Li River Cruise

November 9

A tour bus picked us up in front of the Home Inn in Guilin and drove us out of the city to the Li (pronounced Lee) River docks.   A parade of cruise boats navigate the shallow waters of the Li every day.  We were herded onto one ... English speaking on the bottom deck ... Chinese speaking on the upper deck. 

All passengers are welcome to use the top observation deck. 

Lunch included.

For centuries the scenery along the Li River, particularly the 80 kilometres (49 miles) from Guilin to Yangshuo, has been praised in paintings and poetry. 

The trip takes an estimated 7-8 hours.  Along the way towering karst (limestone formations) peaks stretch up from the river, rice fields and tropical landscape.  UNESCO describes the South China region as "unrivalled in terms of the diversity of its karst features and landscapes."


Water buffalo graze the flat fields along the river or wallow in the cool water.  Fishing and ferry boats ply the waters paying little attention to the endless line of tour boats. 

Reaping food from the river is done in many ways ... gathering shellfish by hand; fishing by net, rod, and cormorants.  The trained cormorant (or shag) has been used in China for fishing since ancient times. 

Fishermen make a narrow noose near the base of the cormorant's throat which only allows the bird to swallow small fish.  The fisherman shoos the birds off his raft with the pole he uses to guide the raft, then the birds do what comes naturally ... dive below the surface in search of fish.  When they catch one too large to swallow, they return to the raft where the fisherman removes the fish.


Besides searching for fish along the Li River, Chinese entrepreneurs search for tourist dollars.   They manoeuvre narrow bamboo rafts alongside the tourist boats, hook on and then hold up for view the items they are offering for sale. 

When they are finished with one boatload of tourists, they unhook, float away and manoeuvre their raft to pull along side the next boat. 

Not an easy way to make a living. 

While tourists were in awe of the scenery, at the back of each tour boat cooks were at work preparing lunch.  For such small kitchens using such basic equipment, it was amazing the ample lunch which was prepared for our boat alone.   


As we experienced during our Three Gorges trip on the Yangtze, each peak has been given an name which ties into an mystical legend or superstition.  The easiest one to identify was the Mural Hill, about 60km (37miles) from Guilin.  A sheer stone face has natural colourations in yellow, white, black, grey and green.  From a distance they appear to be rock paintings in the shape of horses.  It is claimed that there are nine horses ... most visitors usually only make out two or three at best.  To see any more a person would need a keen eye and an active imagination.

Legend says the Monkey King, Sun Wukong, raised horses in heaven.  One day when the Monkey King was not watching, nine of his horses made their way to the world.  Here in the Li River Valley they galloped through the beautiful mountains, grazed on lush vegetation and drank fresh clean water; they had no need to find their way back to heaven.  Monkey King wanted them back, but the horses hid in a cave.  The search continued until one day they were found bathing in the Li River at dawn.   In their hurry to escape, the horses ran into the cliff where their images turned to stone as punishment for their disobedience.

To appreciate the incredible scenery along the Li River no imagination or special skills  are required ... just simply open your eyes. 

click here to continue November 9 and Yangshuo ... 

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