GSO in China, Days 10, 11 & 12: The Li River, Shanghai and fickle weather Posted on February 1st, 2008 by

group-on-boat.jpgTuesday, January 29, 2008, dawned gray and chilly in Guilin, but Monday’s freezing rain had abated. The Gustavus Symphony Orchestra checked out of the Guilin Plaza and motored off for a luncheon cruise on the Li River, finalist on the list of world’s most beautiful places. The foggy day enhanced the mystical qualities of dome-shaped hills and meandering waterways. Chinese stories of magic abound about this unique area.

li-river-scenery.jpgThe GSO cruised down the Li aboard a typical Chinese riverboat outfitted with comfy chairs and a kitchen hanging off the stern. As one of the very few tour groups out and about this day, the GSO enjoyed attention from a variety of both land-based and waterborne vendors.

lion-welcome-sign.jpgThe GSO came ashore in Yangshuo and was greeted at the evening’s lodging by a Chinese lion dance. Although the hotel’s power was out (due to weather), the locals assured the group that it should come on soon. Ever adventurous, the GSO checked in and then headed out to Western Street, a shopping boulevard rife with retail opportunities. A few Gusties got a peek at authentic local life at the Yangshuo market (also described as a “meat cave”). After dinner, when the power still had not been restored, tour director Lisa Westphal made the decision to return to Guilin. So the GSO packed up by candlelight and headed back to the Guilin Plaza via bus. While the change of plans made for a late evening, Guilin is a nice town, and one really shouldn’t be able to see one’s breath in one’s hotel room.

cave-web.jpgWednesday brought more of the same weather, so the outdoor visit to Mount Yao was cancelled in favor of a visit to a huge local cave, complete with dramatic lighting. The group found the limestone formations intriguing, if a little too Disneyesque. Then the GSO departed for the Guilin airport to catch the 2 p.m. flight to Shanghai.

Unfortunately, thanks to the unprecedented winter storms in China which threw off flight schedules, and more snow today in Shanghai, the 2 p.m. flight turned into the 6-ish p.m. flight. After a group dinner, the GSO finally arrived at Shanghai’s Galaxy Hotel after 10 p.m. and missed a chance to cruise Nanjing Lu, a five-kilometer-long pedestrian-only retail opportunity of more than 600 shops and restaurants. Shanghai is a sprawling mass of neon and skyscrapers, spectacular even with its upper reaches shrouded in clouds. The city is home to a mind-boggling 19 million or so people and feels very western (Shanghai prides itself on being more like Hong Kong than like Beijing). One reason may be because while traditional open-fronted, single-room, street-level stores are common, so are chi-chi shops like Cartier and Prada and seemingly every western and Chinese iteration in between. And, judging by the housing options we saw, Shanghai has a much more firmly-established middle class. By the way, if you’re in town in March, both Björk and Harry Connick, Jr. have gigs at the Shanghai International Gymnastic Center.

The GSO enjoyed a few hours of free time in Shanghai on Friday morning, then headed off to lunch and one last retail opportunity at a factory seconds/dingers/knockoffs shop. A break in the weather afforded a timely start to our trek home, and this final post comes to you from Terminal 2 of the Los Angeles airport. The history-making cold and icy weather has made these last few days a bit difficult, but this isn’t the first time Gusties have had Old Man Winter change their plans. We understand he has stuck his frostbitten nose into a few things in Minnesota as well this week.

So, how to wrap it up? Perhaps a few students could say it best.

Special thanks to Bailey Tanis-Heyenga (stills) and Lisa Westphal (video) for images from Guilin and Yangshuo in today’s post. Look for an article on the Gustavus Symphony Orchestra’s trip to China, with lots of photos, in the spring issue of the Gustavus Quarterly.


One Comment

  1. We want to thank everyone involved in this trip. The opportunity for these students will be a life long memory and with this journal, pictures and video the experience will always be alive. We haven’t experienced following our daughter on a trip with this type of technology and we were in awe. We were comforted to see her and felt such a part of the trip ourselves. Thank you again to everyone. Sincerely, The Pattersons