Featured on ancient scroll paintings, Ming porcelain vases and the modern 20-Yuan note, the karst mountains of Guangxi province rise at surreal gradients from the limpid green waters of the Li River – a landscape that has for centuries epitomized the exotic grandeur of southern China’s rural heartland. All year-round, a fleet of small cruisers shuttle visitors along the waterway, offering one of the country’s great definitive travel experiences. Glimpses of bucolic rural China punctuate the journey: buffalo grazing in the fields, farmers toiling in waterlogged paddy or paddling to market in home-made canoes, laden with vegetables and sacks of rice. The area is particularly famous for its cormorant fishermen. Working from punted rafts, using lanterns to entice the fish to the surface, local men train birds to dive into the water and return with the catch in their beaks.