Chouyang

Grace and I were off the next morning. We hopped on a bus from Longsheng to Sanjiang from there we would head to the village of Chouyang. The bus ride to Sanjiang took four hours alongside a road that was under construction. The road we traversed was a muddy dirt road with crater pot holes. The seating was hard and cramped and came with all the extra cargo we were coming to expect traveling through rural China. After stretching out on arrival, we took a blue box, three-wheeled, motorcycle taxi to another bus station in Sanjiang where we could catch our next bus to Chouyang. The ride to Chouyang was shorter and much more comfortable.

Chouyang is a village of the Dong minority. The attraction there is the Chouyang Wind and Rain Bridge. The roof of the bridge forms five peaks each with three tiers. Their buildings are similar to the Yao architecture we observed at the Longji Rice terraces, simple, yellow wooden buildings with black roofs. The most interesting thing about the village is the engineering of the water wheels. In order to get water from the stream into their rice terraces, they built water wheels that alternate between paddles and bamboo tubes arranged at such angle where they would scoop water out of the river, and when the tube full of water reached the top of the wheel, it would dump the water into a large wooden bucket. The bucket is connected to bamboo pipes that run to the top of the rice terraces. Water would run from the highest terraces all the way back down to the river filling up all the paddies on its way.

We checked into another wooden hotel and ventured out into the village to take a look around. We snapped a couple pictures of the bridge and encircled the village in a few minutes. Later on there was a dance performance in the center of the village. Group of about twenty men and women danced, played instruments, and sang while in their traditional clothing. The men played what looked like giant, freestanding, bamboo bassoons. Tiny old women slid through the crowd selling lucky, minority ‘danglies’. The Chinese tourists readily purchased these souvenirs. One of the dances was a hopscotch through bamboo poles being bounced together. There was an audience participation part during this dance, and I couldn’t handle the pressure and jumped through the poles awkwardly.

After the show, Grace and I took another stroll through the village. While we were walking through one of the vegetable gardens, we saw the master of ceremonies going home. Her attire was marked different than during the ceremony. She wore a stylish pink, plaid blazer with trendy jeans and high-heel boots. Clearly the the minority clothing she had sported during the performance wasn’t her choice of attire.

That evening we ate dinner at our hotel with another group of people. It was a guided tour from Hanoi to Hong Kong of mostly English tourists. The guide was an American girl who had gotten the job after living in China for a couple of years. Some of the tourist were on around the world trips, and one couple was taking out loans to fund their globe trotting. After a while, Grace and I got tired of their company and retired to drink some beers by ourselves. We talked a lot about our general dissatisfaction with our travels to that point. Our plans had been to continue traveling through Dong minority villages into southeastern Guizhou Province per Lonely Planet’s recommendation, but the idea of more bone-jarring bus rides to villages where we could see everything there in a matter of minutes didn’t seem very appealing. We resolved to head south to the beach and recharge. That night I asked Grace if she wanted to leave China and go home. I don’t remember how the conversation went, but we resolved to stay and bedded down for another freezing night.