Hey Hey and a Big G'Day toya,
Fear of heights or no fear of heights. I can’t seem to come to a personal realistic answer.
After a long and picturesque bus ride from Xhaoxing Village I arrived in Sanjiang Town and grabbed the first Tuk Tuk to Chengyang Village to check out the Dong Peoples'Wind and Rain Bridge’ which is also known as the Yongji Bridge and Panlong Bridge. Of all of the Wind and Rain Bridges that can be found in both Guangxi and Guizhou Provinces the Chengyang Bridge is the most famous.
Yesterday morning after an early morning walk around Chengyang Village I grabbed a min-van back into Sanjiang Town and after throwing my pack into my hotel room I set out into the town’s vibrant streets to find out what Sanjiang was all about. Most people only get to see both bus stations as they spend their time in Chengyang Village and then move on to either Kaili City in Guizhou Province or to Guilin City in Guangxi Province but I decided to stay and explore its streets and alleyways. As I had arrived from Guizhou Province I departed my bus in the very cluttered bus station on the old side of the river and found a hotel room just up the road.
From my hotel room window I had spotted a huge Dong Drum Tower across the river. So instead of making it my first port of call I for some reason headed the other way.
I spent many hours walking around town and out into the surrounding fields and by late afternoon I finally found myself on the other side of the river where can be found the newer part of town which is also in the process of constructing itself into the more touristy part of town. It is here that you will find the one and only chicken shop, more than a handful of Tea Stores along with the bus station that will take you to Guilin City.
I also found hidden behind all of the newish facades several small river side villages and after visiting them I decided to make my way towards the drum tower.
Sanjiang Gulou (Sanjiang Drum Tower) was built in 2002, measures forty three meters in height and has twenty seven levels. It is made completely of wood and its four main poles were supposedly carried all the way from Guizhou Province. The longest pole is twenty seven meters long and was made from a tree that was over two hundred years old.
The Drum Tower costs ten Yuan to enter OR fifteen Yuan to enter and climb. If you are afraid of heights you probably won’t make it to the top.
The climb begins with several ‘floors’ beneath your feet which soon give way to many small wooden ladders. Once you reach the top though the views are more than worth the shaky legs gained from the worrisome journey up. When I write this I don’t mean that it is a hard climb but I found myself stopping on several occasions, looking towards the top of the tower and wondering if my fear of heights would either pass or bar my way further.
Thankfully with a little help from myself I got passed my fear and reaped the rewards. The three hundred and sixty degree views it offers were well worth the effort and money.
From the top of the Drum Tower I noticed a small temple on the other side of the road (not the river) so after placing my feet on ground I headed over to see what I could find. I’ve tried to find information about it on the internet but all I could find was information on the Wind and Rain Bridges that are found in the surrounding villages. The entrance to the temple and its grounds have been left to decay which is sad but the temple itself seems to have had a small facelift sometime in the past decade and after a short walk around I found a set of stairs that took me to the top of the small mountain the temple is situated on.
At the top I found the frame of an unfinished pagoda.
Even though unfinished it still seemed to offer shelter and privacy for a hungry young couple who were far too busy trying to devour what each other had eating for lunch to notice the out of place foreigner walking past them. I spent an hour walking around the small mountain top trying to find a track that would take me across to the next one and after finally giving in I headed back and quietly slipped past the now ravenous couple who were now more than busy checking out what ‘label’ underclothing each other was wearing.
He was now down to a white bonds type singlet top.
Sadly I didn’t get to see if she was clad in either Kylie Minogue or Victoria Secrets underwear. I did try sneaking past as slowly as I possibly could but as the pagoda is situated at the top of the stairs leading down I ran out of room to be ‘slow’ and had to descend without the desired answer.
The local couple I passed halfway down I’m sure could reveal the answer!
As the sun set and the neon’s began to flash the tiny city seemed to morph into a completely new reality than the one I had been walking for the past six hours. It seemed that within minutes the streets went from those of a quiet backwater town to those of a city such as Shantou City which is found in Guangdong Province on China’s east coast. Where five minutes before there was just bare concrete, within the blink of an eye some sort of stall such as BBQ or night Wokup had been setup.
Needless to say, I stopped and after taking a look around me I concluded that yes, Sanjiang City was another perfect city for me to kick back and teach in.
Situated in the north west of the Guangxi Zhuang Automomous Region, in the joint area of Hunan, Guizhou and Guangxi Province can be found the small city of Sanjiang. Its population consists of no less than ten Nationalities/Minority Peoples which include the Dong, Han, Zhuang, Miao, Yao, Manchu, Hui, Maonan, Gelao and the Yi Peoples. As one of the five Dong minority autonomous counties in China, Sanjiang has the largest population of Dong people. Therefore, Sanjiang boasts the Dong people's most distinctive architecture that includes many Drum Towers and Wind and Rain Bridges. Each Dong village has at least one drum tower and others house up to five towers and usually the drum hanging in the tower is made of cow skin and is used for calling the villagers to some sort of meeting.
The history of Sanjiang can be traced back to and linked to the Liangkou and the Danzhou where many of the ancient constructions were built during the Ming Dynasty (AD1368 to 1644).
The Sanjiang Dong Minority Autonomous Country is found within the sub-tropic wet climate area of the Nanling Mountains so it rains a lot during the summer months and has an annual average temperature of around twenty degrees. Sanjiang is a small city by Chinese standards with a small population of around three hundred and forty thousand people and is considered the centre of the Dong minority group who make up nearly sixty percent of the population.
The Dong people living in this remote mountain region have preserved their culture well.
Their architecture remains very traditional as their houses are still made of wood and remain in the unique Dong style and the villages are dotted with drum towers and Wind and Rain Bridges. As with the Miao People, as each day ends you can enjoy song and dance performances by the villagers, many of whom still wear their traditional clothes during their daily lives and not only for the performances.
Also as with the Miao the Dong people are famous for their singing.
The Dong Minority didn't have a writing system of their own until 1958 so their history and stories were all recorded and passed down through songs. The most popular form of song is known as the ‘Grand Song' which contains various themes ranging from love stories, historical events to moral lessons. These are all performed by a chorus and the formal performing place is the village drum-tower.
Tonight, after yet another long bus ride I am found a little light headed back in Yangshuo Town as Mickey’s staff at MC Blues continually placed before me Tequilla Sunrise after Tequilla Sunrise.
As of tomorrow I guess the 2010 Miao and Dong Peoples ‘Summer Beers N Noodles’ Adventure kind of comes to an end as new plans will have to be made as to how and when I will make my way back to my beloved small mountain city that can be found in the remote areas of north western Fujian Province.
This summers adventure is easily one of the most awesome of all my adventures here in China as I finally got to live my dream of travelling through Guizhou Province where I got to spend time with both the Miao and the Dong Peoples. Even though it is at an end and that I would love to continue to travel, after living in northern China in Shaanxi Province for two years I am very excited to be returning to the hearts of all my friends along with the rice fields and mountians of Shaowu City. Add to that my extreme happiness of returning to my beloved school and its wonderful staff and most of all to return to teaching in classrooms that actually has Chinese Assistants then I hope you can understand why I am strangely happy even though my adventure is at an end.
I love my life and job more than you can possibly imagine and that love was almost taken away from me after my last teaching position in Hanzhong City but right now I can feel the butterflies beginning to flutter as my excitment begins to build at the thought of returning to a classroom where I can simply be ME!
Like I always say, Mate I couldn’t be happier if I was twins! Beers N Noodles toya…..shane ___________________________________________________________
The soundtrack to this entry was by ZZ Top The album was ‘One Foot in the Blues’. ____________________________________________________________