Destination: Zhaoxing, China (Guizhou province)
Number of Days Spent: 2 days
Where we stayed: I don’t even think the place we stayed at had a name. We had read about one place in town with a western toilet and comfortable accommodations at a moderate price but unfortunately they were full. The nice owner led us down a path to his friend’s place with 3 clean ‘brand new’ rooms and yet another squat toilet (this one was almost like an outhouse but with running water, I can’t quite explain it and sorry, I didn’t take a photo) as well as an unbelievably hard bed (the Chinese like REALLY hard beds, sometimes I thought sleeping on a wooden board would have been more comfortable.)
Absolutely no English was spoken, we relied on our Lonely Planet phrase book for EVERYTHING including a very interesting check-in while they filled out the paperwork needed to register us as guests with the local authorities. We thought they were asking what country we were from and despite us telling them USA in Chinese they still didn’t get it so we said, “Obama”. Their eyes lit up with recognition :-) Unfortunately we were wrong, they were only asking us for our names…. The couple that owned the place was very friendly and sweet, and very patient with our questions (which we asked by pointing at words in our phrase book). Throughout the day and always welcomed us back home with big smiles.
I did see the biggest spider imaginable there though but what do you expect for the middle of the countryside in rural China? I screamed just as Jason spotted it and jumped to action crushing the (did I mention it was huge) hideous spider with his shoe. I still feel a shiver go up my spine every time I think about it… IT WAS MASSIVE, easily the biggest spider I have ever seen in my life! But, the hotel was quite cheap at 50 RMB per night ($8-$9) per night including hot water (and unlimited green tea). One nice thing was that it had this view of the drum tower from our huge window!
Best restaurant: We ate at a couple of places but by far we enjoyed A Mei’s place the most. I (Tracy) stuck with veggies which were cheap, plentiful and tasty around 3 RMB or about $.50 per dish) and Jason tried the chicken with cashews at 10 RMB or $1.35. The food was very fresh and reasonably priced. I don’t think they had an English menu, we used our phrasebook and were pleased with the results!
Best of: Zhaoxing was our first stop in Guizhou province and as China’s poorest province it doesn’t have the tourist infrastructure of its neighbors. It was a real challenge to travel there but definitely worth it…huge paintings of Mao hang inside every house, the buses (and roads) are terrible, people smoke like chimneys on buses, they stop on the road side for “toilet” breaks, they bring on their babies on the bus sans diapers and wearing the traditional pants with slits so they can relieve themselves anywhere…including the seat of the bus. It’s real life rural China, it hasn’t changed in decades and it hasn’t been “redecorated” by the Chinese government like much of Yunnan and Guangxi provinces.
Worst of: One of the babies on the bus (remember those pants with slits that I mentioned?) had ‘stuff’ coming out of both ends as we drove through the windy mountain roads. Unfortunately the young mom thought it was better to just move seats and leave the mess festering letting the smell waft over to us. Every time the bus turned a new direction we watched the ‘mess’ slash back and forth. The smell nearly drove me (Tracy) off the bus.
Most Memorable: As we were hiking uphill near Tong’An we came across this pantless kid…we stared at her, she stared at us, we chuckled and we kept on walking. You see the strangest things in China! We did see her mom looking for her a few minutes later so we were relieved that a 2 year old wasn’t just wandering around the rice terraces around. It’s certainly a different world!
The Dong minority village of Zhaoxing is a peaceful little town with a thriving Dong culture. A wander through town displays ample evidence of traditional, everyday life: women weaving cloth, pounding indigo with large hammers by the water and making traditional Dong costumes as children played in the street.
It also hosts a thriving weekend market complete with its own meat section!
The town is nestled in a valley amidst the rice fields, it’s full of old wooden buildings, wind and rain bridges, drum towers and the old men that like to gather underneath them for conversation. A stroll trough town is a peaceful way to spend the better part of the day, stopping to chat with local residents or to take photos of the kids playing.
From Zhaoxing don’t miss the trek to Tong’An through gorgeous rice fields. We recommend taking the bus to Tong’An and walking back downhill to Zhaoxing. We went the other way around which was still exceptionally beautiful but a bit more work. Stay tuned for photos from our trek to Tong’An in the next installment of our blog!