Bamboo raft (Guilin, China)

Bamboo rafts were the traditional means of transportation on the river and sidestreams, but nowadays they are replaced with plastic rafts in the shape of bamboo. Sure that’s…the same. There is a practical reason, though, because bamboo rafts have to be replaced every year.

We were still able to book a ride on a real bamboo raft, but the bamboo rafting business has gotten harder in recent years since the government took over. Boatsmen are only allowed to operate with licenses, charge a fixed price, and go down certain stretches. Where there were once 600 boatsmen, now there are only 200 because of decreased demand. My boatsman used to do 5 trips a day, but now he is lucky if he gets a trip every 2-3 days.

I took advantage of the relative seclusion of the bamboo raft to ask my boatsman about some sensitive topics.

What do you think about China cracking down on corruption? “You can’t get rid of it when the entire society is corrupt. You can’t get rid of all of the upper officials because all of the economic power is in their hands, everything would collapse.”

Do you think the government is getting better or worse? “Worse…it’s worst for the people on the bottom. To even do a little business, you need to have guanxi (connections). Where do the common people come up with that?”

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