Wonderful Zhaoxing, and Basha

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April 21st 2012
Published: April 21st 2012
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Once arriving at Zhaoxing I put my backpack in my room and had a look around this large Dong minority village which contains 5 drum towers as well as numerous wooden bridges. It has a wonderful setting at the base of a valley surrounded by many farming terraces. It has quite a few hotels located in the traditional three storey wooden buildings but surprisingly few tourists. Whilst I was in town I only saw a handful of foreign tourists and only small groups of Chinese tourists. There were also quite a few tourist restaurants as well as a lot of local eateries all selling good food. The tourist side of things was kept very low key and the locals just went about their business as if we weren't there. The other thing I liked about the town was it was big enough to have most things you need but still had a very traditional feel with very little building going on compared to every other town in China I have stayed in or passed through.Besides farming the town seems to specialise in textiles, where they dye the material black, hang it out to dry and then pound it over and over with a mallet. All these things added up to make it my favourite place I have visited in China so far.

The first full day I was there the sun was out, so I caught a bus to the village of Tang An at the top of the valley with a great view looking down to Zhaoxing. I took a few photos of the town before heading down the terraces along the small farmers tracks. After a little while I came across a small road and walked with some locals to their village. I bought a drink from a small shop just as some kids were coming out of school for their lunch break, so I thought it would be a great idea to get out my frisbee and have some fun. It was obvious that they had never seen one before and before long we had about 30 kids watching me and a young girl throw it to each other. The party ended about 5 minutes later when the girl through a bad one right into a truck's side mirror, shattering it. Everyone went quiet and about a minute later the owner of the truck came out and I asked how much to pay for the damage. I had about 50 onlookers now. The owner said it would cost $16, so I gave him $10 and he seemed okay with it. I hope he didn't ask the young girl for any money considering it was my fault for pulling out the frisbee in the first place. After the drama I continued my walk down the terraces back towards town, but it was pretty tough finding a direct track so I crossed a river and then headed up to the main road on the other side. I walked the last couple of kms mainly along the road and then went back to my room for a well earned rest. In the late afternoon I headed up to the high school overlooking the town and found myself in a pick up game of basketball where I had my old arse kicked by some young men. The following day I just took some short walks around town and headed up to the high school just after lunch to see if could have a few shots again. After about 15 minutes I got bored so I pulled out the frisbee again and had about 20 students and teachers flicking it around having a great time.

The next morning it was a pretty dull and dreary day so I made a decision that I would catch the bus out of town and head to Congjiang, where there was a small town called Basha just up the road from there that I wanted to visit. I hopped on the bus at 12 noon and we left about 15 minutes later, only to stop about 500 metres out of town so the driver and me could take a couple more photos of Zhaoxing. We then hopped back in the bus and about 5 kms later we stopped at a very ugly looking village where the driver had some lunch. We finally got back on the road and about an hour after the official departure time from Zhaoxing we had covered a total of 10 kms. The road was pretty bad for a while before we got onto a better one and it surprised me that we arrived an hour and a half later in Congjiang ahead of schedule. I couldn't be bothered looking for a cheap hotel so I just paid $16 for a good room next to the bus station.

I wanted to visit Basha that afternoon, so I gave a motorcycle taxi guy $2.40 to take me the 8 kms up there. It was a nice short trip up the mountains and the town was quite nice as well. The houses here were a lot more basic and reminded me of some I have seen in southeast asia. A lot of the villagers were dressed in traditional clothing and the place didn't look too touristy at all. As I made my way back to the centre of town I noticed a lot of teenage girls and guys dressed in traditional clothes and about 30 Chinese tourists. I found out they were going to do one of their tourist shows very soon. I don't really like these performances much but after the guide (Basha local) of the tourists told me it wouldn't cost me anything I thought I would take a look. The performance starts and after about 2 minutes a Basha man comes up to me and tells me to pay $3. I told him I would pay $1.50 but he still wouldn't budge, so I was just getting up to leave and all the Chinese tourists get their wallets out and pay for me. Of course I felt guilty and couldn't leave and they wouldn't allow me to pay them back. The performance was quite the standard with a little singing, playing instruments, getting someone from the audience married to a local, as well as getting some more people up to dance (which regrettably included me). There were a couple of extras which included a man getting his head shaved with a knife, and the firing of some long old guns. After it was over I thanked the tourists and seeing there was no motorcycle taxi started walking down the hill back to Congjiang. After a couple of kms I flagged down I guy by himself on a motorbike and paid him $1.50 to take me down to the town. Congjiang was a large town full of newish apartment buildings and I thought it was ok and the people quite friendly.

The following morning I got up early and caught the 8am bus to Kaili. It was a pretty rough but very scenic first 3 hours, and then we traveled along highways for the remaining 3 hours. Kaili was a lot bigger than I thought it would be, more a large town, or small city. I couldn't find a hotel mentioned in the Lonely Planet so after getting some money from the bank, I went back to the bus station and caught a bus to Chong An. After arriving in Chong An and walking about a km to a hotel I wished that I hadn't made the trip. The town has a few old crumbling buildings but it has more newer ones and the town itself is quite dusty and run down. This one is my fault because I have the 2005 edition of Lonely Planet and I guess a lot has changed since then. When I checked my version on the ereader I found no mention of Chong An so I guess it has been omitted. I spent the night there and then early the next morning caught the bus for Kaili. About 10 kms before we reached the town our small bus stopped next to a guy washing his truck. Our driver got out with a mop and the goodlooking ticket collector got out with a rag. I looked out the window a minute later expecting to see them both hard at work washing the bus, only to find the driver doing all the work whilst our ticket collecting lady was cleaning her knee high fashionable boots.

Just a quick note to my friend from Holland, Adrian who asked me how do I find the people in China ( Sorry Adrian somehow I deleted your message before replying). I have found them to be very helpful and actually quite generous. The problems arise when I am in a non touristy town where the people don't speak english, but I seem to get by quite easily by just pointing at the item I want or showing them the guidebook with the chinese name of the place I want to go to. Most places I have been to there have only been a handful of foreign tourists so you get looked at quite a bit, but you are more or less left alone. Once you make contact they want to be your friend, practise their english, and even buy you things. It is much easier in a tourist town when you come across university students on holiday because they love to speak english. There is nowhere near as much hawking and spitting as I had imagined and on some of the buses they allow you to smoke, which suits my fine. The public toilets are pretty bad, and it is quite funny to walk into the mens room with about 4 guys squatting down taking a shit right in front of you. I think they should charge a small fee ( like in southeast asia) and have an attendant keep them clean. I have been spending just over $30 a day which covers all costs and I usually stay in my own room with attached bathroom.

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