China in Your Hand; TRAVEL the Big Tourist Attractions Are Already Well Documented. JENNIFER FAIRHURST Travels to Guangxi Province in Search of a China beyond the Great Wall

Liverpool Echo (Liverpool, England), July 13, 2013 | Go to article overview

China in Your Hand; TRAVEL the Big Tourist Attractions Are Already Well Documented. JENNIFER FAIRHURST Travels to Guangxi Province in Search of a China beyond the Great Wall


Byline: JENNIFER FAIRHURST

IF I HAD been plucked from London and dropped in Guilin, I would have instantly known I was in China.

The short connecting flight from Shanghai felt like a journey into a magical land.

Sunset and mist floated around Guilin's numerous limestone karsts - the straight-up-and-down cartoon-like hills familiar from Chinese brush paintings - with the Li River meandering through them, encased by rice paddy fields.

| A Yangshuo Guilin is in the southern Guangxi province. It is regarded as one of the most beautiful parts of China and has inspired innumerable paintings and literary works. It is also a popular tourist destination and attracts visitors in their thousands.

But don't let that put you off.

It's well worth putting up with the crowds.

The best way to experience the awe-inspiring scenery is on the water. A boat ride on the River Li from Guilin to Yangshuo is touristy, but to be on board a modern motorboat weaving its way through the ancient karsts, each with their unique shapes and their different legends, is a must.

As you glide along the still water you pass fishing villages where fishermen still use cormorants to catch their harvest.

Bamboo trees line the water and black butterflies the size of your hand flutter by with prehistoric-looking dragonflies dancing along the water.

Next, the boat pulls into Yangshou. The city is best experienced on a bike, which can be hired on most streets.

Be careful though, because it is both hairy and exhilarating negotiating your way through the traffic. Most residents have abandoned their pushbikes in favour of mopeds and the Highway Code doesn't seem to exist.

field in province It is easy, though, to escape the wacky races and drift into the countryside.

It is also a great opportunity to interact with the locals and get an idea of how rural Chinese people live. Carry a light waterproof, though, as the humid conditions mean the area is prone to heavy rainfall and cycling when you're drenched isn't so much fun.

To sample some local culture, a visit to Impression of Liu San is a must. Directed by Zhang Yimou, the mastermind behind the opening ceremony of the 2008 Beijing Olympics, the production is an outdoor performance set on the River Li, with a dozen mist-shrouded mountains as the backdrop. The reflections, moonlight, cloud and rain serve as the stage dressing, made all the more dramatic with lighting.

A love story, it has a cast of 500, who are mostly local fishermen, and uses amazing lighting tricks, ghostly fishing boats and even giant red ribbons to tell the story with folk songs. The hour-long performance will have you open-mouthed all the way through.

In search of more of China's beautiful scenery, Hangzhou is a two-hour flight from Guilin.

The grim suburban approach into the city doesn't prepare you for the beauty of its main attraction, the beautiful West Lake. Carpeted with floating lotus flowers, surrounded by lush mountains and ancient pagodas, a boat trip on its still waters is an oriental delight.

Hangzhou is also the place to sample green tea. The area is famous for the quality of its tea leaves, which can be swallowed whole and apparently have health-giving properties. Take an excursion to a plantation and take part in a tea ceremony.

A warning - good quality tea is more expensive than alcohol and can cost more than PS15 for a small tin! …

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