Xijiang, Zhenyuan, and a Bad Case of Diarrhoea

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May 2nd 2012
Published: May 2nd 2012
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After arriving back in Kaili after a disappointing night in Chong An I hopped straight on the bus bound for the Miao tourist town/village of Xijiang. The trip took about an hour passing some nice scenery along the way and then we were dropped off at the entrance gate at the top of the hill. I paid the $16 entry fee and joined about 100 Chinese tourists to have a look from the viewpoint over the town. The view was pretty good and after taking a few photos of the Chinese tourists dressed in traditional clothes I walked down the hill, across the river and eventually found a nice room in the main street above a candy shop for $11 a night. That night whilst I was having dinner at a cheap barbecue place I started talking to a couple of art students from Chongqing who were keen to practise their english with me. So the following day we met up for a few hours to have a wander around and then in the evening we had dinner together. During the day and in the evenings the locals put on some cultural performances which I found quite entertaining, and I especially liked the traditional Chinese musicians and singers. On my third night I was eating alone at the barbecue place when three Chinese journalists asked me to join them at their table. They then proceded to fill me with food and alcohol and then we were joined by some famous actor which attracted the other patrons to come over to our table to take photographs with the famous man. Because none of them could speak English they phoned around and finally a local turned up with his girlfriend to translate for me. After plenty of beer, food, singing, photos, swapping of email addresses, and thank yous, I stumbled back to my room early in the morning. On my last full day there I was surprised to see the "amazing race asia" being filmed in the streets and it was obvious that the other tourists or locals didn't recognise the show. That night the family from the candy shop asked me to join them for dinner which I found very nice of them. Although Xijiang was full of Chinese tourists I really enjoyed this pretty town full of friendly people.

Early the next morning I left town and caught the bus back to Kaili, checked into a cheap hotel and then caught another local bus about 20kms up the road so I could have a look at another minority village. I took a few photos of some farmers where I got off the bus and then walked the 2 kms to the town I wanted to visit. Once there it seemed very small, quiet, and like it hadn't seen any tourists for a couple of years, so I walked back to the main road and flagged down a bus back to Kaili. That night I ate barbecue again and at about 3am I woke up needing to go to the toilet, which turned out to be diarrhoea. Over the next 28 hours I would go to the toilet about a dozen times pretty much shitting water, and plenty of it. Of course this had me worried about losing so much fluid so I drank a fair bit of water and tried to eat a little, although I didn't seem very hungry. I stayed in bed most of the day and got to sleep about 12 midnight before waking up at 4.30am feeling very sick and faint. I rushed over to the bathroom and vomited whatever was left of my barbecue meal into the toilet, and surprisingly there was quite a bit of it. This obviously set off alarms bells so I had a shower, drank plenty of water, and waited to about 6.30am before taking off to the nearby hospital. Although they weren't open officially to 8am they agreed to see me, the advantages of being a foreigner. None of the 3 people I saw could speak english but after about an hour of hand gestures, laughs, consulting the very thin language section of the lonely planet, and translating on their phones I finally got the medicine I was looking for. The staff were great and it cost me 50 cents for the consultation, and $1.50 for antibiotics, 100 tablets similar to Imodium, and a couple of sachets of salts for rehydration. I took the medicine as soon as possible, kept drinking a fair bit of water, and rested because I felt very weak at this stage. This is the first time that I have had diarrhoea this bad after more than three years of traveling, of which over two have been in asia and I don't wish to go through it again. Throughout the day I started feeling better and tried to eat as much as possible that night to try to replenish my energy and weight.

The next morning I was feeling a lot better so I took the local bus to the train station and caught a train to Zhenyuan, an hour and a half away. Once arriving at the station it didn't look like there were any buses, just taxis and I didn't know how far it was to the centre so I decided to walk with 4 chinese girls who looked like they knew what they were doing. It took us about 30 minutes to walk to the centre and after carrying my bulky backpack all the way my back would pay for it over the next couple of days. After a lot of confusion and being told that I would have to stay in an expensive hotel seeing I was a foreigner, I eventually found a nice little place up an alley in the old town that would take me for $16 a night. I had a look around this touristy town that had a pretty setting along a nice but slightly dirty river. The next day after watching the NBA playoffs I walked across the bridge and paid $9 to have a look at some temples and grottos built into the side of a hill. In the afternoon I had some noodles and dumplings for a late lunch and then had a look around the old houses and alleyways near my hotel. On my third day I decided that I would go to the train station and buy a ticket for an overnight train leaving the following day for Chengdu, and because it was the start of a 3 day holiday I should do it as soon as possible. I purchased the ticket and as I was having a smoke outside I noticed a small group of women wearing traditional clothes and distinctive black and white headwear. I walked up to them and asked if I could take a couple of photos, and of course they wanted to take photos of me as well, the only foreigner around. The guide they were with told me to wait 10 minutes while they put on their silver jewelery and neckwear so I could take a group shot of them and they could also take a photo with me. It turns out they were from a village in Hunan and were waiting for their overnight train to Kunming in Yunnan possibly for a festival but I wasn't sure. It was another great little experience for me and another benefit of being a solo traveler in a little off the foreign tourist path town. I then wandered over to the basketball caught and played with some locals and some Chinese tourists for a while before sitting down for another bowl of noodles. The guy who's ball it was then came over and asked me what I was up to that afternoon. I said I was just going to walk around town a bit, and he asked if it was okay to join me, and I said of course it would be. So me and this 17 year old local kid wandered around communicating as well as we could, and he even insisted on paying for an overpriced coffee I had. The generosity of the Chinese, even teenagers with little money has been outstanding, and I admit to feeling guilty everytime it happens but they insist and it is difficult for me to refuse. Unfortunately I had to pay double price for my room on the last night due to the public holiday. I had an early night and after watching the NBA playoffs in the morning took a taxi to the train station and boarded my one hour late train bound for Chengdu in Sichuan province.

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2nd May 2012

I love how you interact with the local people...
and how interested in you they are...and generous too. You are lucky you have only experienced diarrhoea once in your three years of traveling. Better keep that supply of Immodium on hand.
2nd May 2012

Hi Bob
I've been very lucky interacting with locals in my travels. I guess I put myself in a position where they feel comfortable to talk with me and I reap all the rewards. Also the locals get a kick out of talking to, or playing basketball with a foreigner. Everyone's happy.
4th May 2012

an interesting blog, wonderful photos of the traditonal costumes, and it sounds like you are meeting some lovely local people which is one of the best things when travelling.

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