Ok, bring on day 2 of our tour! Its difficult waking up without an alarm as I found out this morning. My roomie, K, tried to wake me up, but she’s far too polite and doesn’t insist I actually get up, so the result is that she’s ready for breakfast before I’ve even opened my eyes. I had no idea what the plan was for today; that how good our personal translators are, they tell us nothing.
First off, we stop by a river and do a short bamboo raft canoeing activity. There’s some women dressed in traditional outfits that get on the rafts with us and serenade us down the river. Gotta say, you wouldn’t find Chinese singing on my ipod ever – far too high pitched. They even got us to join in and sing along to the songs. And by ‘we’ I mean anyone who could read Chinese, so not me. The ride didn’t take all that long, but we each got a turn at paddling using the long bamboo stick to steer.
After that we went to the Silver Caves. Rather than lighting the cave using white or yellow light, they’ve gone with multi coloured lights. It’s fun but a bit too bright and unnatural. This was pretty much the only part of the entire tour that I got a proper explanation of anything as we got an audio guide to walk with. It was so well timed, each section would automatically start talking as soon as you got into the area that it was talking about. The only problem is that if you stay in one area too long, you have to hear the explanation on repeat constantly until you move onto the next area. It wasn’t a real voice either, it was a monotone computerized voice; “And. Here. You. See. The. Buddhist. Prayer. Formation. You. Can. Wish. For. Luck. Here.” The cave was more or less the same as any other cave but there was one part that I really liked. There was a pool of water below a formation and it reflected perfectly so it seemed as though you were looking into a hole.
After lunch we went on a scenic riverboat cruise along the Li River, us and around 50 other tour buses of Chinese tourists. It was basically peak hour on the river; I could’ve doggy paddled faster. In both directions, looking along the river all you could see was boat after boat, we didn’t even go that far down the river, but it took over 3 hrs. At the start, the boat kept pulling over for us to have our photos taken by the company and then printed if we wanted to buy them. But honestly, the photos weren’t that nice cos you could see all the other boats and tourists in the background doing exactly the same thing. I bought a photo anyway. Funny thing was that they crammed us inside and wouldn’t let us out to the top deck until we were going up stream on the return section because ‘it was too dangerous’. Haha we were barely moving. The mountains in the distance were really pretty though. And we finished up around sunset time which was lovely.
At night we saw the Li River Spectacular; a show staged on the river using the mountains a backdrop, directed by the guy who directed the opening ceremony of the Beijing Olympics. The guide gave us a 10 min explanation of the themes and meaning of the show before we went in. Immediately after he finished talking I ask mum what he said and her response was “there’s 3 parts, the first theme is red.” Literally, that was all. Because she ‘didn’t know the traditional story’ and ‘wasn’t really paying attention’. Sigh. I’m sure if I recounted say, goldilocks and the three bears to someone who hadn’t heard it before, they should be able to understand at least some more information than what I got about the show.
When we got off the bus to go to the riverbank, we found ourselves in a sea of thousands of Chinese tourists all going to the same place. I was actually slightly worried about getting lost because I had no idea where I was, the name of the hotel we were staying at, what exactly I was doing here or what I should be doing. That is definitely the down side to not having anything explained to you. Our guide charged ahead and was difficult to follow since he seemed to be the only Chinese tour guide in the entire world that doesn’t carry a stick with a little flag on it. Luckily, dad’s tall and sticks out from the crowd. I never truly believed that on all the other tours that my parents take that they use dad as a meeting point: “meeting back at Norm in 15 mins”. But he is really easy to spot….
Before our tickets got scanned, we had to line up to go through a security point. There was a large plastic tub on the ground that had a pile of water bottles in it and everyone in front of me was throwing out their bottles. Naturally, I assumed we couldn’t take water in so I threw my full water bottle out. But when I got back to the group I found out no one else had thrown theirs out and I got laughed at for throwing out my water for no reason. Again, these are the difficulties of not knowing what’s going on around you. I guess the tub was just a make shift bin. Or else it was there to purposely confuse people like me.