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.

Chicken Class:

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.

On this particular trip the road was washed out at one point meaning we had to traverse the gap on foot and board another bus on the other side. I helped a girl with her things as she struggled with her duck. Rick asked her why she had the duck when another guy had got on the bus with it. Apparently she had bought it. As the driver was about to depart I noticed the duck was still outside the bus. "Hey lady, you forgot your duck!" They resolved to put the duck in the side pocket. I think I heard the driver asking her if the duck would be alright in there. She said something about it not mattering as she was going to cook it that evening.

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.

In Kaili we had trouble finding a hotel that would accept foreigners. Eventually we found an overpriced hole and managed to get a bit of a discount. After taking a dump I discovered the cistern wasn't working. It turned out that we had hot water, piping hot! but no cold water. The receptionist was pretty unhelpful and seemed to be taking a stance of "why are you complaining to ME about this?" Eventually she told Rick there was a bathroom downstairs he could use though the light was broken and naturally they didn't have any replacement bulbs. I managed to flush the toilet by scooping boiling hot water into the cistern, badly scaulding my foot in the process. China's broken! Grrr.

From Kaili we took the train to Guiyang and then on a sleeper to Chongqing. Having a bit of time to kill in Guiyang we decided to catch up on some email, but the first two places we went to were.....hmmm....."broken".

Toilets:

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.

While we are on the subject, the toilets in China are probably worth a passing mention. They are without a doubt among the most disgusting I have ever seen (or smelt!). Public toilets are generally an open cubicle with a trough running through the middle and urine and faeces all over the floor. The ultimate indignity is having to pay to use them. If you use a toilet in a restaurant you may encounter livestock, usually pigs. The Lonely Planet guide to Tibet relates a rather shocking tale of a European woman who went into the wrong door of a toilet and ended up to her neck in the sewerage outlet. Uggh!