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Published: August 5th 2014
Arriving here in Xijiang is like arriving at Disneyland. There's a 100 rmb ($16) admission fee to enter the town. There are little buses from the main admission gate to the Northern City Gate. There are souvenir shops and small eateries lining the streets. And there are crowds. China has discovered the economic value of tourism and is capitalizing on it in a big way.
I understand that just 5 years ago this was a quiet, picturesque village where visitors would sometimes be greeted by Miao women dressed in their native costumes doing welcoming dances in the main square. Now, there are busloads of tourists, there's an outdoor theater with scheduled shows and a nighttime gala complete with a light show and fireworks, and there is one shop after another selling pretty much the same thing. Thankfully, there are still the small entrepreneurs that set up food stands during the day and a night market like you'll find in most Chinese towns with a great variety of food.
I arrived by bus from Zhenyuen and everyone on the bus was confused, as we were supposed to receive admission tickets to the town along with our bus fare. Snow, who
spoke great English, started talking with me. She was traveling with her mom and cousin (Nickname: Miao Miao). We got to talking and trying to figure out what was happening with our tickets and what we should do next. Snow is studying Dentistry in Sweden where she has a Swedish boyfriend.
After resolving the entry ticket issue, we all went into town together. I was met by Stone, who runs the hotel I booked, the Grand Sunshine Garden Resort. Snow and her family went off in another direction, but not before we traded phone numbers. Stone led me the 10 minutes from the gate to his hotel, which doesn't have a garden and really can't be called a "resort" but is nonetheless a pleasant place with a great view of town.
Spent the afternoon walking through the town. Despite the crush of tourists, it is a nice place and one can imagine how it might have been in quieter times. Getting off the two main tourist drags and walking up the hill into the residential part of town is rewarding.
Snow invited me to the hostel where she and her family were staying for dinner. Mom was
making a big Mongolian dish of vegetables, tofu and meat for the family and the hostel volunteers. Amazing what can be done with one burner. Somehow, mom created 3 different dishes. The food was great and the company of college-age Chinese was welcoming and fun. After dinner, a group of us hiked up to the town overlook to catch the view of the big nighttime all singing, all dancing Miao show. How a light show fits into traditional Miao folk dancing, I don't quite get.
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