Noilly Prattle: China 2017: 17 – exploring Sanjiang

Saturday, July 1, 2017

China 2017: 17 – exploring Sanjiang

     I suppose when one thinks of China he thinks of about 1.3 billion people who are all pretty much of the same ethnicity—all Han Chinese. Until my first journey to China, last year, I certainly thought that was the case. In fact there are 56 ethnic groups in China who make up 8.4% of the total population. The rest, 91.6% are Han Chinese. Well, that's a pretty small percentage you might say, but as a percentage of 1.3 billion that makes 109,200,200 people—not much less than the entire population of Japan.

Ethnic Groups lined up on the stage
       In Guilin, we saw a large gathering in the large square visible from our hotel room window. It drew us like a magnet out to the square where there appeared to be some kind of festival going on. It turned out to be a convention of Ethnic Groups from all over China with a multitude of beautiful ethnic costumes and singing and dancing on the stage in front a huge screen with colorful projections as a backdrop.

       At any rate, the reason we came to Sanjiang was to visit, not Sanjiang itself, but a Dong Ethnic Village not far from the city and reachable by local bus. The Dong Village is best known for it bridge architecture, one of which is said to be one of the four most famous bridges in the world. I wonder what the other three are?

our hotel is the pink building in the top left -
the old town is on the upper right 

the market place
guess you have to pluck 'em yourself
      Spent the first day getting oriented to a strange new town. This is usually the most critical activity after arriving in a new town—finding out where the local market and transportation are, where the bank and good restaurants are located . . . and a little walk about to get acquainted with the town and wave, smile and say hello to people in the market. (Road Buddy says I come across as a charmer just because I'm a Caucasian. But I told her I knew that and use it to my advantage. But, I added, I automatically stand out just being Caucasian in a sea of Asians, but being such in itself is not enough to be “charming” ; it takes a personality and a knack for knowing your effect on people. I gave her an example of a certain Caucasian person we know who would not be thought charming—she got the point.)

chicken in the basket
       We accomplished quite a lot in one day. Miss Liu, the English-speaking staff lady arranged a taxi to take us the Sanjiang high speed railway terminal to pick up our tickets to Guilin. Next we walked into town from the hotel (a 10- or 15-minute walk) to find the bus stop for the local bus to the Dong Village, but we got confused by the building we thought was the bus terminal. We saw a man sitting behind a counter and asked him where the stop for the Dong Village bus was. He understood and kindly came out from behind the counter and almost literally took us by the hand and showed us the way, across the street, to the bus stop, which we duly made a mental note of for the following day.

sign seen in the bakery
        R.B.'s shoes were leaking. We found a shoe store in the market that was teeming with all kinds of shops and sidewalk stalls along the street and she bought a new pair for a very reasonable price. I think the “C” in China stands for Commerce. China is truly a country alive with a vibrant street life of commerce.

old town along the river
viewed from our hotel 
run down houses and
trash strewn environs
       We decided to explore the old town that I had seen across the river from the hotel. Although built right on the river bank like in Fenghuang, the old town looked shabby and decrepit from the hotel window. Part of it turned out to be a bit of a shocker. Old houses were in a sad state of disrepair with much trash strewn about. Yet the old town is not dead, there is laundry hanging on the porches--a sure sign of life within. As you walk up the street the dwellings improve little by little and it becomes apparent that the area is engaged in furniture making as a craft trade and children play badminton in the street.

old folks hanging out in the square
old woman tending her
vegetable patch by the river
       Ambled back to the hotel with a few detours here and there absorbing the life of Sanjiang. Towards evening we went out for some beef noodles and dumplings at the same little shop we ate at yesterday. It was dusk when we left the noodle shop and headed back to the hotel. The lights were just coming on in the huge drum tower next door to the hotel and by chance a large group of women dressed in traditional Dong costumes happened to be posing for a photo op. I turned on my “charm offensive” and asked them to line up in front of the tower to pose for me and they happily obliged.

beef noodles and dumplings
in their Ethnic finery

Dong ladies and the drum tower outlined in light

       Going on an overnighter to the Dong Village tomorrow.

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