Travels Through China

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14th February 2006



In Chong'an we were invited to a wedding. Yep, just like that. We were wandering through the local market when what must be the only English speaker in the village called us over and told us that his friend was getting married tomorrow. So we went along and instantly stole all the attention away from the bride and groom. When we first arrived at the wedding it looked like there were only about 40 people there, all staring at us. Then we were taken up to the roof where the rest of the party was:


The food was great, and apparently endless:


Since we last spoke I left the chilly, dry north of China and exchanged it for the slightly less chilly, wet south of China. I have spent most of the past two weeks in poor, picturesque Guizhou province. Here is a diagram of my travels so far:



I started out in the south, in Hong Kong. I followed the light blue arrow along a train track to Shanghai and Hangzhou. Next, I flew along the wobbly orange arrow up to Harbin. After Harbin, I followed the bevelled purple dog's bones down to Guiyang in Guizhou province and then trained along the Pythonesque red hand to Kunming in Yunnan province. Finally I trod the yellow paw prints back to Shanghai/Hangzhou where I now reside.

I spent the a week or so in Guizhou, hopping between different small villages and experiencing the other side of China. Guizhou feels so different to Shanghai, it is very rural and not at all cosmopolitan. Westerners are few and far between, making us something of a novelty down there. I had one guy marvelling at my arm, chest and back hair a coupla days back.

My travelling companion and I based ourselves in the small city of Kaili. From there we would go out on overnight trips to the nearby villages of Chong'an, Xijiang, Leishan and Langde. Langde and Xijiang are tiny villages where every house is in the old wooden style and is built on the side of a mountain. Every available space on the mountains has been terraced for farming purposes and there are always rivers in these towns. Chong'an is slightly bigger, it has one main street that runs along Chong'an river. Bottom line: very damn picturesque. Unfortunately it was grey and wet the whole time we were there, but this still has its own charm.


The small bowls contain the locally brewed rice wine. Basically it tastes like methylated spirits. Or at least what I imagine meths might taste like. It's strong stuff, and as a visitor I was quite strenuously encouraged to drink as much as I could.



One morning we bounced out of bed and decided to climb one of the mountains near Xijiang. This is the view from half way up. You can clearly see the terraces, the wooden houses and the mystical fog. (click for enlargement)



This is Chong'an River. The blue colour remains unexplained. The bridges are known as the "Three Dynasty Bridges".




We were daubed with some local pigment that took days to come off:




But I'm sure we didn't have it as bad as this lady:




As we were climbing the hill out of Langde, we heard music coming from far away. We got closer and saw these two guys blowing shawms out into the valley:



We stayed and listened to them for a while, and then lunch arrived.



They motioned for us to follow them down a small path off the main path. After passing a small courtyard covered in pig's blood, we joined them for more music and lunch. Lunch consisted of pork hotpot over an open fire with a chilli dipping sauce, and lots more locally brewed rice wine. The meal was delicious.

More food...

In Xijiang we decided it was time to get some fibre back into the diet so we bought some veges off the street and took them to one of two local restaurants and asked the cook there to whip us something up. We felt a bit silly as she had all the same ingredients as us anyway, but we weren't to know that when we were buying the food.

So she took some bok choy, carrot, chinese broccoli (over here they just call it broccoli!) and mushrooms and made 3 delicious dishes:


Another interesting thing in Xijiang was pressure-cooked popcorn. MP4 movie, 893KB.


To balance out the page aesthetically, here is a shot from with Xinjiang.





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