Rafts and Rock Climbing in Guilin

I have visited more than 80 countries and over 100 cities. I have found that no city can surpass the beauty of Guilin. Guilin is really a bright pearl in China.” — Richard Nixon

Word up bro. Guilin is, as they say, “the shizzle”. If you like water/mountain combos or rock climbing read on! For reference, this post is the 2nd in Photo Series 1: My Stories From China. So get outta here abstract photo composition theory! Let’s just talk. For double reference, Guilin is located in South Central China so it feels much like the Southeast Asian countries (Thailand, Vietnam, etc.). The geographical closeness to SE Asia + nature combo makes it a tourist hot spot. Let’s check out why:

Relax, You’re On A Raft

After a night in Guilin, I took a couple-hour raft ride down to a nearby town of Yangshuo. One of the top 10 most relaxing chunks in my life.


My feet, relaxed. 2-person raft made out of PVC pipe. Other person (and shoe on the right) is a 35-year-old MBA’ed Dutchman. [Li River, China]


Others chillin’. Perfect temperature. Perfect sun. Perfect sounds from flowing water. [Li River, China]


Chinese tourists tour too! (And for some reason buy the kitschy flower headband.) I like it when people hold their legs like this. [Li River, China]


Wedding photos are a BIG DEAL in China. High-class folks (土豪呢?) get the best photos. [Li River, China]

Water-Mountain Reflections


The water was damn clear. Reflection looks like shark teeth. Or stalagmites/stalactites with the y positions flipped. [Li River, China]


Love this picture. Bubbles in top dark water look like stars in space. [Li River, China]

Whaddup Local Old Folk?

Old people often retire and don’t go back to work. But in Tourist China, it doesn’t make enough financial sense for old folks to stay in retirement. These guys told me they work a couple hours a day, make mad bank and can still get their chill on. The life.


My raft ores-man had a ridiculous stutter. And it was awesome for me. Most Chinese would speak too fast, but this guy spoke at perfect speed! e.g. “Where are you-oo-oo-oo-oo from?” [Li River, China]


The local fisherman train cormorants to pull fish out of the water and bring them back to the fisherman. Cray. Now it’s just a tourist show, but still damn cool. [Li River, China]


Pulling a fish from the bird’s mouth. Give a man a fish and he’ll eat for a day. Teach a man to fish and he’ll eat for a lifetime. Surround that man with tourists and he’ll also pay for his children’s college tuition. [Li River, China]

Karst Rock Climbing

With the raft ride over, I got into Yangshuo for a 3-night stay. This place has a bunch o’ karst rock formations. It’s real good for climbing. Best in China good:

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The Rocks


Moon hill. Some climb (I hiked) to the top. [Yangshuo, China]


I like when plant life scales the rocks. [Yangshuo, China]

I Climb, Hard


I’m on the wall. My belayer was pro. Climbed 5.13a with flip-flops. Disgusting. Love the colors in the foreground. Pic taken by Jose Luis (friend I met from Luxembourg). [Yangshuo, China]


Ugh. So much more rock to climb. Pic attribution to Jose Luis again. [Yangshuo, China]


Proud resting on my 5.small. Props to Jose Luis again. [Yangshuo, China]

Real Climbers Climb Real Climbs


Maneuver on Moon Hill. [Yangshuo, China]


Pants blend in. [Yangshuo, China]


3 blues. He’s paying attention to the guy above (in real life and on this blog post). [Yangshuo, China]


The photographer from above (Jose Luis) leads a 5.10.


I like her angle, especially with respect to the rope above.

Until Next Time

Some people spend weeks in Yangshuo. Others arrive and never leave. In many ways, it’s the perfect getaway. Touristy enough for partying/English. Nature-y enough to retract into the countryside. Highly recommended. When you go to China, go off the beaten path. But also, go to Yangshuo.


This is the first post in Photo Series 1: Stories From China, as explained in my hook post.

It’s the week of Halloween. I need to teach fourteen 60-student classes (14*60 = 840!) about the holiday. Time to get dressed up. Scour my room for random items and create characters from their amalgamations. Construct a “tourist” costume and give them my camera to take the pictures you’ll see below (brilliant Rhys, just brilliant). Bring it all to class and…GO! Here are the costumes:


Gotta have a witch. She reps it well.


This is what a witch hat looks like after 800 students have a go at it.


I’m two Chinese celebrities at once: Jay Chou (guitar) and Fan Bing Bing (sparkle dress on my left shoulder).




Crazy goggle monster.


Stylish ghost.


Ghost, chinese-dragon style.




Lebron James. (The jersey, that is.)


Some of the costumes were a bit weird. This costume is just me. I wore that gray hoodie nearly every day. My students were a bit grossed out, but got peer pressured into wearing it. Hooray!


Another weird one. The kid on the right is Food Man!, a fruit-carrying, hot-dog-wrapped-in-paper wielding superhero/chef.


Oh soup monster. Why are you so sad?


Using all the costume accessories they can find to create a mega-costume. Boy version.


The female equivalent. Less loco, more stylish.

After giving out all the items, I’d bring a table of students outside. We’d go through the pile of costume accessories and create characters for each person.  Then, Jay Chou and Fan Bing Bing would go inside and greet the series of strange characters that came into the room. It looked like this (note all the laughter):


Getting ready outside, pre-costume.


Laughing at someone offscreen. Love the girl’s laugh.


Laughing at someone onscreen.


Rawr. Where’s the costume?



When my kids started to feel that freedom and craziness of the day, they just got goofy:





Finally, a group of pictures that just make me smile.


Probably my favorite picture of all. That confidence.


Damn cute.




Obligatory peace sign.


Trying to do homework! Not on Halloween ya ain’t.


Just perfect.

Until Next Time

There were two main things that made this week awesome (for me and my students). First, anticipation. Starting Monday at 8:00am, I was lurching around the schoolyard with a hammer, a witch’s hat, a guitar, a pile of food and a tower of clothes (among other things). When kids see me on Monday and then hear rumors about the crazy class on Tuesday, they can’t help but feel that hype for our Wednesday class. Second, comfort. I tried to create a safe space in which my students felt little hesitation just letting go. I made it clear from the start that this is Halloween goddamnit and ain’t no one gonna be judgmental.

Constructing this post has definitely made me nostalgic. I miss my students. How could I not miss these awesome memories we created together?

Hope this article gave you a fun first glimpse into my teaching life in China. Sound off in the comments or on social media with questions or your own Halloween-in-a-strange-place experience.