Journeys » China, South East (Journeys) » China, South East - 2015

China South East - 2015

GUILIN, SOUTHEAST CHINA - A LAND IN SLOW MOTION

After meeting photographer Greg du Toit teaching a client on holidays in the camp in Kenya, I took to this idea of traveling with a professional teaching photography. Why not travel and learn something new.

Photographer OKTAY ORTAKCIOGLU runs every year excellent Photography tours to unusual places in South East China. I joined him in October 2015 as a beginner. 

At that stage all I could do was listen to the others in the group: Aperture, Shutter Speed, ISO…?? 

Guilin,, in South East China, has a local lake that offers all sorts of activities, Tai Chi, music, choir, stalls, markets, walks. The town itself is full of shops, stalls, eateries, and people.

By Bullet train we reached the remote Dong minority ethnic group village of Zhaoxing Tang’an in the Guangzhou Province credited with being “one of the top 6 Ancient Villages in China” and crowned as the most “Primitive Dong Village”. In this part of the world, just like inSouth West China, the women do all the jobs we would consider being a man’s job.

P.S. -  An Entry Permit is required up front for Tang’an

Tang’an is an amazing wooden village built on canals, full of activity, restaurants, festivals.

Oktay organized a visit to the local school in a village up a hill and the teachers cooked our lunch. In the village, there were only old women minding scores of babies and toddlers. 

Cheng Yang is an ancient village of wooden houses now being restored and famous for its ancient Wind and Rain Bridge. 

PingAn/DaZhai a village in a hilly landscape, reachable only after climbing hundreds of steep steps through paddy fields. Again it was the women that climbed to the top carrying our luggage.  Stretchers are also available carried by the odd man around….Heavy luggage can be stored outside the village. 

People in South East China live off their high-quality rice and life revolves around the harvest that is celebrated with open-air plays and dances. 

In Yangshuo, an early morning boat ride through the karsts of the River Lee brought us to the spot where the famous fishermen with cormorant on tow throw their nets.  An amazing setting, That particular spot appears on the country’s banknotes. The “Painted Veil” a 2006 film will give an idea of the magic of this very area. Yangshuo town is full of flowers, big markets, folklore, stalls, shops, cafes, shopping, and it’s busy, busy, busy.

WHAT YOU SHOULD KNOW

In South West and South East China is where most of China’s minority ethnic groups are found. It is the women of those groups that do what we would consider a man’s job: they build houses, roads, carry weights, weave, farm, cook, have babies, and above all run businesses. 

Religion and marriage do not feature among most ethnic groups.

Dong women never cut their hair and some even add the hair of ancestors to their own. 

In such rural environments, we witness first hand the suffering of children left behind due to  Chinese laws forbidding them to go to school in a different province from the one they were born in. We were in villages where old ladies were minding scores of children as young as newborn babies while the children parents had gone to work in another province.  They are the “rural population”  holding back Chinese economy.

WHERE TO STAY

Yangshuo, Ugly Building Hotel

Zhaoxing, Indigo Inn

ChengYang, Dong Village Hotel

PingAnn, Yao Inn

 

FLIGHTS

  • PARIS, BEIJING, GUILIN

 

MY TIPS

  • Accommodation in 4* Hotels is better than in 3* Hotels without encountering higher rates. 
  • Hotels 4* have restaurant facilities.
  • Be aware of hotels in rural China having only a few rooms with western style toilets
  • At airports in Asia, either the very first or the very last toilet is in western style. 
  • Red tape in restaurants, shops and hotels can be exasperating
  • In most restaurants and bars they now have crockery sterilizing units.
  • It is also tradition to offer a dish specially made to welcome visitors.
  • P.S. DO NOT put your camera’s lithium batteries in the checked-in luggage.
  • Bring them on board. I have been told that only 2 spare batteries are allowed on board
  • Restaurants are very cold. Not even the locals take off their coats at the table.
  • Don't be afraid to learn a bit of Chinese. Not as bad as you think.
  • Babies don't wear nappies!
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