Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Guizhou- The road less traveled in China (chapter 8.2 of 9)

Day 4 part b - Southeastern Guizhou - Sandu Shui village
In less than 30 minutes, we reached Sandu County to visit village of the 'Shui' people. 'Shui' in Chinese means water which explained their inhabitant near the river. Our driver was able to drive us to the closets spot to get to the village. He pulled the car over by the roadside and told us that the village is across the river. He waited patiently while we explored the Shui village.

The river water at the time was shallow enough for us to wade through by stepping on the pebbles laid on the riverbed. However, we saw a boatman waiting in idle for his passengers on the other side of the river. He was handicap with a missing arm. We thought taking a boat ride would be a better idea than to get our feet wet in the cold. Although the boatman asked for a fare that did not justify to the short ride, we took the offer anyway.    

We arrived the village in a few minutes. The village was very quite, we learned that it was because most of the villagers were still out working somewhere. We tucked our heads into the houses around the village and took great delight when we found a lady weaving in one of the houses. After asking for her permission, we were invited into her house.  We found her weaving a long narrow lace at a dark corner. It was a very intricate lace weaved with fine thread. I know that they use this kind of lace as straps on their apron. (Refer to the photo shown on the left.) We managed to buy three beautiful laces from her. We didn't stay too long because we were unable to communicate with her. The lady did not speak much Mandarin.
Shui lady in Sandu county
Weaving loom is an essential item in every Shui family

As we continued to explore deeper into the village, we came to a house with a lady who looked busy preparing dinner for her family.  The setting of her kitchen was basic. Nevertheless, it was organized and clean. She invited us to stay for the meal. We politely rejected the invitation even though we very much like the idea. We were just not sure if she really meant or it was merely an act of politeness. In addition, we didn't have time to stay anyway. It could have been a good opportunity to get to know the family better. In future, I will plan to have more time for each of the destination so I don't have to pass on an opportunity like this again.

On our way back to the riverside, we came across a young girl. Bravely, we asked her if we could visit her home. She was very kind to bring us to her house. I guess this is something we can never offer to strangers we meet in our country. We are usually quite suspicious of strangers in the big cities :).

Beautiful roofscape from the balcony

Baby carrier
The young girl lived with her brother, sister-in-law and a baby nephew. Shortly after we went into her house, her brother came home. He was also amiable like his sister and welcomed our visit. We saw this beautiful baby carrier made by her sister-in -law for her baby. In a bedroom, we saw a weaving loom with a half woven cloth in white. We noticed that Shui ladies wear hand woven white head scarves with thin blue and purple lines running at the two ends. The head scarves may appear to be simple at first glance, but if looked closely, you will find watermarked designs that are distinctively different from weaver to weaver, like thumb prints.

Tyng and I were so intrigued by her sister-in-law's craftsmanship. We expressed our interest to buy some head scarves from her. The young girl hesitated. She was not sure if she could make the decision without her sister-in-law permission. But after discussing with her brother, they decided they could offer two head cloths to us. She looked like an amateur trader, I am pretty sure this is an unusual experience for her as it was for us. We bought the two head scarves and she helped Tyng to put it on.

Happily, we waved goodbye. Both of us giggled like kids with new toys on our way back to catch our boat ride back to the car. We were few steps away to catch our boat ride when we met two other Shui ladies. They had baskets of vegetables on their shoulders and appeared to be coming back from the field. At first, they looked like they were amused with Tyng wearing their traditional head scarves. But one of the ladies started to whisper to her friend when we got closer to them, and pointed her fingers at Tyng. As we got closer to each others, she looked like she was able to confirm with her friend on something. Suddenly, she approached Tyng and pointed at the head scarf on Tyng and then pointed back at herself-it was hers! She held Tyng's arm and led us back to her house. Although she was speaking in the local dialect but we could understand her through her body language. Oh no! This must be the sister-in-law of the young girl. We got worried and wondered if she wanted us to return the head scarves. Technically we paid for the head scarves, but we felt like a guilty kid caught from stealing and wanted to flee. But we managed to calm ourselves and followed her back to her house.

She called the young girl to make confirmation. In our hearts, we both thought we had to return the two head scarves. The young girl turned to us to interpret her conversation with her sister in law. To our surprise, she felt that we should have new ones instead of the old ones because it was better and more polite for the visitors to bring home new items than the old ones. We felt great sense of relief.

Moments to cherish
Shui people handmade shoes
The lady brought out few new head scarves for us to pick! To people who treasure old junks don't always think new items are better than old ones. However, for this item, we love the new ones.  She was very thoughtful and kind. We took the opportunity to request to view her other works.  From her bedroom she brought out few pairs of gorgeous hand sewn shoes. These shoes were part of her trousseau for her wedding a year ago. Two pairs were made by her, the others were wedding gifts. These shoes are 100% handmade including the soles. All these shoes were all new and reserved to use on special occasions or pass down to her children.

She sold two pairs of shoes that she could part with to us. We later displayed these shoes at our business stall in the mall. We tagged the selling price at RM239 per pair. While many people had admired, no one bought them. I guess $$$ matter. Today I would not part with it with the same offer. I am glad that Tyng and I each get to keep a pair of these beautiful shoes.

Happily we waved goodbye again to this family after we took some photos with them.  We ran to catch our boat ride to cross the river. We were late but our driver was patient and didn't make any fuss.

Spacious room with
two Queen size beds
I couldn't remember how long we travel to Danzhai. But it wasn't a long drive. Our driver dropped us at a hotel. We checked the room. They are fantastic -the best hotel we had stayed since arriving in Guizhou. The rates at small hotel in China have different rates for locals and to the foreigners. The receptionist thought we were local travelers and told us 150 Yuan per night. But we wouldn't satisfy with the rate and continue to bargain. He then discovered we were foreigners and told us we were getting good offer. Half way through our bargaining, a local traveler walked in and asked for a room and paid for the requested rates without a word. She got her keycard and head straight into the room while we continued to bargain! Many wealthy Chinese in mainland China think that only the poor would bargain. And that you ' lose face' (lose honor or prestige) to do so. The locals wanted to be regarded as wealthy and be respected for that. But not to us foreign Chinese who care more for our purses than the face matter. Aiyah! We are two chippo (cheap) Malaysian Chinese.

From conversation with the receptionist, we learnt that our ancestor and his are all originated from the Fujian province. That made everything easier when you are ' Ka Ki Lang' (same family). We got the deal at 120 Yuan, 30 Yuan cheaper than local. I guess this is something about women winning at a bargain, it is not only the money that matter but satisfaction too.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Guizhou- The road less traveled in China (chapter 8.1 of 9)

Day 4 part a - Southeastern Guizhou
Conjiang to Sandu

There was nothing much about Congjiang town apart from being just a transit point. Perhaps a good hair wash is ideal there. We had a good hair wash in a small saloon last night. The saloon owner was Beijing trained. He looked a little awkward with his fashionable outfit and hairstyling in this simple town in the mountain.

A long warp
We left the town in the morning as there was long journey ahead with few villages and a market to visit. I was happy that my camera battery was fully charged now. Before long after leaving the town in the comfort of our car, ( I forgot to snap a picture of the car) we came upon a group of ladies preparing warps for weaving by the road. It was so handy for those ladies to comb the warp with their combs. When they didn't need the combs, they poke them onto the buns on their heads.

Dong village
We enjoyed the scenic view from Congjiang to Ronjiang. After 2 & 1/2 hours on the road, we reached Rongjiang town where we stopped over for lunch before heading north. hjllkkkkkkkkllk kkkkkkkjjjjj jjjjkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkk
'Lazhi Chi'
Sichuan peppercorn chicken
This restaurant that our driver brought us for lunch looked very presentable from its entrance with beautiful signage and decoration. Again, we got disappointed with it once we made the entrance. The restaurant was dirty, dusty with very simple sitting areas.  We were the only guests at that moment. Well, we thought let's not judge, maybe the food is good. 

I ordered my favourite Sichuan dish-' Lazhi Chi' (Sichuan peppercorn chicken). Sichuan is the neighbour province of Guizhou, therefore, this dish is equally popular among the people in Guizhou. Sichuan peppercorn had the fame of it's powerful numbing sensation. By combining Sichuan peppercorn and dried chili pepper in cooking the dish, gosh, spicy with tingly numbness makes it a killer dish! This was my third time ordering this dish since arriving Guizhou. I love this dish after first tried it in Xinjiang.

Just as we preparing to leave, we witness a local funeral procession. It looked like a Chinese Han funeral to me with the band, deceased portrait, elaborate wreaths, miniature house and etc. The big white bird did look unusual to me. Was it a belief that the big bird might carry the deceased to heaven?

Funeral possession
Our car sped off the road, leaving Rongjiang behind us. In 2 hours time, we had arrived to a market around Dujiang. The market was not big and nor crowded. Perhaps, we were late that most vendors & people had left. I enjoyed observing the people there. These two kids as shown on the pictures below that really caught my attention. What do you think of them?

One looked smart and mischievous, the other seems like a small adult.

'V' sign is international
I had conversation with a young Miao girl who was shy but amiable. Her name is 'San Mei' and she came from the nearby village called ‘Bakai Xiaoxiang'. I didn't ask which group of Miao she hailed from. Most of them do not categorize themselves with a specific name, apart from the main group they belong. All the names like long skirt Miao, short skirt Miao and so on were given to them by others based on the characteristics of their outfits. I had many experiences of asking them about that and the response I received were confused looks. I tried to search this village/small town online, but couldn't find it. It was either I recorded wrongly or it is a very small village. Before saying goodbye to San Mei, I handed her some toiletries I collected from our hotel stays as souvenirs.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Guizhou- The road less traveled in China (chapter 7 of 9)

Day 3 - Southeastern Guizhou

' Dajiaolou' - Dong wooden structure house

We woke up to our surprise to discover the beauty and charm of Zhaoxing. We had knew about this place when we met Mr. Billy from CITS of Southeast Guizhou in Kailli. It was just a name of Dong minority village then in our travel itinerary until we visit this charming little town. We were so glad that Billy had included this place in our 4 days visit to Southeast Guizhou.

Unfortunately, the town was out of power when we got here in the late evening. The snow storm that strike the area about 2 months ago had resulted disruptive power supply as technicians were still working hard to repair the damages. The worst was our cameras were running out of batteries. We had only 4 shots of pictures here.

We had expressed to our tour coordinator that we wish to do some trekking. So, our first program after breakfast the next morning was trekking. Our driver Xiao Wu, a Dong himself drove us to Jitang, a hamlet nearby where we could trek from there and end in Zhaoxing itself.

A blaze had brought down part of the hamlet not too long ago. The villagers were working together in rebuilding the hamlet. We passed by schools and rice paddies along the trail, and made friends with 2 young girls. One of them had been so kind to show us the way and trekked for some distance with us. Kids greeted us hello repeatedly till they lost sights of us. And we echoed to their calling. It was fun.

After the pleasant trek, we explored the town of Zhaoxing. The 800-household town has remarkable sights - its’ wooden structure buildings - 'dajiaolou' (literally translated as big footed house) wind and rain bridges, drum towers, residents and all the activities that were going around the town. Dong people built their village by the riversides. They run most of their daily activities at the river, like laundry, fabric dying, and etc. These villagers still live in a very old fashioned manner that it made me feel like I had traveled back in time.

Tyng Learning from the master with her new toy
I offered help to a lady with her baby on her back
 to beat the fabric that had been coated with egg white.

We stopped by little shops for some Dong's handicrafts. The most interesting stop would  be a shop which was also home to the shop owner. The old lady was not well verse with Mandarin, so her son and daughter- in- law came to help. We picked our items of interest and began bargaining with them. It was too time consuming as we had many items to deal with and we were in a hurry to leave. I saw a wood mallet at the corner which gave me an idea. To speed up the process, I decided to have an auction with them. My sister, Tyng was the bidder, the store owners were obviously the seller and I was the auctioneer. At times I would allow the sellersto raise the prices, other times I favored the bidder. We all had fun including our quite driver who was having his meal not far from us. He kepts beaming while watching at us, seems like he was entertained by these two travelers.

We decided to travel to Congjiang and put up a night there as no one knows when the power supply resumed. The time in Zhaoxing was too short, I would certainly come back. I could try a different route next time I am here. There is flight to Liping from Guiyang, capital city of Guizhou. It is a 2 hours ride Liping to Zhaoxing.

I upload this video for viewing as I do not have enough pictures to show about Zhaoxing.


Monday, October 3, 2011

Guizhou- The road less traveled in China (chapter 6 of 9)

Day 2 part b - Southeastern Guizhou
A Glimpse from the Basha village

Tyng and I left Yingtan Dong village with an overwhelming joy. We were heading to another 'must visit' destination - Basha Miao village, 1 & 1/2 hour drive away.

Basha village is rested on the mountainous region above sea level of 550m. Though it is about 7km from the nearest town of Congjiang, the villagers here still carry on their lifestyle similar to the past, as if modern civilization has least affected them.

When we arrived, we were greeted by a group of children, who were equally excited on our appearance. The little aprons worn by the girls were interesting. It reminded me of the Chinese women under garments in the olden days.

Women at work
Few women and young girls gathered under a tree in the village’s courtyard.  Some of them were working on the looms and some were sewing. We were eager to meet with the brave Basha men who are known to be great warriors, but there was no sign of men around the village .

Basha Miao is quite different from other Miao groups in terms of their style of clothing and lifestyle. We were particularly attracted to the unique hairstyle of the Basha men.  They shave their head clean but will leave a small strand of hair at the top of their head. They braid their long strand of hair and then coiled up atop their head. The Basha men are still seen carrying a claymore (type of sword) in the waist and a hunting rifle over their shoulder, just like old time warriors. Their history can be traced back to as long as 2000 years ago when the Basha ancestors were front line troop of an army. The men are also great hunters and guardians to the forest around them.

Basha talent
We eventually bumped into a Basha man but he seems hurried to the woods. Nearby, there were few men in modern attires busy with their constructing works. In our desperation we approached one of them, asking if we could find someone in his traditional costume and rifle. The man looked at us and pondered for seconds before answering us. Finally, he offered to dress up for us and requested some fee in return. We were delighted for that exchange and followed him back to his home where he changed and turned into ancient warrior in minutes! He was "professional" in his service - he washed and groomed himself before posing for photos. I began to suspect he was an experienced Basha Miao’s talent. :)
Charlie and his angels

Left: Took down Mr. Basha's address                                           Right: Could it be a gun powder container?

The weather is warmer during this time of the year (but it was still cold for me). The ladies and even the young girls in the village were all busy spinning, warping looms, embroidery and etc. It was exciting to see them in actions and to peek into their clothing making process.

I adored the colors of the Basha Miao’s aprons. I have not seen other Miao used the purple as one of the main color combination. The cool color palettes of purple, violet, lime green, cyan and deep blue complement the beautiful design and embroidery of the aprons wore by the ladies. The Basha villagers worship trees; it is not surprise deep purple clothes they wear represent bark. Over time, the water proofing coat, made by adding egg whites during the cloth making process fades and with the lost of the red pigment, it had resulted color changed of the material. Hence, a deep bluish hue presents.

As we walked further into the village, we overheard girl’s cackles coming from a house over a hill. Before we could approach nearer, some girls were leaving. They giggled as they walked pass us. We could smell alcohol from them. It was a girl’s party!

New convert
Just before we head back to the main square of the village, Tyng decided to have hair do by the Basha girls, who were delighted to help her She could fool one with her new look!

There was a souvenir shop at the square. It was opened by request. I guess it would open only during festive times or when more visitors are here. I am glad we found some treasures here - we bought few pairs of Miao embroidered shoes. It cost much more than what we need to pay to obtain in Kailli- the city of Southeastern Guizhou.  But it was a perfect palce to get the perfect souvenirs. With our new found treasure, we left the place contented.

Thereafter was a long ride to Zhaoxing Dong Village where we planned to put up for 2 nights. It was pretty scary to travel after sunset in country sides as the road and sorroundings were so dark. Once our car turned into the road leading to Zhaoxing from the intersection of highway 202, most of the time our car was the only vehicle on the road.

Finally, we arrived in Zhaoxing. But the power supply was down and most of the time we were still in darkness. We had candlelight dinner at a small family run Dong traditional wooden structure guesthouse where we planned to stay. After checking the rooms and around, we found it too cold to stay here without power supply. Moreover, the toilet/shower room was located at the ground floor, whereas, our room at 2nd floor. It was too much trouble to go toilet when there was no light.

Our driver brought us to another hotel where we had a room with attached bathroom. We were given 3 candles and a flask of hot water to clean ourselves up. It was very annoying as we have to make several requests to get one flask of hot water. Everyone was just too lazy to boil water for their tired guests.