Cormorant Fishing in Yangshuo

Chinese fisherman on his bamboo boat fishing with his Cormorants
Chinese fisherman on his bamboo boat fishing with his Cormorants

For more than 1000 years fishermen in Yangshuo have used trained cormorants to fish in the rivers. Going out on the Li River at night to watch these fishermen at work is one of the most popular activities of Yanshuo’s nightlife. This way of fishing has existed in china for generations and over the years, it has become a way to earn money and attract the tourist. 

We were taken out onto the river in a small boat and got to cruise next to the fishermen at work on their bamboo rafts.

The birds are taken by the fisherman at a young age and become bonded to them. They then catch fish according to natural instincts but are prevented from swallowing all but the smallest fish by a ring placed around their neck during the fishing process. However, the birds are not stupid and refuse to catch more fish unless they are rewarded occasionally which the fishermen do with small crabs and fish.

Fisherman retrieving the fish from a Cormorant
Fisherman retrieving the fish from a Cormorant

With an order from the fisherman, the well-trained cormorants dove into the water to find fish and catch them. They are so good at diving that they went under water for quite a long time. When they succeed in getting any fish, they proudly swam back to the raft with their catch.

Seeing how close I can get to these magnificent birds.
Seeing how close I can get to these magnificent birds.

The fisherman then has the bird spit the fish up and sends him back into the water again. My impression was that they looked quite healthy and were enjoying diving into the river after the fish. They were treated very well by the fisherman who looked very serene standing atop his bamboo raft.

It was a short trip, about 40 minutes but it included a stop for photos where I actually got to hold one of the cormorants!

I got to have a Cormorant on my arm!!!
I got to have a Cormorant on my arm!!!

Visiting an Ancient Qing Dynasty house in Yangshuo countryside

Mom with the owner oif this old mansion!
Mom with the owner oif this old mansion!
One of the highlights of our cycling tour!!
One of the highlights of our cycling tour!!

If you are going to Yangshuo, you should definitely do a cycling tour through the breathtaking countryside. While on our cycling tour we all enjoyed the beautiful natural scenery and the fresh air. Its also the best way to learn about the life style of the local people and see what their residential houses look like. 

The whole valley of the Dragon River is amazing. The mountains, the fields, everything is so lush and green. About 8 kilometers from Yangshuo is the village of Jiuxian. Here with the mountains as a backdrop there is a whole set of old mansions and Qing Dynasty buildings around 300 years old.

The owners are the descendants of the original families
The owners are the descendants of the original families
Playing around with one of their swords
Playing around with one of their swords

The ancient villages and Karst limestone hills in Yangshuo attract thousands of travelers at home and abroad. In the villages, there are some well preserved big houses and mansions of wealthy families in the past. Many of them are well preserved and the descendants of the families are still living in them.

We were shown around one of these old mansions by the lovely owners. It was such an interesting and amazing experience, hearing about their family history and even learning a bit about the wonderful Chinese culture. 

Inside the mansion
Inside the mansion
Letting us all taste her home-made snake wine!
Letting us all taste her home-made snake wine!
Are you brave enough to drink this snake wine?
Are you brave enough to drink this snake wine?
Looking out over the small courtyard
Looking out over the small courtyard

The small courtyard of this majestic building was filled with beautiful details of their country lifestyle. It s a pity that some of the house are turning into runes but there are still lots in good condition that are definitely worth a visit. 

This peaceful countryside journey is the perfect escape from the boisterous urban cities of China. To cycle through the breathtaking scenery of Yangshuo should definitely be on everyone’s must-visit lists.

Lady sitting outside the house selling some souveniers.
Lady sitting outside the house selling some souveniers.
Some of the guys from our fabulous China Oddysey
Some of the guys from our fabulous China Oddysey

Cycling through the rice paddies and Karst Mountains of Yangshuo

Group Cycling through the amazing Yangshuo Countryside
Group Cycling through the amazing Yangshuo Countryside

Ready for the open road!!
Ready for the open road!!

Yangshuo is a popular place for cycling tours as the town is surrounded by karst mountains, winding rivers and beautiful scenery.I don’t know who was more scared of the day of cycling that lay ahead, me or my mom. We are both quite unfit when it comes to cycling but we were really looking forward to the bicycle ride through the Yangshuo countryside.

Our group got bicycles and bicycle helmets from the hotel we were staying at. I was the “lucky” one to get a baby blue peapod motorbike helmet as they ran out of bicycle helmets.  Luckily there was a light drizzle every now and again so I didn’t get too hot wearing it.

This is where the town ends and the countryside adventure started!!
This is where the town ends and the countryside adventure started!!

We got to experience the hustle & bustle of the Yangshuo traffic for 10 minutes before we escaped onto the country roads of the beautiful Yangshuo countryside. The scenery along the path that we followed was breathtaking! Biking alongside the paddy fields and orchards that surround the mist covered mountains gave us a fascinating insight into life in rural China.

Pitstop next to the beautiful Yangshuo River
Pitstop next to the beautiful Yangshuo River
Cycling through fields of rice paddies, absolutely breathtaking!
Cycling through fields of rice paddies, absolutely breathtaking!

Mom standing on Dragon Bridge!!
Mom standing on Dragon Bridge!!

Our first official rest stop was at Dragon Bridge. We made our way through small villages and over bumpy roads to get to the 400 year old Yu Long (dragon) Bridge. Although the bridge is not particularly spectacular the scenery is magnificent and worth the whole ride! Looking out over the river filled with all the bamboo rafts made me forget about my sore bum for a while!

The famous Moon Hill!!
The famous Moon Hill!!

Arriving at Moon Hill
Arriving at Moon Hill

Just up the road from Dragon Bridge we reached Moonhill which is about 8km south of Yangshuo. This is a very popular scenic spot the main attraction being a hill with a huge hole in the shape of a moon. The hills here can be climbed for spectacular vistas from the top. It is not an incredibly long trek to the top but the gradient and strange angle of the 400 odd steps that are covered in slimy moss didn’t look that inviting. So my mom and i opted not to join the group for the 400 steps to the top and waited for them at the bottom. We sat down at one of the hawkers at the entrance and had some very tasty bean jelly while got resting our sore bums.

Enjoying some very tasty bean jelly
Enjoying some very tasty bean jelly

Stopping off for lunch!
Stopping off for lunch!

The scenery did make up for any pain and I stopped a lot to take loads of photos. But definitely going to start riding more bicycle at home so that next time I do a cycling tour I will not be in so much pain. For lunch we stopped at a local house and had the most amazing pumpkin and taro root with loads of other local dishes. Lunch was fabulous and just the boost we needed for the bicycle ride back to town.

Getting back onto the bike after lunch I realized that I could hardly sit on the bike my bum hurt so much. It was quite a balancing act to make it back but it was such an amazing experience.

The ideal place for a rest stop.....
The ideal place for a rest stop…..
So tranquil and beautiful out here
So tranquil and beautiful out here

Wordless Wednesday: Yangshuo

All through out WordPress, bloggers post a photo without an explanation, it’s called Wordless Wednesday!

Yangshuo, China
Yangshuo, China

Published as part of Wordless Wednesday.

Cruising China’s Li River and exploring the historical Xingping village

Cruising down the Li River on a powered bamboo raft
Cruising down the Li River on a powered bamboo raft
Such a picturesque surrounding
Such a picturesque surrounding

While staying in Yangshuo for a couple of days we went for a cruise on the Li River. The Li River or Lijiang is a river in China ranges 83 kilometers from Guilin to Yangshuo. The scenery along the river was breathtaking. That morning all the hills were shrouded in mist and the river covered in small boats and rafts.

Cruising on a bamboo raft down the Li River felt like a scene from a movie! The bamboo rafts have outboard motors strapped on to the back and an ideal way to travel on the river from Yangshuo.

That morning there was a light monsoon rain that just added to the mystic feel of the morning. We slowly drifted past the picturesque karst peaks, vivid green rice paddies and water buffalo on the banks of the river. We were all mesmerized by the unique natural landscape and I feel that my photos do not even come close to showing how beautiful it really is.

Such a peaceful mornings spent on the river
Such a peaceful mornings spent on the river
The hills were shrouded in mist
The hills were shrouded in mist

Xingping town
Xingping town

Along the way we stopped at Xingping town about 27 kilometers upstream from Yangshuo.  The town was initially settled in 265 AD, and was the regional center for Yangshuo County until Yangshuo was settled in 590 AD. Like Yangshuo, Xingping is surrounded by beautiful Karst mountains which definitely greatly enhances the charm of the town. Certainly, not as clean or developed as neighboring touristy Yangshuo, it nonetheless has a nice authentic feel to it complete with a few intact historical buildings and easy access to the Li River.

The old street is a one-kilometer long stone street lined with old brick buildings and assembly halls like those of many different provinces. Guandi (General Guan Yu) Temple which was built in the Qing Dynasty tell the long history of the town. The Guandi Temple was built in 1739 and there are surviving side halls and a theatrical stage. The theatrical stage in Guandi Temple is an architecture built in Qing Dynasty (1644-1911 A.D.)

The entrance to Guandi Temple
The entrance to Guandi Temple

This village has a small paper fan workshop where we had the chance to watch a lady create one of these magnificent pieces of art. It was quite a shame that while we were in the town it was raining quite heavily so we couldn’t really explore the beautiful streets and sights that the town has to offer.

Watching a paper fan artist at work
Watching a paper fan artist at work
Walking through the streets of Xingping while the rain let up for a bit
Walking through the streets of Xingping while the rain let up for a bit

Squirming eels, frogs, snails and even skinned dogs at the local Yangshuo market

Fresh fruit seller taking a nap midst all the chaos
Fresh fruit seller taking a nap midst all the chaos

Fresh vegetables!!
Fresh vegetables!!

A visit to the local market meat and vegetable market is the best way to get to know the smells and tastes of the local place you are exploring. Yangshuo’s local market was tucked away in a warehouse-like building off the main road. 

 Walking in I was assaulted by the chaotic visual delights and smells that filled the market place.

In one direction were fresh fruit and vegetables, rows of bags filled with spices and herbs, the aroma of peppers and chili filling the air.

Love the array of different spices and herbs
Love the array of different spices and herbs
The air was filled with the aroma of chilies
The air was filled with the aroma of chilies
Even pickled chilies!
Even pickled chilies!

Buckets filled with wriggling prawns
Buckets filled with wriggling prawns

Turning in a different direction I was greeted by nets full of squirming frogs, buckets of live turtles, and eels. Right in front of us were enormous bloody fish heads still twitching as their bodies were being filleted a few feet away. I did not know where to focus my attention first.

Hard at work cleaning prawns
Hard at work cleaning prawns
Live Turtles Packaged and ready for sale
Live Turtles Packaged and ready for sale
Squirming frogs in their little net "packages"
Squirming frogs in their little net “packages”
Rows of buckets filled with live produce
Rows of buckets filled with live produce

Buckets full of squirming eels!
Buckets full of squirming eels!

We walked down the isle past rows of chickens and ducks in various stages of dis-assembly ones with their heads and feet removed, others that were dead and plucked but still had their appendages intact, and of course to one side live chickens waiting ignorantly for their death. And next to those, cages of rabbits and yes even cats, all cute and fluffy, like they’d been snatched from the pages of a children’s book.

Atleast they are already dead and plucket
Atleast they are already dead and plucket

Anybody for some fresh duck?
Anybody for some fresh duck?

It was grisly and shocking but also almost comical in its sheer Chinese-ness. I kept thinking to myself, “No, this isn’t a movie or quite like the stereotypes I imagined, and yet somehow it’s exactly what I had imagined Chinese markets to look like.”

A few feet away, hanging from the ceiling by hooks, were the carcasses of what could only be dogs. I was so shocked and grossed out by what I saw that I could stick around long enough for more than one photo. They had been sliced vertically down the middle and had their organs removed, so the white ribs and dark red edges of the chasm running the length of each body. Hanging there like that, they almost didn’t even look real, they looked like something that should be in a bad horror movie. 

Skinned dogs hanging from hooks....
Skinned dogs hanging from hooks….

I looked down at my feet. The floor was streaked with blood and bits of gristle and organs of all kinds, mingling with the water and mud that also ran in rivulets in every direction. I couldn’t wait to get out of there and be able to breathe fresh air again. The legality of eating dogs and cats in China seems to be a matter of debate, something the country is trying to move away from as it becomes more modernized, although obviously it’s still practiced in some places. For some the prospect of eating dog meat turns the stomach, however for some it’s a treat worth shelling out for. 

Needless to say that after our visit to the market I didn’t have much of an appetite left. 

Rice Noodles and Cormorant birds in mountain surrounded Yangshuo

Arriving in Beautiful Yangshuo, surrounded by Karst Mountains and winding rivers.
Arriving in Beautiful Yangshuo, surrounded by Karst Mountains and winding rivers.

Yangshuo is tranquil and filled with greenery
Yangshuo is tranquil and filled with greenery

Yangshuo is surrounded by Karst Mountains, winding rivers and beautiful scenery. The area around Yangshuo is renowned throughout China, if not the whole world, (even making it into the backdrop of Star Wars Episode 3), for its karst landscape where there are hundreds upon hundreds of limestone hills dotting the countryside. The beautiful scenery here is a common subject of Chinese paintings as well as the inspiration for poetry. 

Arriving in Yangshuo after our first over night train experience we were all amazed at the breathtaking scenery that greeted us here.

We stayed in the Explorer Hotel which was among the first that opened more than ten years ago. It is right in the center of town, close to the river and West Street called ‘Global Village’ by the locals, which attracts tourists from all over the world to its many stores, cafes and restaurants creating an exotic and a somewhat chaotic atmosphere.

The street is filled with quiant bars and little restaurants
The street is filled with quiant bars and little restaurants

The streets here are well kept in the original style, capturing the tranquil atmosphere of this ancient town.  Here you can also buy souvenirs, painted fans, embroidered balls, and even painted silk shirts. West Street is also famous for its delicious specialty foods, such as Beer Fish, Niang dishes and snacks like rice noodles and various glutinous rice cakes.

Rice noodles and  Chongshan
Rice noodles and Chongshan

Having delicious fresh rice noodles
Having delicious fresh rice noodles

For lunch our tour guide Jay took us to Chongshan, a small local place for our first rice noodle experience. Noodles are an essential ingredient and staple in Chinese cuisine, quite cheap and extremely delicious. 

The rice noodles were white and smooth with a very unique flavor. They are made from rice flour starch, round and quite thick, a bit thicker than the usual spaghetti.

We were served plain noodles in a steel bowl with some soy and meat broth. We then got to garnish our own dish with spring onion, cucumber and chili to taste. After eating our bowls of noodles we could fill our bowls with a soup that we then had to drink straight from the bowl.

Mom went a bit overboard with the chili in hers and suffered a bit. I think that after the first couple of bites she lost most of her taste buds for tears actually formed in her eyes. But other than an overdose of chili the noodles were extremely delicious!!

Walking along the Li River flowing through Yangshuo
Walking along the Li River flowing through Yangshuo

What a beautiful sight!
What a beautiful sight!

After lunch we went for a walk through the main part of the town and down to the river.

The Li River winds through the town and is surrounded by the most beautiful scenery. Along the extremely pure river, thousands of hills cover the horizon for as far as the eyes can see. It is with this magnificent scenery as a backdrop that we came across a Chinese fisherman with his trusty cormorant birds. Fishermen here have use trained cormorants to fish in rivers since about 960 AD.

Chinese fisherman with his trusty cormorant birds.
Chinese fisherman with his trusty cormorant birds.
Such beautiful birds!
Such beautiful birds!

The fisherman was friendly enough to let us take his photo
The fisherman was friendly enough to let us take his photo

The birds are taken by the fisherman at a young age and become bonded to him. They catch fish according to natural instincts but are prevented from swallowing all but the smallest fish by a ring placed around their neck during the fishing process. However, the birds are not stupid and refuse to catch more fish unless they are rewarded occasionally – typically with every seventh fish.

When a cormorant has caught a fish in its throat, the fisherman brings the bird back to the boat and has the bird spit the fish up. Though cormorant fishing once was a successful industry, its primary use today is to serve the tourism industry.

Our first official "group photo" with the Cormorant birds!
Our first official “group photo” with the Cormorant birds!

Having cocktails before joining the whole group for dinner.
Having cocktails with Brian and Sandra before joining the whole group for dinner.

Getting to choose the fish we wanted for the table!
Getting to choose the fish we wanted for the table!

For dinner we went to a local place that our tour guide Jay recommended. We decided to order food for the table and have everybody share. Yangshuo is famous for its fish fried in beer so we jumped at the opportunity to order this delicacy.  After ordering the fish we had to walk down to the fish tanks and actually choose the fish we wanted them to cook! After pointing to a random fish the girl then caught and weighed it for us. I am sure we couldn’t have asked for anything fresher!

Unfortunately the rest of our dining experience was a bit of a disappointment, fistly the dishes were a lot smaller than we expected and we were served our rice only after we had eaten most of the dishes.  

Our tea we ordered arrived after we dinner and ended up being warmed up lipton lemon ice tea. I really thought that in china good and tasty Chinese tea would be available everywhere.

Walking through Yangshuo market right next to the river
Walking through Yangshuo market right next to the river

What a magnificent scenery.
What a magnificent scenery.

After dinner it was pouring down outside but we headed out to the Impression Liu Sanjie Show armed with raincoats. Luckily for us by the time the show started it had stopped raining and we didn’t even notice the light drizzle as the show was absolutely amazing and held our undivided attention.

Impression Liu Sanjie is an outdoor performance set with the real mountains of Yangshuo as the backdrop and using the Li River as its stage. The stage is a 2km stretch along Li River with 12 mountain peaks and the clear sky as the background. The theater therefore was named “Shanshui”, meaning mountains and water in Chinese. The performance in this natural Shanshui Theatre is a masterpiece combining an awesome natural stage with excellence in theatrical production.

Yangshuo is surrounded by Karst Mountains
Yangshuo is surrounded by Karst Mountains

It took Mr. ZhangYimou (the chief director of the project) three and half years to finish preparations for launching the show. His talent and creativity in bringing together the hills and water with the minority culture is widely acknowledged. The performance lasts for 70 minutes and more than 600 actors and actresses are involved – All the actors of the show are local people who have practiced meticulously.

Impression Liu Sanjie is produced by the same person that did the Beijing Olympic games opening ceremony and a must see if you ever have the opportunity.

Weekly Photo Challenge: Fresh from China

Fresh from Yangshuo
Fresh from Yangshuo

Fresh. The definition for fresh has a bit of a fork in it – it’s a state (new, recent, previously unknown) and it’s a taste or sensation (cool, sweet, invigorating, refreshing). Fresh homegrown fruit indigenous to Southeast Asia picked in the early hours of the morning, and carried down from the hills of Northeast China, to be sold in Yangshuo.

Overflowing from the baskets are beautiful purple mangosteens which are sweet, tangy and juicy and green Lotus seed pods which are of great importance to East Asian cuisine and used extensively in traditional Chinese medicine.

Beautiful green Lotus seed pods
Beautiful green Lotus seed pods