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Li River in Guilin
Yes the scenery is magnificent around Guilin that's if ... you could see it. The mountains and hills are constantly covered in a blanket of smog and you will rarely if ever see the sky never mind the mountain tops.
Any photos you have seen promoting the area as a pristine paradise have been altered or taken after a wind storm has swept the area.
I took the the boat trip down the Li river at the end of January. The water level at that time of year is rather low. Both banks of the river are covered with garbage. The two main contributor to this plastic mess is the hundreds of large commercial cruise boats going up and down and the people who live along the river shores. Plastic bottles, food wrappers, plastic fast food containers liter the shores, sink to the bottom or go floating past you.
The back eddies are covered in fuel and oil spills from all the boating activity. Yes the color of the river is clear. This is only because the river is shallow fast moving and the river bed is gravel making it a natural screen. Add to this ... the raw human affluent discharged into the river from all the little villages along it's bank .... this .. along with the hundreds of tour boats and the people who live, wash and dump off of them.
I'm sorry but I never saw any schools of fish and even if I did ... I sure wouldn't eat one. This was confirmed by the lack of any fish the Cormorant fishermen didn't catch near Yangshou. I never saw any sight of natural wildlife including birds. I suspect if any creature ever
decided to show it's self for a second ... would end up in the cooking pot in short order.
I'm very sad to say that the area around Guilin and Li river is no longer the most beautiful place in the world as once told by ancient Chinese historians. The really sad part is ... there is no reason for this. A little education about being environmentally friendly would go along way. On a happier note if you do decide to go to that area. Take the trip to the Dragon's Bone Rice Terraces. Once you reach the little village high in the mountains you will finally be able to breath some fresh air and see for miles. There is even a little Cafe and Inn to stay at. The room rates are cheap and the food is good. Above all it's clean ... hurry before the crowds get there and destroy it.