I’ve written before about China, and how one of my favorite traits of the country was the comfortable coexistence of the ancient and the modern. This was seldom more apparent than the day we went river rafting.
We were staying in the Yangshuo area, in rural southern China. While there, we hired two rafters to take us down the Meeting Dragon river. Rafts are built in the traditional style, using a series of logs lashed together. The only modifications were the lawnchairs we sat in, and the plastic bags they placed on our shoes to keep our feet dry.
As we drifted down the river, we were astonished by the beauty of the limestone karst mountains we passed. The only sound came from one of the boatsmen, who whistled music that sounded as if it had been passed down for a thousand years. If I closed my eyes, I wondered if I’d open them again in the 12th century.
We passed over a small set of rapids, and the rafts were steered to the shore. Upon getting out, we were led to a couple of tents nearby. I was puzzled – our guide had clearly said we’d travel to the bridge, and I could still see it ahead.
This was just a stop, and it was their one concession to technology. The people in the tents had taken our photos with digital cameras as we traveled over the rapids, and were now ready to show us the images on their computer screens. For a small sum, they would be happy to print them out and laminate them for us!
And now we have a very modern memento of our very ancient ride down the Meeting Dragon river.