Anthony's Interesting Times 2004 travel blog

Lunch view

Terraced rice paddies (and some chilis)

My lunchtime supply of chilis drying

Looks like The Last Samurai - doesn't it?

Looking downhill

And across the slope

Local 'minority' tribal person drying tonight's chilis

Leaving the village

When I was in Beijing, I saw this incident a few times on TV. There had been very bad rains and floods in the area I am now in, and some TV crew and officials were looking at some landslides, and next thing you knew, half of them had just vanished. I couldn't help thinking of this as we were driving into the hills today, where there was evidence of landslides everywhere, and some were still being cleared. This wouldn't have been so bad if there weren't such huge drops off the side of the road, and of course, being China, we were still overtaking at high speed on blind corners, etc. Our guide told me later that she hated this particular trip when it was wet, as she always feared she was going to die in a landslide! Bet she doesn't tell her tour groups that when its raining.

Anyway, as I read in a book I am reading, you are not really a proper tourist unless you go on tours, so last night I signed myself up to go and visit the Long Ji Dragon's Backbone rice terraces near a place called Long Sheng, which I had previously been a bit dubious about. Seemed a lot of effort for a photo opportunity. But it was incredible, and most definitely worth it.

We drove for four hours into the mountains, on worse and worse roads, and more and more dramatic scenery. There were these large wooden houses scattered around the hills, like big versions of the ones in Cambodia or Laos, animals living in the basement, and presumably a large extended family in the rest of the place. And these places looked great.

For some people, the attraction of going out there was to see one of China's many minority tribes, but as I was saying last night to the folks, this doesn't really do anything for me, and I'm not sure its too good for them either. I don't want photoes of lots of different funny hats, and I am not sure its good for people to learn to hassle tourists to buy their beadwork, etc.

I admit to being there for the views, specifically the rice terraces. These were awesome, and just covered the mountain sides all around for thousand of feet. There was too much of a heat haze to be able to get big panoramic pictures, otherwise you would be nearly as impressed as I was, and I was very impressed. It was also very beautiful and chilled, and generally highly aesthetically pleasing, though I could see that such landscape would mean no machinery, all harvesting and planting by hand. And I can't imagine the work involved in making them in the first place.

Back home, after much messing around with the internet, I was enjoying myself having my tea - a very nice pottage of fried duck, potatoes and onions - and watching this group of young Germans dealing with their first plate of dog. Squeamishness was overcoming adventure, I fear to say. It was not helped by the cafe owner - a character known as Lucy - who was mischieviously telling them that it was good becuase it was fresh, they had only cut the dog's head off that afternoon. It was probably made even worse by the typical Chinese thing of still having ALL the bones in it. There is something about lots of bones that makes it clear you are eating an animal, and not just some very well dressed tofu. I didn't want to ask, but if the chicken is anything to go by, there were probably four recognisable paws in there as well. The Germans struggled. I would like to say it is expense that has kept me away from the more exotic meats available (they all cost more, even rat), but it is also squeamishness on my own part as well. If they would only take the bones out so it looked like meat I'm used to then Fido wouldn't stand a chance. Incidentally, some people do have cats and dogs as pets, but very few indeed.

Also incidentally, most Chinese have an "English' name. These vary, sometimes they are a literal translation, like Phoenix, and this barmaid I was talking to called Ice; sometimes they are similar in sound, and sometimes just chosen, like this Catherine I was talking to at breakfast (from Catherine Hepburn), and this Stephen I met on a bus.

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