A Week in Gaungxi Province

I love traveling. The travel bug was instilled in me from the very beginning – and I do mean the beginning. I was born in Germany at a US Naval Hospital and had to have extra pages attached to my passport by the time I was three. Growing up as an Army brat meant my family picked up and moved, on average, about every 18 months until I was 10. After that I went to two different grade schools, two middle schools and two high schools. It was tough always being the new kid but it taught me how to adapt… to embrace change. I hear others complain about change but I almost always revel in it. Over the years my mother nurtured that travelust and it’s no doubt a big reason why I live in Asia and to some extent why I became a photographer. Certainly it’s a big reason we started  ChinaPhotoTours.com. Give me a camera and a passport and I could not be happier.

Last week my Flickr friend from Chicago, the very talented photographer Samantha Oulavong, came to visit us here in China. The natural inclination is for Lily and I to take overseas visitors to Beijing to see all the usual suspects, but since we only had five days with Sam we decided instead to show her around our own backyard of Guangxi Province. It was a great decision.

Sam arrived late on a Wednesday night and then slept off her jet lag and three weeks of travel across India. After an early afternoon breakfast we made our way to one of the markets here in Liuzhou for a little street shooting.

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The Princess of Guizhong Market

The next day we moved on over to Guilin, about 2 and a half hours northeast of Liuzhou. There was more street photography and then an evil a nice little hike up Die Cai Mountain, where my CPT partner Vern captured this fantastic sunset from the peak. Note to self… flashlights are a good idea when shooting sunsets from the top of a mountain. We had to make our way back down the slope in total darkness, using mobile phones to light the path. After the descent we headed over to Banyan Lake to see the Sun &  Moon Pagodas and then closed out the day with a short walk to get dinner before heading back to the hotel.

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Sunset from Die Cai 

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Sun and Moon Pagodas

On day three we were off to Yangshuo. A tourist trap if there ever was one, (navigating West Street can be like swimming downstream against thousands of migrating salmon, complete with dampness) but there is still something delightful about Yangshuo. Lily hit the shopping trail hard, we ate well and played tourist for the day before checking out Impression Sanjie Liu that night. Impression is a musical presentation with all the action taking place on the Li River in front of a stunning karst mountain backdrop. Over 600 performers take part in the twice-nightly show (three on weekends) and it’s quite a spectacle. I was actually fairly ambivalent about going but was glad to have seen it once. As it turns out I’ll be returning to do a feature piece on the show and some of the performers later this month.

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Impression Sanjie Liu

After a late breakfast the next morning we drove to Xingping Fishing Village. The Youth Hostel there is comfortable and clean and they serve a mean margherita pizza. Xingping is a quaint little village on the banks of the scenic Li River where cormorant fishermen still work The Li every day, only these days they’re fishing for tourist dollars. We met 74-year-old Huang Yuechuang and spent about 6 hours with him over the course of sunset and sunrise photo shoots. He is a remarkable man with a gentle spirit. You can read more about our time with Mr. Huang and his elder brother, 84-year-old Huang Mingde, in an article that just ran in The Atlantic.

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Huang Yuechuang – 74

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Huang Mingde – 83

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Huang Yuechuang

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 The Huang Brothers at Daybreak

Finally we rounded out the trip with a drive over to Longshen, where the remarkable Longji (Dragon’s Backbone) rice terraces are located. After a tough humidity infused climb to just to get to our hotel at the top of the terraces, we turned in after an early dinner so we could catch the sunrise form the Seven Stars with Moon overlook. When we got up at five a steady rain was falling and it looked like the day might be a wash. An hour later and there was this…

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 Seven Stars with Moon – The Dragon’s Backbone at Pingan

So yeah a remarkable few days. We are gearing up now for our first full season of tours at ChinaPhotoTours.com. I’ll post more here with updated tour info in the next couple of days. We had a great time with Samantha… she’s exactly what I thought she’d be. Funny and clever and beautiful and talented and as grandma used to say… good people. To see more of Samantha’s work and to read about her recent charity work in India you can visit her blog here. It’s worth a look. One person can indeed make a difference.

Until next time my friends… Peace

7 Responses to “A Week in Gaungxi Province”

  1. Edna says:

    I had no idea you moved around so much as a kid! “Give me a camera and a passport and I could not be much happier.” — could not agree more. Now I understand why we get along so well ;)

    Gorgeous photos as always, Michael.

  2. Lorraine says:

    Magical images!

  3. EP says:

    I know you’ve been a busy boy this summer. What about an update! Some cool new photos?

  4. Cindy Zhang says:

    Dear Michael

    Long time no see :-)

    Unexpectedly found your blog when surfing on the internet…The first blog of yours I found is about Nick and Nathalie in Xi’an, how lucky you are! I’ve been lived in China for 24 years still not been there but you did…may i be jealous of you? You won’t mind right! You are so nice and glad to know you are fullfilled with energy again and back to work.

    Enjoy every day!

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