Monday, June 6, 2011

Department Trip to Ba Li Gou

We have a three-day weekend for Dragon Boat Festival, so our foreign languages department organized a trip to Henan province, to a place called Ba Li Gou ("the eight li long gorge").  Three of us foreign teachers joined about twenty-five of our Chinese colleagues and some of their family and friends.

Ba Li Gou seems to be relatively unknown -- most of my students hadn't heard of it -- but it was still swarming with tour buses, tour groups, hotels, and souvenir stands.  Tourists entered through the main gate, which led to about 5 or 6 kilometers of paved trails along the river bed and through the mountains.  At various intervals, there were snack stands, little stores, and cheesy tourist activities.  In our second day of "hiking" (walking with the crowd along the path), we were able to see a waterfall and climb up some cliff-side stairs to the top of the gorge.  China is suffering a serious drought which has sadly reduced most of the waterways to trickles, but it was still really pretty.

I had never taken a trip with a Chinese tour group before, and I'm guessing you haven't either, so here are a few things you can expect:
  • You will always know what's going on.  So will the other members of the tour, and so will the tour guide.  You will be given a detailed schedule and correct information about the accommodations and activities.
  • You will be mostly left on your own to explore.  Don't expect to be led around like a bunch of children.
  • The focus is on natural beauty, not on superfluous man-made additions.
  • Be prepared to spend some time in solitude, maybe with a good book in on the mountaintop or a nice picnic beside the water.  Take your time to stop and enjoy the surroundings, and relish the feeling of getting away from the crowds.
Haha!  I'm kidding, of course.  The Chinese tour group experience is the opposite of what I described above, but it's cheap and convenient, and it really suits the travel preferences of Chinese people even it feels a little quirky or oppressive to the average Westerner.  At one point I was standing with a Chinese colleague, surrounded by swarms of people both on the path and in the water, with our eardrums being assailed by two separate tour guides shouting into their microphones, and she turned to me and remarked quite genuinely, "Isn't it so nice to get away from the crowds and be in nature, breathing the fresh air."

Well, I hardly feel as if I "got away from the crowds," but I did have a great cultural experience with some pretty mountains and water to boot.  See below for pictures.

Upon arrival, our first activity was lunch at the hotel.  This is most of the group.

Tourist information, including this line: "First, the old, the young, the sick, the pregnant woman, the sot should be together with their keeper."  (Also, "In the evening, there are some hidden trouble, so entering is verboten.")

Everyone feels the need for a picture by the sign.  We're excited about our free matching hats from the tour company.

Cute travel companions

Dry river bed and undeterred tourists

More cute travel companions, with water guns

Bamboo rafts, wobbly stools, wimpy oars -- what's not to love?
We gave it a try and found it hard to maneuver the heavy raft with the little oars.  Plus, it was set up so you paddled upstream.  Perhaps I wouldn't recommend this particular activity.

"While appreciating the flower and trees please do not snap it."

Crystal's roommate, Crystal (fellow teacher), Mallary, Bernie (French teacher), another French teacher, and me.
A faint blue line on the cliffs ahead shows the stairs we'll climb later.
To the waterfall!

Inside the cave they installed behind the falls
The "cave" was a crowded "U" around the whole back of the falls.  The view out was very nice.
Behind the falls

To the top of the gorge!

Mallary and stairs

Tourist village at the top of the falls, with rose gardens

The elevator was broken (really), so we joined the crowds crawling down these narrow stone steps.  An exercise in patience.

Sleepy six hour bus ride home.


  1. Looks like a fun getaway even with the crowd. These photos are great! The stairway shots make you want to hang on.

  2. the stairway makes me want to scream and run away. did you really climb it and survive???

  3. Did you know that when you Google "Ba Li Gou", your blogsite comes up as the second hit?

  4. The stairway looks more precarious than it is. It actually feels really stable and enclosed; I didn't see anyone looking nervous.

    Dad -- We didn't see a single other foreign tourist among thousands of tourists over two days. I'm guessing there have been a VERY small number of foreigners visiting there and writing about it, which is probably why I skyrocketed to #2. :)

  5. This is great and amazing photos collection. Bali Gou including Peach Beach, abundance temples, sheep state, the Jade Emperor Peak Red Rock River.

    travel recommendations