WHO: John Ferrillo, 50, of Harvard
WHERE: Taiwan and southern China
WHEN: Three days in June
WHY: ''I was already going to Taiwan with other members of the BSO to serve on the advisory board of the National Taiwan Sympony," said Ferrillo, who is principal oboist for the Boston Symphony Orchestra. ''And I'm a shutterbug. I had a nephew who had studied in Beijing and asked him, 'If I have a short time in China, where should I go?' He said I must go to the Li River Valley. It's just north of Vietnam. So it has very much the flavor of Southeast Asia."
PEARLS AND SILK: With the assistance of a personal guide, Ferrillo first toured Guilin, a large city best known for its setting among karsts, strangely shaped limestone formations covered with vegetation. ''The purpose of the tour guide there is to generate economic activity," Ferrillo said. ''I was taken to the pearl exchange and to a silk factory known for clothing and particularly comforters. They showed me women cleaning out the cocoons and then they make these dense shapes, like a shell, from the cocoons. It was all by hand and very interesting. But I was a little disappointing to them because I didn't make any purchases. It was really the countryside I went to see and to photograph."
UP THE RIVER: Ferrillo took one of the popular boat cruises down the Li River from Guilin to Yangshuo, a trip said to be the centerpiece of any visit to northeastern Guangxi Province. ''All the boats sit out in a flotilla and they each carry about 50 people. So they're stretched out for quite a bit. It's touristy, but, frankly, it's so amazing looking that nothing could have ruined it for me. It's just about the most exotic place I've seen," he said. The trip is about 52 miles long and passes karst peaks, bamboo groves, and typical villages. There were American tourists, but many Chinese as well, he said. ''It's like the Grand Canyon of China." The summer weather was a bit hazy, he said, but the scenery is still outstanding. ''If you can go to the region in cooler weather, you might have prettier skies."
FISH TALES: The small town of Yangshuo at the end of the cruise, was charming, Ferrillo said. ''There's a lot of historic preservation, and the region is known for preserving the old traditions, like cormorant fishing," in which the birds are used to catch the fish. ''But I saw a lot of people doing net fishing. I think the cormorant fishing is for the tourists these days."
ON TWO WHEELS: The highlight for Ferrillo was a bike ride arranged by his guide. The two carried his camera equipment in baskets on the bikes. ''For about half a day we rode around through rice paddies. I'd been told by my nephew that that was the way to do it. These were very rocky dirt roads and we went through a series of townlets with like six to eight houses. We were completely outside of the city in this wonderful countryside."
F-STOP, FOCUS, SHOOT: Ferrillo figured he stopped about every 10 minutes to take photographs. ''Every hundred yards there was a different vista," Ferrillo said. ''You've got the rice paddies and then these very steep hills, with very vertical, very narrow valleys. There was a lot of aqua farming, with lotus paddies in the ponds, and there was continuous foot traffic. It was just a feast for the eye."
AS LUCK WOULD HAVE IT: Ferrillo's bike had a flat tire, and the guide asked around for a repair shop. ''They took us to a family compound, virtually a hut, to a store in the back that was a repair-everything shop. It didn't resemble any shop I'd ever seen. There were about three generations of family, all hovered around watching. It was an interesting experience."