We were able to hook up with a great tour guide who took us on a village tour in Baisha.
The first hurdle was to hire a driver. It's hard to walk up to a string of mini-vans and negotiate a good price when cameras are hanging around our necks.
The advantage of hiring your own driver is that you can have him stop anywhere you want. "Ting yi xia!" (Stop here!) We'd say it when we found a good spot. Often we stumble across people planting rice in their fields. They take a large bundle of sprouts, separate a small bunch of roots and toss them like darts at a board into the shallow water. The seedlings would land with a plop and send water ringlets out in concentric circles. It was graceful to watch them.
We found a water buffalo off to the side and a little shy boy tending to him. The buffalo wandered into the street and he pulled him back by the rope attached to it's nose. (There are no animal rights activists here in China.) We carried some candies and tried to give him one but he wouldn't take it. I guess a parent's warning about taking candy from strangers is universal.
We drove further back into the valley along the Yulong river. Right next to the river is a restaurant. Before we sat down we checked out the "kitchen" which consists of a small shack. There is no sink in the kitchen, the sink is the river. We took a seat on folding chairs gathered around a table positioned on a floating bamboo raft. The view was grand.
Crossing the river is a concrete bridge that the farmers use to move their vegetables to the market on ox back. If you just sit here long enough, something interesting crosses and makes for a good picture. The locals sell water pistons so that you stand on the bridge and spray people coming down the river on bamboo rafts.
We ate a wonderful meal of hot beef, vegetables, and pumpkin. A cold local beer went down smooth. The beer is only 3% alcohol so it's really like drinking clean, pure water. It's very good. We paid 55 yuan ($7) to feed all five of us. That covers four dishes, rice, tea, and beer. I think I've spent as much in America on a beer at a carnival! Ruth and Lynn gave the owner's children some candies and they rapidly devoured them, tossing the wrappers on the ground.
We walked through villages and narrow walkways, into homes, and into courtyards of the local people. One village is 1600 years old.
We spoke briefly with an older woman sitting out in front of her home. We asked her age (in her 70s) and then she invited us to take pictures of the inside of her home. Blue smoke shafted through the holes in her roof as she had just finished cooking. Her laundry was hanging on a bamboo pole suspended by rope from the rafters. There was no furniture but an old wood rice thresher was leaning up against the mud brick wall. A few "rooms" were connected by a doorway from the courtyard but I couldn't determine where one room ended and the courtyard began. I took a few pictures through the windows. Instead of glass, cobwebs filled the openings. The roof lines met at odd places and I couldn't imagine how anyone could keep dry when it rained in a place like this. What does she do in the winter? There was no electrical outlets but there was a single bulb hanging from above. It was very dark inside and yet this was a sunny day. The floors were made of tamped dirt warn uneven by centuries of traffic.
One old man told us his home was 300 years old. I believe him. Some houses in the village, like the old woman's, are made of mud bricks. (I took one picture of a manure cart in front of a mud home.) Out in the courtyard is a stone well, it's edges grooved by ropes.
We found a bridge 800 years old, a teen's age compared to the village of 1600 years, but still four times older than America. We rented bamboo rafts with chairs and floated under it's arches and watched the sun dip behind this unique landscape.
Near the river the Chinese are building a highway. The builders will come and level whatever is in the path. The Chinese residents will move on and find another place. Meibanfa?
We went back to a restaurant near our hotel and ate hot "Gong Bao" meat and vegetables.
It's Sunday evening and most of the tourists have left. The streets are quieter. A Chinese man plays a flue below our second story balcony.
Be not disturbed at being misunderstood; be disturbed at not understanding. -Chinese proverb