August in China: Inside the Tulou

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The inside of the tulou weren’t exactly the most luxurious. Inside the packed earth walls were struts and floors made of timber planks. Each room into the circular courtyard and all rooms in use were open to let in the light. Above each door hung a lantern now for purely decorative purposes as the tulou had electricity at night.

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I especially liked the contrast of dark wood and red lantern but didn’t like it enough to stay the night in one. I opted for a modern guesthouse nearby instead as it had running water and airconditioning. Paying a small amount extra was worth it considering water was gotten from a well and there was no toilet inside!

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Things were very much back to basics here. Some areas had to be accessed by ladder instead of wooden steps because of lack of space.

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In the side alleys along the walls lay mud and starch bricks in stacks ready for repair work.

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And along the walls inside the tulou, the baskets and pots of everyday life seemed unchanged from a hundred years ago.

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Only the gas cylinder and the modern Chinese characters told of modern times…

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… as did new electric gadgets and the Mao poster.

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[Next up: Life in the Tulou]

August in China: A Walk in a Dong Village

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Just like its bridges and drum towers, Dong village houses are made of local wood. They blend charmingly into the forest, although some villages are much better kept than others. The first picture is of one that tourists frequent more.

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This slightly dustier village was a bit poorer, perhaps because tourist buses didn’t stop here. In this village, Willy and I had an odd sense that the people were wary and suspicious of outsiders. Even the curious children weren’t as open as I expected.

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Nonetheless, I was glad to see that there was some kind of government care in this village. At least the poster shows that they’re bothering to do something about female infanticide, reminding the minority groups that girls are a valuable part of their community.

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In the other villages, prosperity was showing in the form of spanking new houses. This one was very near to the main road. Everything was made from scratch from local timber. Nothing seemed to be metal or prefab.

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The villages didn’t have a proper sewage system. They relied on the age-old system of ponds, algae and ducks.  An outhouse  was built in the centre of each pond and presumably rotated between the ponds. Some of them were pretty clean, with melon creepers vines growing along the borders of the ponds.

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Others were equally pretty, with the red algal bloom. It was only after some thought that I realised why the algae was doing so well. They probably allowed the algae to grow, then drain the resulting water into the paddy fields as fertiliser and allow the ducks to get at the algae. Whether it’s correct or not is another matter,  it’s all pure speculation on my part.

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The back of the village opened out into the valley. The flattest parts at the bottom were filled with paddy fields, while the higher elevations had other crops like tea and corn.

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As we strolled along the back paths, villagers went on with their hard work on the land.

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On the other hand, we tourists went on to climb halfway up a slope and enjoy the beautiful views.

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I could stare out at this scenery every day, it’s so amazing.

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August in China: Rice Terraces of Longsheng

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I took a day trip to Longsheng to see the famous rice terraces. It’s a verdant mountainous area populated by the Dong and Zhuang tribes. Their ancestors carved the terraces into the steep slopes creating this stunning landscape of  crazy curving green contours looming out of the mist.

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Each terrace had been carved out pretty much by hand and every inch of space was maximised. Some terraces were so tiny that the farmer had to stand outside the terrace to tend it.

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It was incredible how the terraces were all perfectly level. These were all done without the help of modern technology. It was simply mind-boggling to behold.

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Midway through the rice season, the paddy was just about starting to flower and seed. The different shades of green blanketing the valley really was a sight for sore eyes.

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Equally awesome were the wood houses also constructed into the slopes. Some of them were propped against the mountain-side with the help of stilts and others were simply split levels leaning on the rock contours. I loved how the complementary dark wood and red lanterns contrasted against the green green grass.

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I couldn’t quite get over the oddity of seeing a cluster of houses on the top of a hill. It must have been amazingly hard work for the first family to build a house there. Imagine lugging all the supplies, then chopping down the trees for timber and then putting it all together. Wow.

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And the views were just amazing. The mountain peaks looming in the distance reminded me that we may be able to carve up the mountains, but there would be another peak out there escaping our colonisation. There’d always be a wild spot out there waiting to be discovered.

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