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Published: March 9th 2013
Day 4 Kaili
Our final day out with Mr Wee was to be shorter then the previous two - mainly because we had to travel two hours by local bus late that afternoon to the capitol city of Guizhou Province, Guiyang, in order to overnight there as we had a very early flight from Guiyang to Chengdu the next day. Our first stop was in the village of Matang, home to the minority group the Geija, famed for their bright orange embroideries and fine batik prints. The Chinese Government consider the Geija people part of the Miao culture - they however consider themselves to be an independent minority and are fighting to be recognised as a separate and culturally rich group. The village was similar to most that we had visited as in the houses were high wooden structures built up the side of the hill, connected by stone footpaths, and adorned with drying corn. In this village the house windows were very different though as the window screens were backed with white and red glass panels in abstract patterns. The women wear vivid orange and blue costumes though the day we were there we only saw the headdress and
Traditional headwear from Matang
White with a very fine blue batik print worn with handwoven orange ribbon
belts. The blue patterns of the fabric are finely detailed batik prints, predominately geometric patterns, though some did feature fish. The batik work was wonderful and though a few women approached me to buy pieces from them I found them very expensive so chose not to purchase.
Once again fabulous views from the top of the village over the surrounding countryside which was still shrouded with morning fog. Some of the fields were covered in rape flowers but mostly they were lying fallow in readiness for rice planting season. We were due to make a loop, visiting a couple of the smaller villages enroute, to Langde Shang, supposedly one of the prettiest villages in the region, but we were turned back by police as there had been a landslide during the night. This meant we had to back track through Kaili to reach Langde Shang. We stopped for noodle soup at a tiny roadside eating house where we toasted our legs as we ate. The owner had carefully set out two small stools beside, and our plates on, a narrow table built around the stove. These were definitely built for shorter people then Jerry or I as we had
trouble fitting our legs underneath (and away from the heat) it. Mahjong tables built around four sided heaters are available at quite a high cost in shops found in all the larger towns.
Langde Shang is considered to be the most photogenic of the villages in the Kaili area and we would certainly agree with that. It was actually the first of the Kaili region villages to open in the 1990's to tourism - despite that it is still all very low key. However once we actually started to explore the village I was literally pressured into purchasing an embroidery piece. It was the only village where we were really pressured into buying - by only a group of three women - but they were very persistent! Until I bought something they dogged our foot steps which was a little annoying. We always try to buy something from villages we visit, though it maybe food or handicrafts.
The village houses rise up a hill from the river which flows in a semi circular shape around the village. As in all these hill villages you cannot drive cars into them but must park in a parking area or a
Window in house in Matang
The windows in this village were very different from other villages - all had red and white glass in patterns behind the wooden screen
road on the outskirts. As we approached the village we realised that the road was being used for a funeral service. A large heavy coffin, painted black, was lying on the road. In front of the coffin were a group of men playing a dirge on their lusheng pipes, the bamboo instruments we had previously seen played at the festival. They were dressed in traditional clothes comprising indigo dyed floor length robes tied with a blue waist tie and white apron piece, silver chain necklace and black turban. There appeared to be very few mourners but as the musicians circled the coffin other people walked down from the village and also circled the coffin.
We had seen the women from Langde Shang in Kaili - their everyday costume was very distinctive and pretty. It was a black velvet tunic jacket heavily embroidered with lime and bright pink floral patterns. Often I saw the women wearing a heavy silver breastplate from the centre of the embroidered bodice. They always had a pink flower in their topknots. We spent the next hour or so exploring -the whole time we had the funeral lushengs as background music. We knew the coffin
was being taken for burial when the music of the lusheng pipes was replaced with the high pitch sound of the brass pipe which leads the coffin and mourners to the burial ground. The sound echoed around the surrounding hills and we presumed the coffin had been taken higher for burial. Mr Wee however told us they actually walked through a village lane to the fields just up slightly higher.
Our final views of the village were women laying long strips of freshly dyed indigo cloth out to dry on the stony ground beside the river. It was a wonderful finale to what had been four exhausting days. We had covered a lot of ground and could not have done it as easily had we relayed on public buses. Also we would not have spent as much time as we did on the lesser, much more scenic, roads had we travelled by bus. Mr Wee was a great driver and despite his limited English (which was markedly improved after four days of practice) good company. It would have been great to have a guide but all the English speaking guides were otherwise occupied - not with tourists but New
Year celebrations with families.
Billy Zhang (www.toguizhou.com
) who we booked the car with was in his hometwon village called Taijiang shooting fireworks at paper dragons - a pity as he would have been a very informative guide. Before he left he was telling us stories of life in Guizhou. He doesn't like visiting his village as he said he has grown away from the drinking culture that exists there with the men. Many of the men he grew up with are still unmarried in their forties due to lack of women ( problem with that generation due to the fact female foetuses were aborted) and spend their spring festival holiday time drinking heavily. He said that when you have left the villages for a better life it is very difficult to slot back in again. Billy told us a story about a son who left the village for work in the city, returned home for holidays and took his father into Kaili for a taste of city life. Whilst they were checking in at the hotel the old man was looking intently around the foyer - when they went to use the lift the old man refused together
in to it and exclaimed - 'the door opened, a young woman went in - the door closed - the door opened, an old woman came out!'
We saw a couple of examples of this ourselves as the night we got lost near the big roundabout (surrounded by neon lit shops and high rise hotels) in the centre of Kaili, a young woman was holding the hand of an old lady in traditional clothes. The old woman was standing open mouthed with her eyes upwards, totally entranced with the coloured lights. Another day when we were out with Mr Wee he drove into the service station (you spend time at service stations constantly as drivers - buses as well - never seem to put large amounts of fuel in each time) and one of the bowsers was totally surrounded with a group of men who were fascinated with the action of filling the bus up with fuel. In the villages it comes in recycled coke bottles!
Mr Wee dropped us at the bus station where we caught the late afternoon bus onwards to Guiyang. I had booked the airport hotel which was just across the road from
the terminal building. Two hours later the bus dropped us at the airport which was thankfully on the Kaili side of Guiyang so we didn't have to battle afternoon rush hour traffic in the city proper. The hotel was now though due to massive expansion of the airport separated from the terminal building by a large construction site. As we would be leaving in the dark early next morning we thought it wise to check out how to actually get to the terminal building. All well though out plans in China always seem to backfire and what should have been a few minutes walk took a lot longer and entailed dug up footpaths, fences etc. We did eventually find our way in and ended up at KFC in the departure hall for yet another burger as the hotel restaurant was closed. Next stop - the city lights, traffic and smog in Chengdu.
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