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Travel, Teach, Live in China

Xingping: Where Is It?
By:Jeanie Hore

With the magnificent Karst hills all around the town, it is forever immortalized nationwide by being featured on the 20 Yuan note. It's 25kms from the famous scenic town of Yangshuo & has a history of 1,800 yrs. The town itself is not big; an easy hour's stroll would take it all in, but there are many interesting walking trails out of the town.

The bend in the Li River at Xingping makes a perfect mooring area for boats & as the local tourist industry rapidly grows, so does the number of tour boats. The most popular way to see the beautiful scenic Li River is by raft. These rafts have small engines attached to them with seating for up to 6 people (depending on weight) & shade to give protection from the sun & rain. Bigger boats, with roof top viewing decks carry maybe 50 passengers. The big tour boats from Guilin to Yangshuo pass by, but when the river level gets very low, passengers have to alight in Xingping.

Traditionally rafts were made from bamboo, but are now made with PVC pipe making them a lot safer for tourists. Only rafts for personal use are still made with bamboo. The area between Xingping & Yandi village is regarded as being the most beautiful part of the Li River with the round trip taking a leisurely three hours. For hikers there's a walking track along the riverside which passes through small villages & crosses the river a few times. Raft ferries are waiting for you. It takes 3-4 hrs from Yangdi to Xingping.

Many famous people have visited the area over the years, but none as famous as Bill Clinton with his daughter when he was president. He visited the nearby fishing village which still has authentic old style buildings plus photos of his visit. All "famous" visitors are taken to visit the fishing village.

The old part of the town still retains authentic old buildings which are protected by the local Government. Any exterior renovations are done in the old style. The temple that is now a museum is in the middle of the old town. It claims 1,800yrs of history & is open each day to paying visitors.

Many local people make their living from tourism thus raising their annual incomes. From owning mobile fridges to sell cold drinks, souvenir shops & stalls, restaurants, accommodation, there are opportunities here for many people. The 100's of boats & the mini buses all need drivers; There is a particular nobly type of wood that grows in the nearby hills which is made into novelty smoke holders. Another gift shop owners make & sell their own jewelry & her Mum's traditional handmade Chinese shoes.

Along the riverside, many farmers have turned their homes into what's called Farmer's Restaurants. They have connections to the raft owners so they will recommend these restaurants to their passengers. Food is freshly prepared upon arrival so it's relaxing time while you wait for your meal. Good time to relax with a cold drink while watching the river activity. The area is very famous for the cormorant fishing birds. They can easily be viewed around the riverside & during the evening there's a show where visitors can watch these birds at work by lamp light. However they are only a tourist attraction now as there is not enough fish in the river to make them commercially viable.

The local scenery is also well used by others. Professional photographers regularly come with their models. Bridal parties have their wedding photos taken. Art students from various Art Colleges around China come to practice their drawing & painting skills. Many individual artists also come to paint or draw the local scenery.

Market day every three days is well patronized by the local folk who have been going to it all their lives. Many walk in from their small villages outside town, maybe carrying goods to sell. They are very small people so seem dwarfed by their shoulder poles carrying goods. The sidewalk medics, dentists, barbers & sellers of traditional medicine all set up shop at the market making it an interesting place to visit. Every morning from sunrise till 8 am locals gather on the side of the street at the opposite end of the town to the market. They sell small amounts of fresh vegetables, meat & fish from their home farms.
The town is well serviced by restaurants both Chinese & Western style. There are several big restaurants outside the old town area to cater to the many Chinese who come by tour buses every day, many rice noodle shops to cater for breakfasts & quick meals & BBQ stands in the evenings. In the old area there are several very good restaurants catering to western tastes.

I opened an Art Gallery in the old town selling oil paintings of the spectacular local scenery. My gallery is in a very old building so rustic would best describe its look. I am the 3rd foreigner in Xingping, but if the rapid development of the area continues I will not be the last for very long. It is my dream to develop an art & craft community so I was delighted when a Chinese man opened a gallery opposite me selling his own Traditional Chinese paintings. Already there are two others in the village.

Visitors who linger for a few days get to observe the daily life of the locals. They live in the old town alongside businesses. The eldest women here lives close by my place & is a sprightly 93 yr old. Welcome to Xingping.

http://www.tourwithjeanie.com. Xingping Oil Painting Art gallery, 79 Old Street, Xingping.

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