Friday, April 30, 2010


We got back from a fun, but exhausting trip to Guilin and Yangshuo. Really...travelling with a baby in China is NOT recommended. I'm exhausted, even after a few days from returning home...AND that's WITH the ayi's help!!

Of course, I'm really happy that I was able to go. I'm also happy that I have pictures with Jaiden from the country he was born in...other than Shanghai. But, let me repeat is NOT recommended to go travelling with an infant in China, IF you intend to take the baby and all the baby "stuff" with you to any of the attractions. China is SOOOOO baby unfriendly.

It doesn't seem to matter where you go in can GUARANTEE that there will be about 1,000 steps to climb. Luckily, I borrowed an Ergo carrier from a friend since mine was packed, which turned out to be a life saver every time we stepped out the door of our hotel. But, unfortunately, Jaiden isn't quite used to the baby carrier thing and he would have none of it, about half the time. *sigh*

We took a flight to Guilin and spent one day in there looking around. We saw some caves that had some pretty cool light displays and even one light show in one big chamber. There was water in the cave, thus this particular cave was still a "living" cave. The Karst Formations in this area of China, making the region famous, were caused by a receding glacier several million years ago. When the ice melted and receded, the softer layers of soil were eroded, leaving behind the harder, more resistant rock. In this case...limestone and marble...and lots of it. Caves are usually found in limestone formations. So, there are many caves in this area. In fact, there is a TON of limestone throughout China. I've never been anywhere that had so much limestone. It boggles the mind, really. The cave we visited was called Reed Flute Cave. One of the mommies bought all of the kids reed flutes (whistles, pretty much) that a vendor was selling...and I was "thanking" her (I'm being sarcastic) for days. We had 8 children and one baby...and all the kids had these reed flutes. You can all imagine the amount of noise this created throughout our trip. Ugh.

We then headed to what is called Elephant Trunk Hill. It's another formation that looks like a very big elephant dipping his trunk into the water. It was pretty cool. Some of the kids got to dress up like one of the minority peoples from the area. We took pictures of them...they were so cute.

This area of China is occupied by several "minority" people or tribes. These smaller groups of people can be compared to the Native American tribes or groups in America today. Some of the rules that apply for the majority group of Chinese people, do not apply to the minority the one child rule, for instance. These minorities spend their time making beautifully woven blankets, shawls, and other stuff with their beautiful colors intertwined into their product. Some of the blankets take over 4 days to weave with two different people working on it at the same time. Some of the product have flaws, but that is what makes the product unique and cool in my opinion. Knowing that someone did them by hand is special...especially in a country FULL of factory made products. The cotton they grow themselves and use for the blankets and shawls is some of the softest cotton I've felt. The products are truly extraordinary. Each minority group has different characteristics that make them unique, anything from their clothing to their habits or rituals. It was fascinating to learn more about them during this trip.

After Guilin, we boarded a boat that took us on a 5-hour ride along the Li River, headed towards Yangshuo. The weather was good and the scenery was fantastic! All the kids enjoyed being on the boat, as did the mommies. When we reached Yangshuo, we were greeted to a gorgeous view of the Karst Formations from our own hotel and resort. The hotel was amazing and I was thanking the girls every day for including me on such a fantastic stay in such a beautiful place. We could have just stayed at the hotel and been content.

However, we did end up getting away from the hotel long enough to take the kids on a fun bamboo raft trip down the YuLong River. Two of us took the two older boys in the group, mine included, and the rest of the women took all the younger kids on a slightly different and more kid friendly trip. My Swiss friend and I had the older boys and we thoroughly enjoyed some on-on-one mommy/son time with our boys. Again, the scenery was stunning, the river was quiet and the boys each had a water gun to play with. ;-) A perfect excursion. The weather was truly amazing that day...sunny, clear and just slightly cool...a perfect spring day. We took some amazing photos along the way and got to see the quieter life of the people living in Yangshuo. The river was located in a serene valley surrounded by the famous Karst Formations. The banks of the river were lined with various fields and farms, where you could glimpse a farmer with his sturdy ox, working the land. Almost everyone in the area wears a chinaman's hat! It was also a wonderful glimpse into the rural and "old" life of China. The images I saw from the river will be imprinted in my mind for many years.

The bamboo raft is a simple vessel of several bamboo stalks tied together. They have strapped two bamboo chairs onto it and bring along an umbrella. The man slowly pushes the raft along the river by using a long stick he pushes into the bottom of the river. The entire trip was serene and peaceful and took about 3 hours. Both my friend, myself and both of our kids counted the experience as one of our "favorites" for the trip.

The men manning the rafts took us over several small waterfalls along the way. However, the last "waterfall" was actually a man made concrete wall that the water poured over. So, there was a thin layer of water continuously running over the edge of this concrete wall. The wall was about 8 feet in width. The drop was steeper than the rest of them...about 4 feet or so. So, the bamboo raft, with it's rigid, straight structure, hit the bottom of the waterfall pretty end first, then the second half. My friend's raft went over first and as I sat and watched them go first, I saw them tip at a dangerous angle. My friend had to grab the umbrella and her foot went straight into the water, trying to gain leverage. I thought, "Uh-oh" and held onto Brandon tightly as we took our turn over the edge. Well, it turns out I didn't have much to worry about since as the first 4-5 feet of our bamboo raft hit air, the rest of it, stopped. Yep, we got stuck.

I highly suspect that it wasn't Brandon's half of the raft that got us stuck. haha The guy tried and tried to angle the raft to get us over, but nope, we weren't going anywhere. So, my friend's raft guy had to tie their raft to the bank and come rescue us. It took two of them to finally tip the front over the edge! I was laughing the whole time! And luckily, our raft hit the bottom at the right angle and we were never in danger of tipping.

After that last exciting episode, it was only a few more minutes and the men dropped us off right at our hotel's doorstep, via the river. It was so cool. What a fun and memorable trip!!

One of the nights in Yangshuo, we saw a fantastic night show, called the Impression on Sanjie Liu, storytelling about all of the minority groups in the area. While the entire show was in Chinese, you could get a feel for the story line. The creator of this show is also the guy who choreographed the opening for the Olympics. He is pretty famous over here and this show is just one of his achievements. All of the people singing, dancing, etc in the show were not actors. They were the "real" minorities. So, each group that was highlighted in the show were wearing all of their traditional costumes. Even not being able to understand everything, it really was a fantastic show and I'm glad we got to see it. Again, the weather was gorgeous and the show was highlighted by a full moon as well. The show was performed in a "natural" theater, with the Karst Formations and the Li River as the backdrop and stage. It was incredible! I was glad to have my chinese speaking friends along. They ended up giving us some important details about the show...which was nice.

Then, it was time to head back to Guilin and head home. We hired a bus to take us the two hours to the Guilin airport, but stopped along the way to visit and learn more about the minority groups in the area. We learned a lot about the Miao and Zhuang peoples. I always enjoy stuff like that. This time, I particularly enjoyed learning about the "original" tribes. THAT is the kind of stuff I want to know! What did the ORIGINAL people here in China look like and how did they live? According to my local friend, there is an "original" group in every major region of the country. So, I guess we saw just one of the "originals." But, it was still cool to see. Of course, the people we saw may have had the "original" blood in them, but they aren't totally naked anymore. In fact, the government made them wear really cheesy leopard print cavemen outfits. But, it was cool to see the huts, statues, weapons and dancing. These chinese people are MUCH darker skinned. According to the guide in the park we were at, the original or minority peoples of China are known to be the most beautiful chinese people. Since I wanted to know...I found out that they used to be very strict about not allowing their children to marry outside the tribe. However, in today's day and age, it happens all of the time.

So, all in all, it was a pretty good trip. Hard with the baby...but SO glad to have done it. It was a fun and memorable experience with my close friends here in China.

As we return to Shanghai, the clock begins to chime, as our final days here in Shanghai draw to a close.

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