Yangmei: So near yet so far!

Yangmei : Guanxi’s Ancient Banana Town
Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Province
Yangmei: So near yet so far!
Yangmei

Yangmei: So near yet so far! Only 30 kilometres separate the modern, green and dynamic city of Nanning, capital of the Zhuang Autonomous Province of Guangxi, from the ancient village of Yangmei. However, the differences between the two places are so great that they might as well exist on other planets.

The smart motorway leaving Nanning runs out after about 10 kilometres, when the buses takes an abrupt turn into a country lane. The rest of the journey takes an incredible 2 hours, as the bus passes through local markets, gets stuck in a traffic jam of three-wheeled motorcycle rickshaws, makes a slow river crossing on a rusty ferry and stops at every village on the way, delivering passengers and parcels.

Yangmei: So near yet so far!

Yangmei: So near yet so far! It takes a long time to get there

The scenery is rural and pretty. Most of the people in this area belong to the ethnic group of the Zhuang, which is virtually indistinguishable from the majority Han Chinese, both in physical appearance and dress. They earn their livelihood from the cultivation of sugar cane and bananas. You can see ample evidence of the latter as the bus makes its way through the endless plantations that stretch along both sides of the road for as far as the eye can see.

Yangmei: So near yet so far!

Yangmei might have been like many other rural villages in China, abandoned by its population, heading for the cities, and fallen into oblivion. Fortunately, Yangmei has been saved by its incredible collection of Ming and Qing courtyard houses in grey brick and its fantastic setting on the bend of a river, amidst sub-tropical countryside.

Yangmei: So near yet so far!
Yangmei Venacular Building

What is even more incredible is that so far it hasn’t been converted into some kind of Qing-Ming dynasty theme park, like so many other, once beautiful and charming villages in China.

Yangmei: So near yet so far!

Yangmei: So near yet so far! Authentic Character

For the moment, the village preserves its authentic character; local people still live in many of the buildings you can visit and the majority of the population is involved in agriculture, rather than the tourist trade.

Yangmei: So near yet so far!

A couple of grannies selling hand-sewn miniature shoes and stuffed, cloth butterflies and a couple of open-air restaurants by the river, seem to be Yangmei’s main concession to tourism.

Yangmei: So near yet so far!

The village has no great sights as such. It is just a nice place to wander around for a few hours and soak up a bit of the old China. Wooden signs show visitors where to find the old Ming and Qing dynasty mansions, tucked away down narrow alleys, or set around lotus ponds. Many of Yangmei’s early residents came from Shandong Province which is why a lot of the old Ming and Qing buildings were built in the sturdy northern style.

Yangmei: So near yet so far!

Local people, most of them advanced in years, congregate in the courtyards or the village’s small flagstone squares, where they smoke pipes and play Mah-jong. Some try their luck at fishing in the ponds.

Yangmei Temple

Apart from the mansions, there are also a number of temples scattered around, most of them undergoing serious restoration, as they were badly damaged during the Cultural Revolution.

Imortalizing our names in Yangmei
Imortalizing our names in Yangmei

Being Imortalized in Yangmei

The Confucian temple, just outside the village, seems to have discovered a novel way of collecting funds for its renovation, by offering visitors the opportunity to be immortalized on its memorial plaques.

Imortalizing our names in Yangmei
Imortalizing our names in Yangmei

For ten Yuan you can have your name and country engraved in a slab of black marble by a venerable old grandfather in a blue peasant jacket, Mao style, and thick spectacles. These plaques are then used to cover the walls and doors of the temple, providing a kind of stone visitors’ book.

Crazy Statues in Yangmei's Temple

After a few hours of wandering around, one tends to get a bit peckish. Near the river there are a couple of family-run restaurants that specialize in local products.

Crazy Statues in Yangmei's Temple
Crazy Statues in Yangmei’s Temple

Yangmei: So near yet so far! What to eat

River fish is the favourite and can be cooked in a number of ways. The tasty food, cold beer and shady riverside location all make for a pleasant way to while away the rest of the afternoon, until it’s time to catch the last bus back to Nanning at four o’clock sharp.

Margie in Yangmei

If you like bananas, you should do what all visitors from Nanning do and stock up on a couple of bunches! Another famous local product are the pots of homemade pickles that can turn the ride back to Nanning into a rather pungent experience.

Bananas Yangmei

Coming and Going:

Buses for Yangmei leave from an obscure small local bus station in Nanning, about ten minutes from the train station. Walk down Chaoyang Lu, go past the Yinhe Hotel, go down one block, take the first street on the right and then turn right again, into Huaqiang Lu: the bus station is next to house number 198. Buses seemed to leave every 1½ hours, with the first one at 8.50. The last bus back to Nanning is at 16.00. Count on about two hours for the 30km trip.

Adam in Yangmei

Places to stay:

We saw at least one basic local guesthouse that would probably be okay for a night. Moreover, a new small hotel, in keeping with the local style of architecture, looked as if it would be opening soon.

Places to eat:

The restaurants by the river offer the best eating possibilities. Good fresh fish, taken straight from the tanks, is the best choice. Meat eaters might like to try the local chickens, all of which looked pretty big and healthy.

Detian Waterfall Separating China and Vietnam

Detian Waterfall

Detian Waterfall Separating China and Vietnam
Detian Waterfall Detian Pubu 德添瀑布

Detian Waterfall Separating China and Vietnam is definately a curious and out of the way place and getting there can be quite a hassle. So why not take a Chinese tour from Nanning for the day? Or maybe not!

Detian Waterfall 德天瀑布 (From our Diary 10/9/2006)

First with an expression of horror, then a polite nod of the head, and finally a beaming smile was how the young lady in the travel agency attended us when we asked about taking the Chinese tour to the Detian Waterfall.

Nanning Botanical Garden

The Horror: Enter Two Foreigners

The Horror: Enter two foreigners in a Chinese travel agency, asking about joining a Chinese tour. “I don’t speak English, do they speak Chinese? What am I going to do?”, was written all over the poor girl’s face, as we sat down in front of her.

Detian Waterfall Separating China and Vietnam
Vietnam & China Border at Detian Waterfall

The Polite Nod: “I think the foreigner is speaking something that resembles Chinese and I think I can just about make out what he is saying”.

The Beaming Smile: “The foreigners want to join a tour to the Detian waterfall tomorrow and wish to pay now!”

Zhuang Minority Lady Detian Waterfall
Local at Detian Waterfall Detian Pubu 德添瀑布

“We don’t usually take foreigners on our tours, due to the language barriers”, the young lady said apologetically.  I replied that we didn’t normally take tours either, but we were short of time and needed to be able to visit the falls in one day and return to Nanning the same day. Language, I said, wouldn’t be a problem. “Miss Chen will meet you in the lobby at 7.00 am tomorrow”, she answered.

Detian Waterfall Separating China and Vietnam
Detian Waterfall Detian Pubu
德添瀑布

Detian Waterfall Separating China and Vietnam

The Detian Waterfalls, situated in China’s Southern Guangxi Province (Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region), are among of the most spectacular in China, if not Asia. Their location alone, a remote area populated by diverse ethnic minorities, interspersed by winding rivers, karst peaks and Continue reading “Detian Waterfall Separating China and Vietnam”

The Hua Shan Rock Paintings / 花山岩画 & 左江风景区

Hua Shan Rock Paintings: From Our Diary 2006

The Hua Shan Rock Paintings
The Hua Shan Rock Paintings

Rock Painting Hua Shan

The Hua Shan Rock Paintings are found in Guangxi Province China home to the Zhuang Minority ethnic group.

Who are the Zhuang?

The Zhuang are China’s largest ethnic minority with about 15 million of them living in Guangxi province alone. In fact, the Zhuang are so numerous in Guangxi that the province is officially known as the Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region. The provincial capital Nanning, or ‘the Green City’, as it tries to promote itself, is a good place to base yourself for forays into the Zhuang heartlands. 

Zuo Jiang River Scenery
Zuo Jiang River Scenery

In appearance, the Zhuang are almost indistinguishable from the Han Chinese, though some Zhuang sub-groups, such as the black Zhuang, continue to wear their distinctive ethnic clothing. The Zhuang do, however, have their own language, which has been transcribed in a curious Romanised script.

Zuo Jiang River Scenery
Zuo Jiang (Zuo River)

The rock paintings at Hua Shan are not only situated in the Zhuang heartlands, but they also mark the cradle of their civilization, as they are reputed to be at least 2000 years old. Thus, these paintings and other nearby archaeological sites provide evidence that the origins of the Zhuang can be traced back to Continue reading “The Hua Shan Rock Paintings / 花山岩画 & 左江风景区”

The Dragon’s Backbone Rice Terraces: Longji Titian

Killing the Goose that Lays the Golden Eggs (Longji Titian/ The Dragon’s Backbone Rice Terraces)
Yao Lady Dragon Backbone Rice Terraces
Yao Lady Dragon Backbone Rice Terraces

The Dragon’s Backbone Rice Terraces: Longji Titian how will these incredible teraaces survive? This piece looks at the issues raised in the article “Drinking Their Fields Dry”, written by Xiong Lei and published in the China Daily on 12 -7-2007. The article focuses on the effects tourism is having on the Dragon’s Backbone Rice Terraces (Longji titian) near Longsheng in the Zhuang Autonomous Region in Guangxi province.

Working  the  Dragon Backbone Rice Terraces
Working the Dragon Backbone Rice Terraces

The Dragon’s Backbone Rice Terraces: Longji Titian

On that beautiful late summer’s evening in 2003 the dynamite went off at regular intervals, with a thud that echoed around the entire valley, shattering the silence of an area without cars and very little electricity. I looked on as a crowd of local Zhuang from the village of Ping’an gathered to watch how huge swathes of the beautiful terraced mountain side were blasted to pieces to make way for a new road that would eventually arrive at the very centre of their village.

Dragon Backbone Rice Terraces
Dragon Backbone Rice Terraces

I wondered then what changes that road would bring to their lives. I never imagined that they would be so quick and so damaging.

Continue reading “The Dragon’s Backbone Rice Terraces: Longji Titian”

Detian Pubu (Waterfall): Photo of the Week

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Detian Waterwall The border between China and Vietnam

The thunderous Detian Waterfall doesn’t respect borders. It spans the Chinese and Vietnamese frontier making life hell for border guards trying to keep nosy travellers from going where they shouldn’t.

Adam-at-the-border

 

 

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Rice Terraces Under Threat (Killing the Goose that Lays the Golden Eggs)

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Longji Titian Rice Terraces T

This piece looks at the issues raised in the article “Drinking Their Fields Dry”, written by Xiong Lei and published in the China Daily on 12 -7-2007. The article focuses on the effects tourism is having on the Dragon’s Backbone Rice Terraces (Longji titian) near Longsheng in the Zhuang Autonomous Region in Guangxi province.