Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Day 3 – Guilin: Long-haired women & Longji Terraces

We continued to have nice, sunny weather today, and our girl woke up surprisingly early before 9 am, maybe because she missed Simon in her sleep, haha! Today, our girl feasted on breads bought from yesterday, and a chiffon cake with a cute picture of a mouse on top, which she nicely shared with Simon. We used the same driver today, and over the next few days, as he was really nice, and also engaged a tour guide, Ms. Zhang, who turned out quite useless since we could pretty much manage on our own with the driver anyway. (Rosabelle ended up asking for ‘Zhang Ayi’ over the next few days, thinking she would still be following us.) First stop was about an hour-plus drive to the village of Huangluo, to see the Yao women and their famed loooong hair. As we were heading there, my mum, who could not bear to see my brother having to squeeze into a two-seater with my Dad and the tour guide, asked him to shift to the back with us, a three-seater occupied by her, me, and the kids. It was quite unnecessary as my brother already kept saying there was no need to, so with good intentions, he called Simon over to sit with him in the front to ease up space for us at the back. Mind you, they were playing musical chairs whilst the van was rambling on the high way.

At this point, Rosabelle whined and said she wanted Simon, and since my mum also did not seem to want him to squeeze with my brother, called him back. My brother then remarked something to the effect that ‘You should not always give children what they want. Sometimes when they cry, you have to discipline.’ I got quite pissed-off hearing that – hello! Did I ask for such moving around in the first place? I was already quite irritated that Mum was asking for all this shifting, and making us all even more cramped in the back, and I wasn’t the one who called Simon back hurriedly – Mum was the one. But I did not retort nor reply to that uncalled statement – I normally refuse to, and don’t need to, justify my parenting skills to someone who does not even have children of their own and thus is not qualified to offer any useful advice. To me, it’s all rubbish to my ears that I just choose to filter out.

However, when my brother made the remark yet again a few minutes later, and kept asking for Simon to join him in the front (my Mum was holding Simon back, as she could probably see that I was already seething), as if thinking I did not hear it the first time round, that was when I really lost it and basically gave a one-sentence, ‘It’s not a matter of discipline or not discipline, it’s simply a matter of not moving around all the time when the bus is moving!’, then made poor Simon a scapegoat and wanted to chase him to sit in front (which he of course did not want to this time round, seeing how angry I was). Think my brother at last got it, and that kept everybody else’s mouths shut for the rest of the journey. (But we’re all adults and grown-ups, and of course got back to talking normally before long.)

After the rather unfriendly exchange, what greeted us at Huangluo was a very picturesque sight, with wooden houses on stilts and trickling, shiny streams. The houses have to be built on stilts as they cannot stay on the first level due to the many ‘visitors’ like rats and snakes, so they only keep their belongings at this level.
We had to walk a suspended bridge that swayed from side to side as we walked, so it was no mean feat keeping the smiles on whilst balancing and carrying Rosabelle at the same time!
The kids then walked in a mini rice field and saw chickens and a beautiful dragonfly resting…
Here, this man is preparing swill to feed the pigs.
And we also visited the inside of one of their homes – very old and broken-down, but with all basic amenities, and even a television set! There were a lot of hagglers wanting to sell us handmade pouches and knick-knacks, and my mum, being the ‘aunty’ kind, was honey to them, and they stuck to her in droves until I drove (forgive the pun) them away.
We were trying to get the kids to pose together with one of their kids for a photo, but this was as close as they got.
We then went into the performance ‘hall’ of sorts and took pictures with the performers and on stage first before they started the show.
Our girl wasn’t shy and even wanted to hit the drum.
That’s the eager audience made up of Chinese and laowais alike…
As the show was starting, they handed out small bowls of grains in a savoury soup, that Rosabelle loved every bit of. You can only take one chopstick from them, as taking a pair means you want to stay on in the village (no, thanks!). I wasn’t very keen on letting her have them in the first place as I’m sure they weren't prepared (or the utensils washed) in the most hygienic of conditions, but oh well, it’s a holiday, and she’s a small tourist, so she should get to try, huh?
The performances started, with a bilingual emcee who spoke fairly ok, if very Chinglish, English, and the girls put up a variety of dances.
They then called for 4 male volunteers who had to go up and engage in a wedding ceremony of sorts with their Yao brides, ending up with a celebratory dance that had the women surround them and pinch their behinds, haha!
Next was the last item, supposedly the highlight, where the ladies did a dance as they had all their hair down and slowly combed and tied them up, without the use of any pins/bands. I found it quite eerie at first, with all the long hairs covering their faces, since they only cut their hairs once at 18 years of age, and never again. There are two different locks of hair they also have to tie to their current hair – one lock is the one they snipped off at 18 years of age, and another is a lock that collects all the hairs they drop every day (if it were me, I would have given up in frustration as I shed mounds of hair on a daily basis!).
At different stages of their lives, they have different ways of tying their hairs – before marriage (hair’s all covered up in cloth and revealed only to their husband on the wedding night), after marriage (before kids), after marriage (with kids), and old aunty style. I can imagine it’s all quite heavy, and our girl was really quite enchanted by it all, strolling to the front of the stage to take a look, oblivious to the audience behind her (luckily she was too short to block anyone).
After the show ended, we took some more photos with the performers.
Here, she’s almost finishing a pack of ‘Goldfish’ biscuits I gave her, as the grains they gave weren’t enough and she was asking more from me.
As we took a slow walk back to our bus, I managed to catch quite a few nice shots of Rosabelle against great scenary.
And this vendor nicely agreed to one tourist’s request to let her hair down (literally) for a shot… they all don’t have any white hairs as they use fermented rice water to wash their hair – all very nice, but oh how stinky it must be…
We then continued on our way in the bus up to Longji Terrace, where our poor driver had to stop for about 10 minutes as he suspected there was a speed camera that took a snap of him driving at 50km/h (speed limit’s only 40km/h). True enough, he came back quite sad as he had to give the 'traffic police’ manning the station RMB100 to erase the footage, or risk getting an official RMB500 fine and demerit points. Gulp! (My brother gave him RMB100 at the end of the day to make up for it.) On the bus, we agreed that my parents would each take a sedan chair, whilst the rest of us would climb up the terraces. Hey, it’s quite fun and our girl would enjoy it, right? And she can alternate between sitting with Gong Gong and Po Po when she’s tired…

However, upon reaching there, we had to concede defeat… she refused to sit with my mum, bawling out loud, and no way were we going to climb/carry her up – it would take at least two days given her pace and her weight! And we finally relented to a pair of sedan carriers who had the hindsight to trail us for the first 100 meters.
Poor things… although the weather was nice and cool, it was still very sunny (I’d stripped down to my T-shirt!), and they had to take a few breaks in between, taking off their jackets as well as the perspiration was just streaming down their faces.
It was really quite a tough journey, and at first we thought RMB250 for a two-way trip was rather steep, but given the arduous menial work and the steps, it was really no mean feat for them.
I managed to take some photos as we passed by nice-looking houses and rice fields.
Along the way, when they stopped, one old lady came up to me and asked if I wanted a drink. Telling her I had my own drink, she asked me to buy for them both, and told me it was RMB10 – I felt bad if I did not get water for them so I agreed, and it cost RMB10 PER bottle, what it’d cost in a high-class restaurant in Beijing; sheesh! Anyway… more rice fields…
And then after some time, I did not detect any movement in my girl and realized she had fallen asleep – haha! The rocking movement must have lulled her to sleep (it was only 1pm then), and I thus could not get down at the spot where it’s supposedly the most suitable for a photograph, only trying to take a far shot from where I was sitting in the sedan. The carriers must have needed the rest, as they let me stay on there for about 15 minutes, where I had to ask them to shift me to a more shady spot as the sun was getting quite hot, and told them I wanted to continue the journey as the tourists were getting more and more (and getting quite noisy for my sleeping girl).
And so we went on, where we told our carriers that we wanted to go all the way up, which was another short stretch of road up. As they placed us down again in a shady spot, Rosabelle woke up, after a 30-minute power nap, and was thankfully put in a right mood by Prince Charming Simon.
We then climbed a short flight of steps to the top – these are what the sedan carriers had to deal with along the way…
And then our girl got in a most posey mood, nothing wakes a diva up like a camera, haha!
We also snapped a few family portraits from there. Longji is thus called because it’s like a dragon’s backbone, and I can imagine the place taking on different looks in other seasons.
We then stopped for a short break at a small shop at the top selling drinks, where our girl had some bread to eat as we had not had lunch yet.
Boa took this series of shots for us – very nice…
And she also helped herself to servings of some rather flat/cardboard-tasting biscuits we got at the bread shop…
By this time, it was already close to 3pm as we headed down, intending to look for a clean restaurant along the way to eat something for lunch. We saw a lot of these Ah Meis offering to take photos with the tourists and letting them wear costumes. EACH Ah Mei costs RMB10 per photo, so if you get the gang, a shot can easily cost you RMB40!
The rice terraces all did look quite nice on the way down…
Brother then found a more clean-looking place where he ordered some bamboo rice specialty, and as we waited for the food to arrive, Rosabelle and I explored the place, as she got all curious about this beetroot-looking thing laid out to sun.
Then she started getting unreasonable and told me she did not want a lying dog to be in her way – erm, though I may possess out-of-this-world powers bestowed upon me as a SuperMommy, there was no way I would wake/move a sleeping dog to make her happy!
So we walked around the dog and got to this big pumpkin, heh!
And I also got the kids to pose with me as they made ‘Ahhhh’ and ‘Oooooo' sounds…
Then lunch came and our girl actually enjoyed the bamboo rice with yam and sweet potato, finishing almost half of the whole stick.
After recharging our energies, we went on down (poor sedan carriers had to continue their hard work), and I saw a man leading a horse as well.
By the time we got back into our bus to head back to the hotel, it was already close to 5 pm, so I nursed her, thinking she would at least sleep on the 1.5 hour journey back, but as usual, with Simon around, she wanted to stay awake to play… and so we all reached the hotel and I unpacked and bathed first, as we wanted to head out for dinner at Lijiang Waterfall Hotel.

I’d thought that the waterfall could be seen from the restaurant, but apparently no, and we were the only people in the restaurant, goodness. Luckily the food was ok, but the chrysanthemum tea at RMB25 PER CUP was really exorbitant. Our girl enjoyed her dinner, but was busy playing with toothpicks laid out on the table as well, poking them around. When my brother, sitting next to her, poked her for kicks just to see her reaction (she would of course cry out and resist), I had to tell him sternly it is really not funny, and he should not do it if he doesn’t want her to learn and poke others with it as well. Sigh… I really wonder who’s the kiddo at times…
When we were finished with dinner, I brought her to the loo and she actually pooed… We then went out to try and catch the waterfall at the outside of the hotel, but it wasn’t turned on even, cheh! What a non-event!

That night, we just went to get bread to work off dinner before heading back to the hotel. At least we managed to get into bed before 12 midnight to have a well-deserved rest!

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