met us to drive to the weekly market on the other side of Fuli.

Amy showing us Chinese medicinal herbs for sale--at the entrance to Fuli village

Pagoda at entrance to Fuli village where a farmer was selling Chinese medicinal herbs:
 Entrance gate to old Fuli village"

Street in Fuli village
 Old Fuli village:

David in Old Fuli village--he liked this truck!:

An older entrance to Old Fuli village, down by the river:

Visiting the Fuli market was fascinating window into local Chinese culture. Amy explained that the farmers come from many miles away to bring their produce and animals to market and many of the local citizens walk from outlying smaller villages to buy supplies. There were several "healers" selling herbal remedies and even one treating a patient right out in the open. She translated the hand lettered signs each healer had set up explaining what illness they treated, and showed us some of the medicinal herbs and explained what they were used for.

Fuli Market, Chinese medicinal herbs for sale:

A traditional healer at the market, he was treating a wound on this old man's leg:

Eye "doctor" at Fuli Market

We walked through the "wet market" looking at the many types, parts and pieces of pork, chicken and even dog meat for sale. Amy was very careful to stop us before we got to the dog butchering section, making sure that we wouldn't be offended or upset. Of course we'd never eat dog meat, but it's not our place to say that is wrong for another culture to do so. She explained some of the old customs around eating dog meat--that men think it will make them strong and hard working. She did say that it is not widely eaten in this area, but mostly in the smaller villages. I did take a picture of the dog meat, but I won't include in our blog.

Sweet old couple at Fuli Market:

Chicken for sale!

Friendly gentleman at Fuli Market:

Two women sorting their wares, Fuli Market:

Tea seller, Fuli Market

Farm fresh eggs and a beautiful Chinese woman, Fuli Market

Interesting Chinese farmer "raincoat" made from palm fibers, Fuli Market.  According to Amy, these ares still made and worn by local farmers.  I would have bought this if I'd had room in my suitcase to bring it home!

We also saw lots of live chickens, ducks and pigeons in baskets. We watched one man bargaining for two chickens. After agreeing on a price the lady took the chickens out of the basket, snapped their necks and weighed them on an old fashioned, hand held balance scale. The man then paid, and walked off holding the two chickens by the necks! Much fresher than the chicken we buy in our supermarkets!

Weighing some chickens for a customer:

Cute little girl and her mom, Fuli Market

The most interesting part of the market for me was seeing the beautiful Chinese locals. They seemed a bit curious about us but were friendly and welcoming, and we exchanged many hellos and ni-hous. I was able to take a few photos, after asking permission, of course!

2 beautiful Chinese women at Fuli Market.  Our guide Amy was talking to them about buying leaves for wrapping and steaming rice:

Sweet little baby, Fuli Market:

This old women REALLY wanted me to buy a pair of baby shoes from her!

Our driver was waiting for us on the other side of the market for the 20 minute drive to our next stop--the ancient walled village of JiuXian. The village was founded about 1200 years ago, although the buildings remaining today are about 800 years old. We strolled around the narrow lanes, and we were able to go into a few of the buildings. In one home, the family still proudly displayed a picture of Chairman Mao.

Just outside of JiuXian village:

Looking out from JiuXian village, across a fish pond and rice paddy:

Ancient building, JiuXian Village

 Here we are!  In front of a full moon door, JiuXian village

One of several Mao posters we saw in homes around China--they still love him!

Inside a large old courtyard home, JiuXian Village

JiuXian Village

Oral hygiene corner!  Old courtyard home, JiuXian Village:

Door, still decorated for Chinese New Year, JiuXian Village

Narrow lane, JiuXian Village

Entry gate, JiuXian Village

When we were ready to leave, there was a small table set up with a few trinkets for sale, so of course I had to take a look! I bargained hard--which was an interesting process with the language barrier. Our method: writing numbers on the palms of our hands with an ink pen! I just kept writing my best offer, and came away with an old well used "little red book" with a picture of Chairman Mao on the inside cover. Cost me a whole $4!

After that village we drove further out into the country to see a very old "moon bridge". It is a beautiful bridge, and we climbed up the steps and over the bridge and walked along the river enjoying the amazing views. As we walked back to the car we stopped at a small roadside stand and bought a pomelo and some kumquats from a local farmer. I've never had kumquats before--but I'm hooked now! They are delicious little things.

Moon Bridge

Beautiful Full Moon bridge:

Old steps up over Full Moon Bridge:

The view from Full Moon Bridge:

Here we are--in front of Full Moon Bridge

Old man selling pomelos and kumquats near Full Moon bridge:

We then drove to another ancient village, this one even older than JiuXian. Again we were able to walk through the village, take pictures and even meet some of the residents. One sweet old lady agreed to have her picture taken, and on Amy's advice we gave her a couple of yen. She wanted her picture take with both of us!

Our new village friend:

She's a tiny old woman--I'm only 5'3"

She really liked Dave

Amy asked us if we would like to stop for lunch--and of course we said yes! We drove to the outskirts of Yangshuo to a restaurant know for their delicious beer fish. It was reall a pretty setting, with the tables set on canopied bamboo rafts right on the river. We let Amy order for us--the menu was NOT in English! We had delicious beer fish, stir fried greens and rice. Both dishes were very good, and we enjoyed visiting with Amy and her son.
The view at lunch--doesn't get much better than this!

 Amy's son "Jake", at lunch along the river:

Our lunch setting--on a small raft on the river:

A funny story about her son: We had asked Amy how she got her English name, and she explained that some of her first clients thought she needed an English name--so they "named" her Amy! We asked what her son's English name was, and she told us he didn't have one. Well, we took care of that! We suggested the name Jake (I wonder why??) and they both thought that was a nice name. I told her that was my father's name, and he was a very good man, very strong and healthy in his old age, and we wished the same for her son. Amy carefully wrote it down, and said that was his official English name from now on!
After our lunch Amy took us to her home and her farm. It was lovely to see where she lives, and I told her I that when I thought of her many years from now I could picture her in her home and gardens. She proudly showed us her home, offered us some tea, and then walked us around to see her fish pond, rice paddy, gardens and fruit trees. We walked through a wooded area to her first home in this village, where she lived with her husbands family after her marriage. It is still Chinese custom that after marriage the young lady will move to her husband's village, living with and taking care of his parents in their old age. Both of her husband's parents are now gone and her son and his wife live with them. She was very excited to tell us that she was going to be a grandmother in 2 months!
Amy in front of her home:

This is a photo of Amy as a young girl, it was on the wall in her living room.  What a beautiful woman, inside and out:

Dave and I in a field by Amy's husband's family home in his village--what a beautiful setting!  It's empty now, as Amy and her husband built a new home nearby.  She said David and I could live there for free!

It was now time to go back to Yangshou--we had enjoyed another wonderful day with Amy. We couldn't have picked a better guide!
Tomorrow: Amy will pick us up bright and early at 8 am for a 2 1/2 hour drive to the Longshen rice terraces and then we'll hike back into the Zhuang and Yao minority villages.


Deb Love being able to see this part of the world through our eyes- may never get there myself- and it is beautiful!

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