In 2004 my wife and I took a trip with some friends to Jiangxi, an inland province that, while no doubt changing rapidly, is still lagging behind the coastal regions in terms of development.  Although it wasn’t the most luxurious trip I’ve taken in China, a little less comfort and a little more local flavor make a trip more memorable, and this one was certainly both fascinating and stimulating.  While there, we visited Mount Lu (廬山, Lushan) and a truly poor local village, among other places, but one experience that also sticks out in my memory is the raft trip we took at Longhushan (龍虎山), whose name literally means “Dragon and Tiger Mountain.” (I was told that the area’s ridges and peaks suggest the forms of a dragon and a tiger, though as in many other places I’ve visited in China, the resemblance seemed pretty vague to me.)

One thing about China is that you can truly get away from it all there, especially in inland rural areas like Jiangxi.  This raft trip was a profoundly relaxing experience.  Check out the trained cormorants catching fish for the fisherman on one of the rafts!

On our Yunnan Highlands Local Culture 11-Day Tour, you might see cormorant fishermen in action on Lake Er at Dali.

Waaaaaarm beer!  Peanuts!  Get yer warm beer and peanuts!  A bamboo raft trip at Longhushan: just like a baseball game, but without that loud obnoxious drunk shouting and crowding your space, and without the threat of a foul ball bashing your head in unexpectedly, and…Ok, it’s nothing like a baseball game; it’s much better, though that beer could have used a little refrigeration. And that raft vendor could use a little more charismatic sales patter.

Our tours that include Guilin feature a raft trip like this one; those that include Dali, the Three Gorges, Hong Kong, Shanghai, Hangzhou, Zhouzhuang, and/or Suzhou all feature gondola or boat trips that you may find even more relaxing or stimulating.

During the last part of the trip, we walked overland as the bamboo rafts were portaged past an impassable section of the river.  It was a good opportunity to get some footage of the beautiful farmland in the area, record the deafening sound of the obnoxious local cicadas, check out an ancient Taoist temple (where an immortality pill was created by a Taoist master, who unfortunately doesn’t seem to be around any longer to tell us how he did it), and take a rickshaw ride.  At one point during the walk, a local man started to talk with me, and you can hear him saying that I look like an American before the conversation is cut off.  (The identification of “Caucasian” with “American” is very common in China, and comments like that always make me want to launch into a lecture about why such assumptions are wrong—but maybe he just meant that my flagrantly casual clothing and wide-eyed, foolish manner were unmistakably American, in which case I can’t argue with him.)  After the raft trip resumed, we watched a flashy “cliff acrobat” rappel down the side of the mountain as a prelude to a “hanging coffin” show; the area was once home to the Guyue people, a minority (non-Han) culture that placed its coffins in grottoes in the cliff face.  Unfortunately, either my battery or my tape ran out at that point, so I was unable to record what followed.

If you’re interested in these “hanging coffins,” our tours that include the Three Gorges feature a boat trip that will allow you to see similar ones.

Although Jiangxi attractions like Longhushan and Mount Lu aren’t featured in our tour packages since they aren’t popular destinations for Western tourists, we welcome you to contact us to arrange a custom tour to Jiangxi (or anywhere else that isn’t included in our tour packages).  I highly recommend both of these places for adventurous tourists.

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