Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Wuyuan and Surroundings

Feeling adventurous after a small trip to Fujian Province, I decided to take the bus back, rather than a plane. That allowed me a chance to look over the countryside, and to make a small detour to Jiangxi Province, on the way back to Shanghai.

Don't do this.

Here's the bus I took, it was a bunch of lay-down cots rather than seats. The cots were a foot and a half shorter than me, meaning I had to sort of fold myself into the cot. Everybody around me was chain smoking. To top it off, it was an 18 hour bus ride. And, the driver dropped me off by the side of the dark highway at 2:30 in the morning, and told me (and a fellow traveler) that it was about a mile to Jingdezhen, a medium-sized no-horse town a few hours away from from my final destination of Wuyuan.

But that's an overly long introduction to Wuyuan. Basically, Wuyuan is an ugly city that acts as a transportation hub to the beautiful villages nearby. So the first order of business is getting out of Dodge and making it to somewhere else. With me, I went to Small Likeng:

As a small village, it made for an interesting contrast with the Hakka villages I had been to several days before. It felt more typically Chinese, not being a Hakka area and all. The countryside, with plenty of rivers and streams, was beautiful, if not quite up to the standards of Yongding. And the buildings were beautiful, well-preserved, and built right against the water. I did have a complaint about all the tourists:

It's not an elitist "I'm too cool to be in a touristed spot" attitude, although of course I do have that attitude. It's more that, Small Likeng is a small village with small sidewalks. With the large tour groups and busy crowds going by, I found myself waiting in line just to walk down the street!

But I don't want to exaggerate; even in Small Likeng, it was easy to get away from the crowds. Here's a couple quick pictures:

There were a number of other villages that weren't quite as impressive, but weren't as busy. They didn't all feel cut from the same mold, though, there were marked contrasts between them. It doesn't photograph well, but Sixi Yancun had a labyrinthine feeling of large featureless buildings, connected by thin irregular pathways:

Whereas Qinghua had a more country feel to it. Here's looking under Rainbow Bridge:

And nearby to central Qinghua City was a beautiful valley filled with older homes:

Similiarly to Yongding, there was an odd relation to the locals, and it felt like their normal lives had turned into a tourist attraction. I was also on the receiving end of this, as random morons would go up to me and yell "Hello!" constantly. Anyway, whether it's cultural imperialism or not, I thought it was interesting to see the villagers doing their thing, here's a few quick pictures:

From Wuyuan, it was a seven hour bus ride back to Shanghai - the proper kind of bus, with seats and rules against smoking.

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