The Cormorant Fisherman

Li River: Guangxi Province

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Li River Lodge

We stayed 2 nights at the Xingping Li River Lodge.  A curious hotel that appeared to have no owner and is now no longer on the river due to a new batch of hotels springing up in front of it, shame.  We could see in its day it had been magnificent.

On arrival, a random old woman told us – the owner had ‘gone to market’.  Well, it must have been a long way, because she never did return!

You can check out any time you like but you can never leave

We had booked an early morning bamboo raft trip up the Li River the following morning to capture the sunrise.  Because as Iain will tell you when it comes to photography timing is everything right?  Well, 5.30 am came.  Up we sprang in the dark to make our way to our guide waiting outside.  To find – we were locked in the hotel and there was no-one there to let us out!

“I am outside waiting” text our guide “I am locked out”

“We are inside waiting” Iain text back “we are locked in.”


So I called up the captain

Well, thanks to the bamboo-raft driver, through some knocking on doors and phone calls among the locals; the cows and goats begin to stir, the cockerels started – cockereling, and we were let out in time to catch the short remaining time on the Li River.

It was, in any case, a memorable trip.  We were the only ones on the river, which if you see the hoards of tourists throughout the day was something special.  And as it happened it was kind of cloudy so we didn’t miss a spectacular sunrise, phew.

We did meet 89-year-old Mr Yellow on our return.   Once a traditional cormorant fisherman, he now poses by the riverside for photographs.

What price the picture?

Now, originally Iain had booked to have a Mr Yellow such as this to take photographs of.  Billed as adding an ‘authentic appearance’ to his Li River photos.  However, on learning about how this tourist attraction was now harming the birds we cancelled it.  Much like the elephant ride we passed on in Rajasthan and seeing the general frenzy of tiger tourism, it has definitely made us more mindful of the treatment of animals for the sake of these pictures.

However, when Mr Yellow came paddling his way over the river grinning and waving, and hopping around on his bamboo raft, well we could hardly say no.  And to be fair his birds looked better cared for than some we saw in the town where locals try to plonk the birds onto your shoulders shouting selfie selfie!  We had a bit of a chat and a laugh and could tell he was a man of some character.  But yes, it has made us think more carefully about this side of tourism and the search for that picture-perfect scene.

So, here are a few of my non-picture-perfect scenes from the Li River, just as they are – which I think, still show a pretty spectacular view.

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