The Impressions Light Show in Yangshuo was the absolute highlight of our trip.
It wasn’t the actual performance that was amazing (even though it was great), it was the location. The stage is actually the river itself! The audience sits stadium-style (seating abou 2,500 people – a full house every time) at the river mouth, looking at the river. In the background surrounding the area are 12 tall mountains framing the river. They put the sound and lighting equipment in such a way that it’s not intrusive, and so you honestly feel like you’re sitting in the great outdoors in a natural setting. It’s absolutely picture perfect.
The show aims to give an impression of what local life along the river is like, and a display of the ethnic minorities in the region. It’s an explosion of surround sound and breath-taking natural scenery. Incidently, it was directed by the same guy (Zhang Yimao) that coordinated the Beijing olympics opening ceremony, to give you an idea of how impressive the show was.
The story is called “Liu Sanjie” (刘三姐) and is about the legend of of a lady called (Liu Sanjie means “3rd sister in the Liu family”), who had a beautiful voice. There is a love story about her but I didn’t understand it because I couldn’t read the Chinese words. It boasts a cast 600 actors. Can you believe that?! Imagine Australia having a 600-strong cast… it would never happen because labour’s too expensive there. The cast had men, women, small children and even animals like cows and ducks, LOL!
The theatrics were so impressive, and the performance so well choreographed. I was totally astounded. I never thought I’d see a show so amazing in China.. let alone in this sleepy little town!! It was a performance I have never experienced in my life, it’s totally unparalleled. That panoranic outdoor view was just incredible. It’s IMPOSSIBLE to capture the beauty and awe of the performance in photos… you really had to be there to experience it all with your senses.
Stunning! And this was just the waiting area near the entrance..
Hard to tell, but we were surrounded by mountains and the lake was in front of us.
A lady singing whilst drifting on a bamboo raft. Her voice was… very shrill.
I can unequivocally say that the most HILARIOUS yet SKIN-CRAWLING part of the whole trip was when we visited the Totem Trail. It’s meant to be a step back in time – showcasing the culture in Guilin 12,000 to 7,000 years ago. That’s all well and good… except it was single-handedly the most fake experience I have ever witnessed. Wood huts built around the place, fake (and badly painted) totem (?!?!) poles, and even a sign saying the “aborigines” lived here. Say WHAT?!?! I guess there are Chinese Aborigines somewhere in history that I’m not aware of ;)
But funniest of all? Their clothing. I assume they were trying to show they were ~authentic~ and wearing animal skins, but instead, they wore this fake velvet fur fabric that they cut a zigzag into the hems. Straight out of The Flintstones. The fabric was easy to spot as fake a mile off, and the way they were wearing it was hilarious!!! And instead of tribal face-painting, they had heart-shapes and stars and even a heart with an arrow through it painted on their faces. A total WTF moment if I ever saw one.
When we entered, they grabbed each person and painted this really nasty-looking paint (lumpy and weird colour/consistency) on the side of their cheek. I guess to try and get everyone in the spirit? However, they weren’t being nice about it since they were grabbing and/or aggressively sticking out the brush to paint everyone’s faces, so a bunch of us decided that enough was enough, and we would not have germ-laden paint on our faces. So I said “no” when I stepped in. The guy grunted angrily and tried to PUSH/SHOVE me to the ground!!! I nearly fell, and was so shocked I didn’t have time to turn around and punch him in the face.
They had NO respect for personal space, nor knew how to behave to people. They were rude, intrusive, and kept grabbing at us. You know when an aggressive guy wants to pick a fight, and thrusts his face into yours? They kept doing that. I understand that in China, the concept of personal space and politeness is different. But this was WAY different from even what you would experience in Shanghai. T
hen, they grabbed our hands so we were all in a long line, and proceeded to drag us to dance around the “totems”. I had the guy’s sweaty, clammy hand gripping mine.. then he looked back at me, looked me up and down whilst licking his lips.. then suddenly grabbed me around the waist and humped me. You’d think I was telling a joke, but nope, he proceeded to hump the side of my leg before I gave a horrified squawk and kicked him.
Oh, but the best (or is it worst?) was yet to come. After our totem-dancing (ROFL) was over, they proceeded to announce that we had to give a donation. “For the children”, you see. Apparently. So they came up to everyone, hands out, demanding money. People were so surprised and caught off-guard that some actually gave cash. They tried to come to me but I stared him down so he gave up. And someone else was saying to the others NOT to give a cent, since it was extortion as we’d already paid a high entry fee, and we weren’t told we would be forced to give money again. Plus, I don’t believe it was for charity. Do you?
I would say it was an interesting experience at how bad an attraction can be. It was just like “A Disneyland theme park. Except not fun”, as someone said. Haha, so true! It was so all-out fake that it was like they were trying to take the piss, but actually they were genuinely trying to pass it off as real. That was kind of funny I suppose :)
It actually would’ve been fine, and a nice experience to laugh about, if they trained the staff (sorry, I mean “wild men”) to behave properly. But the way they harassed (and humped) us, and the way they blatently extorted money, made it a bit of a terrifying experience. I would never go back.
Walking in.. with our very shrill-voiced guide
A random bear. I couldn’t believe my eyes!! The man got on its back
and rode it like a horse… :(
They birds were tied so tightly to the stands :(
“wild men” in “animal skins” (ie. fake fur velvet fabric)
It’s a women-are-dominant society, apparently, so women go on the higher bridge,
men on the lower bridge. LOL!
An old lady sitting in her hut.. so we can see what “wild” living is like
Totems. Because, you know, totems are all the rage in China.. The “Chinese
Aborigines” (?!) use them, didn’t you know?!
And after grabbing our hands and forcing us to dance around the totems,
they demanded money. “For the children”, of course.
Winding round and round cheap tables with cheap trinkets, in the hope you’re
compelled to buy something as you walk out of the “wild men” park.
Caves play a big feature in Guilin/Yangshuo’s scenery, and so we visited the famous Silver Cave. The walk through is a whopping 2KM, which I think is the longest cave walk I’ve ever been on. It’s a lot easier than it sounds though – because it’s so touristy, they’ve built up the cave so it’s all level ground and nice steps going up/down. Definitely not the real caving experience ;) Probably just as well, I don’t think many regular people can survive 2KM of real spelunking! Typical of caves in China, it’s all lit up with neon lights and so doesn’t really present a true blue cave experience.. more of an entertaining experience. It’s not better or worse, but personally I prefer a proper cave experience like what Australia has.
The caves are gorgeous though – one of the nicest onces I’ve seen. The limestone formations are huge and breathtaking. My favourite was a huge cave that stretched upwards, but was surrounded by absolutely still, crystal clear water. It mirrored the image perfectly so when I first approached, I thought we were actually standing on a precipice and it was a huge drop down – before realising it was just shallow water that was mirroring the image. Amazing.
So far, this was the nicest cave I’ve seen in China. Any recs for any better ones? :)
Pretty red lanterns
A fantastic view
Entering the cave
The first large cavern
All blue and eerie-like
Gorgeous cave roof
The most GORGEOUS cave…
…with water so clear and still that it was mirrored perfectly!
Lazy ass women being carried on a bamboo chair. WTF??!!
(note: they weren’t invalids)
Outside, there were 2 gorgeous peacocks to take photos with (if you paid)
A refreshing sugarcane drink, freshly squeezed for only 3元 (US$0.40)
I had one of the most interesting lunch experiences whilst in Guilin. OK so actually we were in Yanshuo which is a little town 1.5hrs drive from Guilin, but I just call it all Guilin cos that’s the famous part :P Anyway, we drove up into the hillside, and then suddenly stopped at the edge of a dirt road. “What are were doing here?” I asked, and apparently it was for lunch. As we walked in, I looked around and there was not a building in sight – someone joked that we were about to have a random picnic lunch ;)
As we walked further into the foilage, I realised we were there for pomelo-picking. COOL! Pomelos are a big, heavy fruit, and I was surprised to see them hanging off trees.. albeit on thick branches to support their weight. The lady scampered all round helping us select and pick our pomelos (4元 each, which is considered expensive for China), but I passed since I don’t like pomelos (or fruit in general, for that matter).
After the pomelo-picking, we walked a few steps further and came across lots of little bamboo huts, with nothing but a table and chairs inside. So THAT’S where we were having lunch!! However, since we were a large group, we ended up in the largest one which was set up above the ground and offered gorgeous views of the mountains alongside us.
Lunch was a storm of dishes. So many I didn’t manage to get photos of it all. Unfortunately for me, I couldn’t really understand what each dish was, so had to identify it myself, and thus I skipped on eating a few dishes because I was unsure what was in them. Just as well, as you’ll see in the photo captions below ;)
The food I did eat was excellent though – but so surreal that they can cook such a variety of dishes here in nowhere land! It was restaurant quality – full of flavour and delicious. In fact, the best meal I had whilst in Guilin. I just loved the thoughts of eating out in the great outdoors, in some random little deserted area, and chowing down on really local food.
The most interesting part was when we explored round the back afterwards, and found a man killing chickens, which were then promptly cooked. WOW, talk about fresh food! We all freaked a bit, and I was starting to get nervous at the thought of watching them get killed… but actually it wasn’t scary or gross at all. It was almost mechanical, and so quick. I guess he was a pro! So no, I didn’t find it cruel or awful. Just very interesting. And I liked how the chickens were all running around (instead of being cooped in tiny cages) before they were killed, and I was impressed with how deftly and quickly he killed them, with nary a squawk or flutter – he was that quick!
So do super-fresh, free range chickens taste any different? I have no idea.. cos I missed all the chicken dishes – d’oh!!
Walking into a random deserted place up in the hills. Umm.. where’s the restaurant??
OK so first we went pomelo-picking, cool!
Big fat pomelo
One of the little lunch huts, tucked away in the forest
But we were a big group, so we had a large lunch hut. Very cool!
View of the mountains from our table
Kicked off on some (healthy) nibbles – sweet potatoes and yam. They were good!
Beer Fish – a delicious mild flavour, but sooo many bones, argh
Broad beans and chicken – looked a bit strange so didn’t try it
Pomelo skin stuffed with.. something – looked even more strange, so didn’t try it either
A soup, which I didn’t have a chance to have ‘cos it was on the opposite side of the table
Thank goodness for that, ‘cos I found out afterwards it had TURTLE in it!!!!
Chicken – didn’t look anything like it so I stayed far away
A tumble of Bamboo shoots and pork slices
Some sort of pork and yam dish. This was my favourite, it was so good!!
Unidentifed Chinese veg. It was a bit crunchy and juicy, almost like a pear
Assorted pork and sausage. Not bad, though the fluoro pink was strange
Shallot and egg omelette. Was great, can’t go wrong with an omelette!
Little river shrimps – the Chinese are incredible when they eat this. They pop the
whole shrimp in their mouth, and out comes just the shell 2 seconds later!
Cabbage – looked totally uninteresting but was simply delicious
Some of the dishes. It was a feast!
Out the back, we saw a guy… KILLING THE CHICKENS. Can’t get much fresher
than that! Here he is dunking the just-dead chicken into boiling water
Then he pulls the chicken out
And de-feathers it in about 1 minute
Finally, rinse it all off in cold running water. We were all totally fascinated.
It wasn’t actually as scary as I’d imagined. Really quick and easy!