This is the second of photographer Greg Whitton’s photo blogs from his trip to China with us earlier in the year. Both images are clickable, so read the story about them and click through to see more of his work.
One reason we chose the Fine China tour was that it took us to Yangshuo, in South West China. Yangshuo is a place you’ve seen many times before, most probably on a painting or photograph on the wall of your local Chinese takeaway. Think of strange towering peaks of limestone, covered with brush and trees, a winding slow moving river amongst the peaks, and a cormorant fisherman silently punting his bamboo raft along cormorant on standby to catch the fish, and you’ll know what I mean. Yangshuo used to be a backpackers paradise, it’s not quite that anymore, but it still retains a charm, especially so if you hire a bike (about £3 a day) and explore the countryside yourself. Most tour operators take you to Guilin (70km up river) of which Yangshuo is actually an outlying suburb (gives you an idea of the scale of Guilin city), and then they only give you a taste of Yangshuo by giving you the tourist river cruise (about 4 hours) to Yangshuo, and then just a few hours shopping before a bus ride back to Guilin (the boats can’t carry the weight of tourists against the flow of the water!).
We on the other hand had two nights in a respectable hotel on the outskirts of Yangshuo. Part of the trip package includes a bamboo raft trip. I’d advise the guide that you’d prefer to do this as early in the morning as possible, and at the quietest centre for this as possible; because if you go a little too late, you may encounter hundreds of Chinese tourists who want to do nothing more than soak you with water guns in a scene that resembles an amusement park.
We got the best of both worlds, taking two trips, the first to said amusement park and the second to a quiet section as early in the morning as we could. This image is one of my favourites from the trip. It was taken on the raft on the quieter trip. We were one of only a couple of rafts on the water, which was still and mirror-like and the whole thing had a serene atmosphere. It wasn’t quite as early as the photo suggests, with the golden glow of the Sun, that is digital post-processing, but the photo does capture the warm ambient tranquillity to the whole experience, with the bonus of a few majestic peaks in the background.
Another reason for choosing the Fine China tour was that you get to visit the Dragon’s Backbone, a series of hillsides at Longsheng into which are cut layer after layer after layer of rice growing terraces up to a height of some 900m. Depending on the time of year you go, these change quite drastically. In mid-summer the terraces are green and lush as the shoots of the rice plants grow. Towards autumn they mature and turn golden ready for harvest. In winter, it’s possible they may have a covering of snow, or at the very least, mist and cloud envelope the landscape, and in spring, the terraces full of water will provide fantastic patterned reflections of the sky. This was perhaps one of our favourite parts of the whole trip, being far outside a city and away from some of the pollution which plagues modern China, and although the locals make every effort to gain from tourism, there is an air of authenticity about the place. In this image I managed to get a fairly wide angle to show the numerous contours of the terraces in the most detail. Luckily an elderly worker walked into view along the path on the right, checking his plants and adding some degree of scale to the image.