I’ve had a lot of exercise here walking up and down stone stepped paths between the rice terraces getting lost, sweating buckets, passing through tiny wooden housed Yao villages, searching out view points.
Today I woke up to rain and atmospheric must shrouding the moutains. This meant I shelved the walk to ping an. As the rain eased I went for what was intended as a stroll which took me up to view point 2 (music from paradise) where I watched a duck furraging in the paddy for grubs, forgetting the drizzle until a passing Chinese stopped and held her umbrella over me as I took pictures. I like rain. I like watching people trying to cope with the weather. Tourists are particularly funny in their brightly coloured rain ponchos, umbrellas and ubiquitous selfie sticks, carrying on regardless. The locals are much more canny. No building work today, nobody tending the rice, no Yao women trying to sell you postcards. When I start walking I find it hard to stop and today I went on to,”seven stars chase the moon” then to “thousand layers to the heaven”, down to zhuangjie village, where I got lost but eventually came down on top of Dazhai. I had a lunch of spicy tofu and rice, which was enormous. Fortified I tackled the climb to the highest point, seen directly from the terrace at my hostel, “golden Buddha peak”. A nice path that climbs alongside a bubbling stream, fir trees, ferns, colourful flowers, butterflies, one type the size of my hand. There are a lot of people coming down the mountain. Girls in dresses, some in flip flops. Evidently they took the cable car up and expect an easy descent. There is a massive multi-layered viewing terrace at the top. An orgy of photo activities: dressing in ethnic costumes, touching a massive unhappy tortoise, some holy wood with an inscription. Yao women weaving and attempting to sell their wastes. It’s not raining but the low cloud drifts across the valleys. I’m now very familiar with the geography here and can make out everywhere I’ve been in the last few days. I’m looking for a cut across to tiantouzhai on the way down. This is the path I wanted to take yesterday, but once again I couldn’t find it. So I’m back in Dazhai to do the 40 minute climb back to tiantouzhai for the third day in a row. It’s interesting retracing a familiar path where there is do much life and noticing the small differences. The horse tethered by the building site is not there today. The 2 groups of card players are there again. This must be a daily activity at this time. The men clearing a site for probably a new guest house are not there today. The man cooking bamboo filled with rice on the first slope of my village is not cooking today. It’s a sweaty climb home and it feels wonderful to get back and relax.
Tiantouzhai is to the left of the centre of the picture.
The morning has a refreshing breeze and my corner room with Windows on 2 sides is a relaxing place to read Xinran’s “Good women of China”, a revealing investigation by a radio broadcaster into the role of women in Chinese society, through the eyes of those who are oppressed and forced to conform.
Busy sounds and voices permeate the air, butterflies flutter over the rice stalks near my window. Later on the terrace I observe how business is conducted here with locals calling by with baskets on their backs plying their produce. One man has fresh white and red speckled bamboo shoots. A woman in local dress has a pole on her shoulder, a sack on one end containing a primitive balance, the one at the opposing end is full of an orange bark. She encourages me to chew a sliver. It has a spicy sharp taste like cinnamon. The girl at reception tells me it’s used in traditional medicine. Most of the stuff consumed up here is brought up on people’s backs apparently.
I chat with her for a while. She is from Fujin province and majored in business English. Never been out of China, found the job here by Internet, believe it or not.
The peaceful atmosphere is shattered by an obnoxious Chinese girl who checks in, laughs at me for asking if there is meat in the dumplings on the menu, then walks onto the terrace conducting a loud video chat that goes on for 15 minutes. She can’t talk quietly, has no sense of others’ space, no appreciation of the location and succeeds in driving me inside. She kind of encapsulates many of the negative characteristics I’ve noticed in a certain demographic 0f modern young Chinese. Loud, rude, phone obsessed and selfish. I wonder if she has read Xinran. I wonder what her perceptions of modern woman in China are. I will never find out. She has now walked into the lounge and sits at the bar carrying on her conversation oblivious to the receptionist 1 metre away and me again. Is she going to spend the whole of her stay doing this? Now she is giving whoever the bloody guy on the other end a video tour. If they miss each other so much, why not come here together? I have to go for a walk and get away from this abomination.
I thought cockerels only cocksdoodledoo at day break, not throughout the night. It makes it kind of confusing knowing when to wake up. As nature’s alarm clock is inaccurate I let my phone get me up. It is still dark and very very quiet as I tiptoe out of the hostel to climb 40 minutes to scenic spot 1 to await sunrise. The walk on a rug get stone path takes you out of the tiny village and over a couple of hills, each crowned by a new guest house under construction, with convenient unfinished concrete platforms abutting the hillside which serve as convenient viewing platforms. They remove the rural charm, but you have to accept that although the rice terraces is an ancient landscape it is also man made, and the locals inevitably are moving with the times, and tourism is a cash cow. I see Yao women with stretched earlobes from which hang heavy silver ear rings, with bright blue or pink sm0cks, black skirt and leggings, brightly coloured dash round the waist, hair hidden under a black head scarf, brown weathered skin, breaking soil with hoes, selling bags of dried mushrooms, or carrying tourists’ luggage in round baskets strapped to their backs. The men are more conventionally dressed with no obvious ethnic dress. The construction workers sleep in the structures they are working on. Bags of cement are transported up the mountain by horses. It’s a miracle that there is so much development in such a place so inaccessible by road.
The sunrise was wonderful. More pictures will appear here in time.
This is the view from my window in dragons den hostel, a 4o minute climb up through the longji rice terraces from Dazhai. The night sky is impenetrably black. The air is fresh. Shrill Voices, men Ealing by and snorting and spitting in that quintessentially Chinese way, canned music, insects and scraping noises from the building of an extension to the guesthouse next door mean the night is not exactly still. Nevertheless it’s peaceful here and a world away from my usual life.
I met a western boy and girl and a Belgian later, who lives in Beijing. You have to be independently minded and a little determined to get here so the westerners you meet in these places tend to be cool. The place is amazing, and only pictures(coming later) will do it justice.