January 21, 2009

Yangshuo, China- the changing face (Part 1)

Location: YuLong River, Yangshuo, Guangxi, China (24° 47′ 0″ N, 110° 30′ 0″ E)
Date: 12 April 2005, 2.30pm
Camera: Canon 300D with kit lens

Yangshuo was the original backpacker haven of China. It used to be a very relaxed, cosy and friendly town with un-spoilt and unrivalled rural sceneries. Wary travellers who have spent some time travelling around China would come to relax and collect their senses amongst the spectacular beauty of limestone peaks, rural farms and charming riverine retreats. Its fame soon attracts all sorts of travellers, including the well-heeled and package tour kinds. The town has since developed into just another "major tourist attraction" like so many places in China.

I have visited Yangshuo four times since 1995 and have witnessed its transformation from a sleepy attractive town to a full-blown tourist destination exploited by well-connected local and foreign business interests as well as the destruction of its beauty and charms. I will attempt to illustrate this by various photos that showcase its past glory and current state as well as tracing the changes to these places.

This is a photo of an old farmhouse along the YuLong River, one of the beautiful rivers close to Yangshuo town. This scenery is no more prevalent along the river; the lush greeneries along this river has now made way for a road that runs from town along the river for cyclists as well as easy access to the bamboo rafts stations all along the river. The road is being built by the county government and the rights to the river, to run bamboo rafts and other facilities, are given to a company owned by Taiwanese and Singaporean businessmen. There were no tenders or involvement of the local villagers in the decision despite the fact that the villagers have now lost the right to run their own bamboo rafting businesses along the river- these are now only run by the company. These villagers had since become employees of the company instead.

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