Showing posts with label Guangxi. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Guangxi. Show all posts

Sunday, August 12, 2007

China: Cruise along the Lijiang River in Guilin

A trip to Guilin would not be complete without a cruise along the Lijiang River. We had a fantastic cruise along the Lijiang River today! The picturesque karst landscape was simply spectacular despite it being a cloudy day.

Our group left downtown Guilin at about 8:15 a.m. and was at the wharf 45 minutes later. I was surprised to see so many cruise ferries waiting. There were just so many tourists, both local and foreign! Cruise ferries in fact left almost every 5 to 10 minutes. The trip down the river would take about five hours. Buffet lunch is prepared and served on board.

It was drizzling when we left the wharf. But that did not hamper us from proceeding to the roof deck of the ferry to enjoy the great scenery. Indeed, this is a highly-recommended tour which one must include in a China itinerary. In fact, the Lijiang River Scenic Zone is in the China tentative list for UNESCO World Heritage inscription. I'm sure the scenes from the Lijiang River below which I uploaded in YouTube will definitely whet your travel appetite.

Despite the fact that I wanted to sit down and relax in the air-conditioned area below, I just could not leave the roof deck since every curve and turn along the river offered new surprises and better views. Observing the daily life along the river was a very enriching experience. And it was amusing seeing how vendors sold their wares on a higher level because they would try to catch the ferries, rowing their rafts towards us and hooking them to the cruise boats as soon as they made contact so that they could sell their wares to the passengers.

At the end of the cruise is Yangshuo County which has an old town that is well-preserved but has been transformed into a tourist trap. Souvenir shops and inns now occupy this old settlement along the Li River. There were so many people, I found it difficult to move around. But at least all the old buildings were preserved and have become economically viable. I have a lot of photos in Multiply.

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Saturday, August 11, 2007

China: Guilin, forest of Sweet Osmanthus

The karst limestone landscape of Southern China are a recurring theme in many old Chinese paintings. And it was thus a pleasant surprise for me that the group was visiting Guilin, a city set amidst picturesque karst mountains, which is very famous in China for its fantastic natural and man-made scenery. Many Chinese say that Guilin's scenery is the "finest under heaven." The name of the city literally means "forest of Sweet Osmanthus" because of the large number of fragrant Sweet Osmanthus trees in the city. It’s a three hour flight from Beijing. There are also flights from other major cities such as Guangzhou and Shanghai.

As soon as we left the airport, the karst mountains greeted us. What is great about Guilin is despite the growth and urban development, they have managed to preserve most of the karst mountains as well as the old water system which linked the city together. It’s sad when I think about Baguio City since informal settlers have already occupied the once picturesque views; and there seems to nothing left of the natural environment. Same goes for the Pasig River and the esteros of Binondo and Sta. Cruz which I hope the City of Manila cleans and revives.

We arrived in time for lunch at the Shan Hu Hotel. The hotel is in downtown Guilin and it gave us a great view of the square in front of it. After lunch, we were given ample time to rest. But I decided to explore the vicinity. I visited Fir Lake beside the hotel which has two charming pagodas along the banks. After walking around, I rushed back to the hotel to catch our bus.

For the afternoon, we visited the Guihai Forest of Steles Museum. It’s a collection of over 200 steels carved around the karst mountains and its different caves. You could see that they come from different periods dating back to the Sui Dynasty since there are steles with the old Chinese calligraphy that is no longer in use.

In the evening, I went around the vicinity again. It was an incredible sight as the city's waterway areas were fantastically lit!

Today, we visited the Jing Jiang Palace, the seat of government of Guilin during imperial times. The Jing Jiang princes were generations of Ming princes dispatched by the emperor to govern Guilin.

At the back of the palace was an example of an Examination Hall where examinees sweated it out for three days and three nights answering the difficult examinations which were administered during imperial times.

In the afternoon, we went to the Jing Jiang Mausoleum, the burial grounds of the Ming princes. They are located five kilometers from the city center, at the foot of the grand Yao Mountain. Only one of the eleven tombs has been restored, namely the tomb of Zhuangjian. The setting of the tomb was panoramic as it was built amidst lush pine trees and surrounded by hills and mountains.

Ten figures can be found of each of the two side of the ceremonial way to the inner palace, which include animals such as elephants, unicorns, and pixiu. We had a forum with the local heritage managers in one of the halls of the tomb complex. Then it was back to downtown for dinner. Tomorrow we take a cruise along the Lijiang River!

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Friday, October 27, 2006

China: More from Nanning

Since we had a full day yesterday, our hosts from the All-China Youth Federation decided to make some changes in the schedule and brought us to one of the counties of Nanning City for some sightseeing.

We visited Yiling Cave in Wuming County which was about an hour from the city proper. Before entering the cave, visitors were treated to a cultural experience with the traditions and various ethnic groups of Guangxi presented in an interactive outdoor museum and show. As we entered the cultural park, a group of musicians played on local horns and drums to welcome the group. The tour took about 30 minutes before we finally reached the entrance of the cave.

Unlike our caves in the Philippines, the entire route inside Yiling Cave from top to bottom was all wired for a sort of lights show. I felt it was quite commercialized or maybe I just was not used to seeing neon lights inside a cave. It would have been better if they just used plain flood lights to give visitors an unadulterated view of the spectacular limestone formations. The cave experience seemed more Disneylandish to me than a visit to a natural wonder. Oh well! But overall, it was fun. And it was good exercise too since it obviously got me sweating.

After catching our breath, we boarded the buses to proceed back to the hotel for lunch. We hardly had time to rest and we were off to our next stop which was the secretariat of the China-ASEAN Expo for a briefing on the upcoming event. This was followed by a visit to Qinxiu Mountain again where we planted trees in the China-ASEAN Friendship Park. It would be nice to come back 20 or 30 years from now and revisit the trees we planted.

With that over, everyone was excited since next on our itinerary was shopping. As our hosts quipped, it was time to contribute to China's GDP. We were brought to this large shopping mall called New Mengzhidao (Dream Land) and given two hours to do our thing. Since I was not in a shopping mode given that I had to conserve funds for my trips to Beijing and Shanghai, I decided to sneak out for a while to take a walk to the city square which was just a few meters away.

In front of the Guangxi People's Hall was Minzu Square which was all spruced up for the China-ASEAN Expo. One thing I noticed in China was that the flowers along the streets and squares were all potted and can easily be replaced as soon as they wilt. So there is always a fresh supply of flowers greeting visitors.

I hope Mayor Atienza and our other Metro Manila mayors start to learn the importance of proper gardening in their cities because Chinese cities are just so green and colorful with well-maintained plants and flowers along roads, sidewalks, parks and plazas!

I also took a photo in front of a billboard with photos of Chairman Mao, Deng Xiaoping and Jiang Zemin. Unlike our political billboards in the Philippines which are for the selfish interests of our incumbent officials, this billboard honors the former leaders of China. And it's tastefully done with proper landscaping in front, not like the political billboards especially in Manila which is basically nothing but clutter!

In the evening, our hosts in Guangxi prepared a farewell banquet. And just like in the previous banquet, toasts were exchanged, this time with the local liquor which explains why a lot of people got drunk tonight, some people we know inlcuded. Hehe!

Thursday, October 26, 2006

China: Nanning, the Green City of China

We left the hotel early yesterday to proceed to the airport for our flight to Nanning, the capital of the Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region of China. We arrived in time for lunch. From the airport, we went straight to the Ming Yuan Hotel where buffet lunch was waiting for us. As always, food was overflowing! What else could you expect when China hosts international meets like these? They definitely know how to make their guests feel welcome.

Our first stop for the afternoon was the China Guangxi International Youth Exchange Institute where we met up with the Philippine delegation to another program sponsored by the Chinese government, the ASEAN Youth Cadres. After a brief introduction by the school director and a presentation by the Philippine and Lao students at the institute, we proceeded to Qinxiu Mountain. On the way, we saw the preparations for the 3rd China-ASEAN Expo which is held annually in Nanning.

There wasn't much time so they just took us for a drive around the park. We had to rush back to prepare for the banquet together with the officials of Guangxi government. As always, the banquet at the Ming Yuan Hotel was superb! Toasts for China-ASEAN friendship were exchanged the whole evening. On the right is the Philippine delegation with Madame Chang.

Today was reserved for the China-ASEAN Youth Forum. This was an opportunity for the ASEAN and Chinese youth representatives to discuss the topic "voluntary spirit and civic consciousness of the youth." I was tasked to speak in behalf of the Philippine delegation during the country reports in the morning. Each country delivered a situationer on the state of volunteerism in their own countries. One thing we noticed from Philippine statistics was that the incidence of poverty was lower were levels of volunteerism was high and the opposite where there was little volunteer work. That says a lot about volunteering. If Filipinos stop thinking about what they would get in return for everything that they do, we'll definitely go places!

In the afternoon, we were divided into discussion groups with two representatives per country in each group. We discussed the same topic but this time offered some possible solutions to certain issues raised such as the need for a regional body to coordinate volunteer efforts. I was asked to report for the group during the forum conclusion. Extra work for me! Haha!

In the evening, we had a party with each delegation as well as groups from Guangxi preparing cultural presentations. Our presentation was hilarious! Haha! Let's leave it at that.
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