Travel China: A Different Kind of Country Life in the First of Three Stories to Celebrate Chinese New Year, Katherine Tanko Tours Yangshou's Limestone Peaks and Paddies
Tanko, Katherine, The Independent (London, England)
Beyond the souvenir stalls and tourist cafes, everyday Yangshuo lives on. Tractors heading for the fields putter noisily down cobbled streets; men huddle outside shops playing mahjong, while kids wielding badminton rackets leap and squeal in the streets. And visitors are welcome.
But things have changed in Yangshuo. This small country town in Guangxi province, south-east China, has created its own special niche in the country's burgeoning tourist trade. Cashing in on the steady stream of tourists from nearby Guilin - described by generations of Chinese poets as the most beautiful place on earth, and better known than Yangshuo - more people are forgoing the safety of Guilin's star- rated hotels to wallow in Yangshuo's authentic country charms.
The town now boasts enough amenities to serve as the ideal base for exploring Guangxi, and travel agents in town can arrange tours, tickets and excursions to the local attractions such as Dong villages and the famous rice terraces of Longsheng. But there is also plenty to do right here. There are bicycles for hire, and the aquatically minded can even rent kayaks for a day on the river. If your stay extends beyond a few days, you can sign up for some Mandarin, t'ai chi or Chinese cookery lessons. For a first-hand glimpse of country life, though, you can join up with Li Yun Zhao, one of a dozen local farmers who offer tailor- made tours into the countryside. These popular tours give visitors a chance to experience village life at close quarters and to sample authentic rural cuisine, since lunch in the guide's own home is included. A bicycle, some basic English and a notebook to record the glowing comments of satisfied customers are all that's needed to launch a lucrative career as a rural tour guide. Li first began giving tours in 1992. "I needed to make money," she explained, as we set out from Yangshuo on foot. "My house was very old and I wanted to send my three children to school. A few women were already doing tours and I thought, hey, I can do that." We cut down a dirt path and were soon lost in the undulating karst rock landscape for which the Guangxi region is famous. Mossy limestone peaks tower above a patchwork of fish farms, citrus groves and paddies, laced with meandering, jade-green streams. A group of women, knee-deep in paddy mud, teased Li as we passed, scolding her for strolling around when there was work to be done. I was invited to roll up my trousers and get down in the mud to try my hand at transplanting the tender rice seedlings. Collective farming ended here in 1981, when every family was allotted a portion of land. Li spoke with candour about life for the contemporary Chinese peasant. "Before, if you were lazy or worked hard, you got the same. So no one bothered to work hard and there were some bad harvests. Now, if people work hard, they can do well for themselves." We passed through a small village where the sound of voices reciting lessons echoed from a schoolroom. On one grassy verge a lone toddler sat clutching a rice bowl while his mother worked in the fields nearby. "No mother-in-law," Li commented sadly, and asked how women in the West could manage without the live-in help most Chinese families take for granted. Her relationship with her own mother-in- law had a rocky start, marked by …
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Publication information: Article title: Travel China: A Different Kind of Country Life in the First of Three Stories to Celebrate Chinese New Year, Katherine Tanko Tours Yangshou's Limestone Peaks and Paddies. Contributors: Tanko, Katherine - Author. Newspaper title: The Independent (London, England). Publication date: February 13, 1999. Page number: 26. © 2009 The Independent - London. Provided by ProQuest LLC. All Rights Reserved.
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