Day 13 – 10/16/2011

Zhaoqing – Yangshuo

China at its very best – amazing landscapes, lively cities with friendly people and, not least, good roads. The stage today takes us from Zhaoqing to Yangshuo along a comparatively modest 412 kilometers in one of China’s popular vacation areas.

Pictures day 13

The Trans China Tour has now completed its long-distance stages over many highway kilometers. The huge mega-cities in the east lie behind us and the route takes us now along more peaceful stages. This is clearly evident from the traffic on the roads – the challenge of “driving in China” has lost some of its edge. For one thing, here in the rural south there is far less traffic and the people at the wheels of the cars and heavy trucks are somewhat more disciplined. For example, the majority of vehicles actually stop at red lights. And, for another, the drivers of the 20 Audi Q3s have adapted very well to the conditions. Everyone proceeds with a great deal of caution. So far, luckily, there have been no accidents - not one of the cars has even a scratch. Obviously, the compact and agile Audi Q3 is the perfect vehicle for this country’s roads.

Nevertheless, if you look at it with European – and especially central or northern European – eyes, this traffic situation in this region, too, is somewhat chaotic. The bottom line is that traffic regulations obviously apply only to vehicles with more than two wheels. Mopeds and motorcycles, often sporting an entire family, stream freely over intersections, drive against the traffic flow and turn without warning on the spot. Their trick is – never look. Those who make eye contact with other road users have already lost. Here in Guangxi Province, helmets are apparently compulsory for two-wheel vehicles. The majority also abides by this – however, Europeans would be more inclined to fill these plastic shells with flowers than entrust their lives to them. Motorized two-wheelers of any size are not only used to transport entire families - pigs (full or half), cages full of chickens, six sacks of rice, a whole field’s worth of vegetables or the bamboo poles for a hut are also transported this way in one go.

Rural China does not necessarily mean poor China. The countryside to the left and right of the highway today is marked by mountains, rice paddies and small towns. The area still appears to be far removed from the wealth of the commercial and industrial cities in the east, but here, too, the road to modernization and growing wealth is clearly evident. From the starting point in Zhaoqing, the route runs all morning along the Xi Jiang, the West River, one of the many large waterways in South China. This is heavily traveled by freighters – shipping plays a far bigger role here than in Europe.

Almost three hours later we reach the city of Wuzhou, with a metro area that is home to more than three million people. The northern tropic (Tropic of Cancer) runs through Wuzhou, as does the Xun Jiang River, a tributary of the West River. This marks the start of Guangxi Province, famous for its impressive sub-tropical landscape. To the south, it borders with the China Sea and Vietnam.

Video day 13

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There can be no doubt that Guangxi Province, with its mountain landscape, is a photographer’s dream. But, alongside the characteristic karst hills and its wild nature, the province also boasts a very interesting social structure. Since 1958, Guangxi has been one of five territories in China to bear the designation “Zhuang Autonomous Region”, which already says a great deal about the special ethnic nature of this area. A dozen different ethnic groups live in Guangxi, around one third of which are Zhuang – China’s largest ethnic minority. One side effect of the ethnic and linguistic diversity of the province that is very popular with tourists is the comparatively high proportion of locals who speak English.

In the middle of the breathtaking landscape with the peculiar pointed karst hills – of which many visitors simply can’t get enough – is the lively town of Yangshuo. The pedestrian zone running northeast toward the Li Jang is positively bursting at the seams with bars, restaurants, hotels and souvenir shops. This is an ideal place to observe the Chinese culture of commerce in its purest form.

Guangxi is one of China’s vacation regions. The cities here seem more relaxed, almost more Mediterranean than in the north or east. However, the tourist industry in the great People’s Republic still has plenty of room for development. The fixed points are the Chinese New Year festivities and the national day at the beginning of October. During both of these no work is done for a whole week. Beyond that, many Chinese still have no or very few official holidays.

Day 13

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