The Li and Peach Blossom rivers merge together at Guilin and form four city lakes before they move on down the mountain. The lakes are joined by locks and we take a night boat tour to see the twelve bridges joining the mainland to an island in the center of the lakes.
Picture taking is difficult as the boat chugs along. The twelve bridges are small imitations of world-famous bridges with frescoes and decorations of great beauty and interest. It‘s ooo and aahh time. They imitate the Brooklyn Bridge, Cambridge Math Class Bridge, The Golden Gate, the Glass Bridge… I didn’t recognize all of them or get them into my journal. The Cambridge Math Class Bridge is so-called because students at Cambridge supposedly took it apart to understand how it was built and then put it back together again. In the dark, night fishing with their cormorants, the boatman uses a cane to keep them moving. He smacks and scolds when a bird circles behind him and tries to steal a fish out of the basket and pretend it was newly caught. He calls to them, “Ai, ai, ai”! The birds work quickly, fly out, dive, and return. It was musical; his voice echoing over the water as the boat moved away.
The famous Sun and Moon pagodas are beautifully lit up at night. One leads to another under water. We saw a charming tea house on an island with a replica of the Empress’s Stone Boat we recognize from the Summer Palace.
The trees, on shore and on the islands, the bridges, are all lit up with specialized lighting. Bands play from the shore as we pass by. Built to entertain, More realistic than Disneyland, we floated along, mesmerized by the sights, thinking, how lucky we are to take this magical boat ride
The next morning, we load onto a boat like this one for an 83 kilometer trip up the Li to view unique karst rock formations. The osmanthus, a type of purple acacia, is in bloom. It reflects its color on the water and fills the air with a fragrance like orange blossoms. It is used for tea, medicine and perfume in China.
Ten thousand boats a day cruise the Li. Sampans furnish them with fresh fish and greens for the meals they prepare. Chinese people do not eat “dead” fish. Restaurants in China have aquariums full of fish and only kill it when you sit down and order. The boat kitchens are always at the back of the boat.
I find myself more interested in a glimpse of “old China” revealed on the banks and water of the River Li, like this boatman ferrying a man and his bike across the river. We see many of these flat bamboo boats that seem barely able to float without swamping.
We see kids bathing their water buffalo. Buffalo, pigs, and dogs roam quite freely, sometimes invading a golf course near Guilin. Vicki tells us that on another tour she saw a farmer drive a herd of buffalo across the lanes of the freeway. People drive slowly here, and they stopped and none were harmed.
Vicki tells us that the minority people from this village were persecuted 120 years ago and moved up higher in the mountains. The buildings still stand. Some tours take you into various villages along the Li.