A Whole New World

China Pictorial (English) - - Contents - Text and pho­to­graphs by He­lena Vil­lar Se­gura

Sud­denly, a vi­o­lent storm broke out across the val­ley. Rain poured down. Ev­ery­thing turned gray un­der the thun­der­ous fall­ing water; the thick lay­ers of mois­ture cov­ered ev­ery­thing be­hind us. With nei­ther a lo­cal nor a trav­eler in sight, we be­gan ped­dling our bikes faster through the huge rock for­ma­tions sur­round­ing the Yulong River in the Guangxi Zhuang Au­ton­o­mous Re­gion. As we moved, they emerged from the ground, colos­sal and end­less, one af­ter another, ex­tend­ing as far as the eyes could see on a stretch of land seem­ingly un­fit for hu­man habi­ta­tion. The vast veg­e­ta­tion de­fy­ing grav­ity climbed the ver­ti­cal cliffs of the karst peaks over our heads: The scenery was bru­tal.

I have vis­ited Guangxi twice. Peo­ple say the first time is unique, but that wis­dom didn’t ap­ply in my case. On my sec­ond visit, I still couldn’t be­lieve what I saw. Last sum­mer we ar­rived in Guilin, a fa­mous tourist city in Guangxi, with over­sized lug­gage and a plan of a five-day trip. Since I had vis­ited be­fore, I was an­tic­i­pat­ing my fam­ily’s re­ac­tion and un­der­es­ti­mat­ing my own. I didn’t think I would be so blown away again.

The drive from the air­port to the ho­tel was the least beau­ti­ful leg of the trip. As one nears the city, a land sprin­kled with in­di­vid­ual green moun­tains is fi­nally re­vealed. The build­ings, high­ways and cars are not much dif­fer­ent from those found any­where else in China ex­cept that they min­gle with karst peaks.

When night fell, I de­cided to leave the cur­tains open when I went to bed. Early the next morn­ing, I woke up to a won­der­ful view. On the way to the Long­sheng Rice Ter­races, the bus ride was bumpy. The sound of its en­gine mixed with that of the river flow­ing down the moun­tain, and the bus seemed to teeter dan­ger­ously off the cliff, fright­en­ing my rel­a­tives, which gave me déjà vu of my first days on Chi­nese roads.

Our ho­tel was lo­cated right on the top of the hill in the scenic area within Dazhai Vil­lage, and we had to walk an hour to reach the place. Some parts of the path were cov­ered in mud; luck­ily we left our suit­cases back in Guilin. Car­ry­ing light back­packs, we eas­ily made it to the high­est part of a moun­tain cov­ered by thou­sands ou­sands of green rice ter­races. A cheer­ful at­mos­phere, mo­sphere, flow­ers ev­ery­where and a panoramic mic view from the bal­cony of the gue­stroom m wel­comed us. Af­ter tak­ing a dip in a swim­ming pool filled with water flow­ing ng straight down the moun­tain, we set off to ex­plore the vil­lage. Right be­fore the sun­set, et, we walked to one of the most amaz­ing ng scenic spots, where mag­nif­i­cent 650-year-old ar-old rice ter­races con­tinue to be farmed. Down the hill were reser­voirs, canals and tun­nels un­nels

that pro­duce in­come for lo­cals. Up the hill was a dream land­scape, an ex­cuse to for­get daily mor­tal life in fa­vor of an in­cred­i­ble feel­ing. Hap­pi­ness seems to wash over vis­i­tors. A day later, we dined at an In­dian restau­rant in down­town Guilin and strolled along the lake­side to cap­ture the glint­ing Sun & Moon Twin Pago­das re­flect­ing off the sur­face.

On Au­gust 9, 2017, the cli­max of the trip fi­nally ar­rived. My cousin hadn’t stopped ask­ing about “the cruise” the en­tire time. Yet ac­cord­ing to her ap­praisal af­ter­wards, the cruise wasn’t lux­ury, which wasn’t cheap ei­ther. The food wasn’t tasty or ap­peal­ing and the cabin was noisy and chaotic. How­ever, at lunchtime, more than a hun­dred peo­ple dis­ap­peared from the deck and it be­came peace­ful. By then, the most breath­tak­ing view on Earth sur­rounded us. Again, we watched those sin­gu­lar karst peaks loom over the hori­zon and rise from it as we moved down the river. On the banks, gi­ant bam­boos swayed as the wind blew, among which water buf­fa­los were tak­ing baths. Sail­ing on the Li­jiang River feels like a step back from re­al­ity; senses lose cred­i­bil­ity and thoughts col­lapse. That is how I felt the first time around, but also the sec­ond, so I vowed to make a third trip. I wanted to take ev­ery­one close to me there.

Upon ar­riv­ing in Yang­shuo, a color­ful crowd ap­peared near the lit­tle port of the city. Dozens of street stalls dec­o­rated a large gallery that guided us to the park­ing lot. Ven­dors in­sisted on show­ing us all sorts of goods. Since I love hag­gling, I wanted to stop and ask about the prices, but I was lug­ging a mas­sive amount of lug­gage and we were herded too quickly by the crowd to the en­trance. Fur­ther­more, we were on a mis­sion to con­tract a car and knew it may not be easy. Ev­ery­one was look­ing for the same thing. Af­ter half of an hour, a young guy who laughed at my Chi­nese took us to Jima Vil­lage, where we stayed for a cou­ple of days.

And there, as I ex­pected, we found the high­light of our voy­age to Guangxi: The ho­tel, lost in karst par­adise, had hosted us the year ear­lier when my par­ents came to visit. I chose the same place on pur­pose, and the owner of the lit­tle ho­tel re­mem­bered us. The cui­sine, the views, the en­vi­ron­ment, the land­scape of the area and ev­ery­thing else were stun­ning. We sat on the rooftop of the build­ing, had long con­ver­sa­tions, read, wan­dered around and watched bam­boo rafts cross the river.

The next day we rode bikes among the sur­round­ing peaks. And right then, the thun­der­storm hap­pened. And right there, we felt the world wasn’t the world any­more.

Karst land­scape in Yang­shuo just be­fore a thun­der­storm.

Dazhai Vil­lage en­gulfed by a sea of 650-year- old rice ter­races on a sunny day.

Be­fore sun­set, the Sun & Moon Twin Pago­das in Guilin re­flect off the lake.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from China

© PressReader. All rights reserved.