The Back Roads Into Guizhou
Carrying on from Longsheng, Rick, Angela and I set out for the Chengyang Bridge, which was built by the Dong in the early part of the last century. It's a marvelous piece of architecture in which not even a single nail is used. The Dong are master craftsmen and renowned for their "wind and rain" bridges, which also served as gathering points in times of difficulty. They have their own language (which supposedly has 15 or more tones!) though they use Chinese characters for writing. Exploring the nearby Dong village we came across a sign that read "Dong Girls Oil Tea House". On investigation we discovered three delightful young ladies all of whom could speak a smattering of English, which complimented our splattering of Chinese quite nicely. They made us some green tea, and invited us to come back later that evening to sample some Dong cuisine. Apparently it was their first day in business. After a suitable number of tasteless jokes about eating "dong" we returned to the house and had a thoroughly pleasant evening. The "oil tea" referred to, is a local speciality.
From the Dong village we took a local bus back to Sanjiang where we parted company with Angela who was heading back east and into Vietnam. From Sanjiang we caught another bus to Congjiang near the border of Guangxi and Guizhou. This was definately "chicken class". Travelling by local bus in the around China's back roads is quite an experience. They cram the people on (and their livestock), the roads are dreadful, and often the buses' suspension is non-existent. Those in the know often sit towards the middle though the closer you get to the front of the bus the louder the horn gets which is of course in constant use. Smoking is not considered an inconvenience and clearing your throat and hoiking it onto the floor in the aisle is considered pretty normal too. This tends to preclude sitting on the floor if you can't find a seat.
From Congjiang we took another local bus into Rongjiang where we transferred to a coach to Kaili. There were some nice views of the villages and cultivations of the various ethnic minorities along the rivers. Satellite dishes perched on top of some rather rickety looking roofs seemed oddly incongruous.
When I awoke on the train I felt the need to relieve myself and so off I went to find the w/c. When I got there a woman was washing it out with a busket of water. "Oh good" I thought. I waited for her to finish cleaning around the hand basin outside the cubicle, perhaps unwisely as a woman came along and went right on in. As the woman finished her work some bloke pushed past me, finding the door to the cubicle locked. Clearly waiting wasn't an option as he proceeded to relieve himself on the floor under the hand basin. I decided to hold on until we hit the station.