There were many options on our last morning in Kaili, and we decided to leave the city by bus towards the north, get off at one of the valleys, and walk. We pictured a walk in one of the many valleys with rice fields we had seen, and after going through some dense fog upon leaving the city, the skies fortunately cleared. We had asked to be dropped off at the Matang turn-off, so the driver and the ticket woman gestured that we should not get off yet. We somehow convinced them that we wanted to leave anyway, and fortunately, they listened. We were quite high up, and took a road leading still further uphill.
Soon, we came to a crossroads, and we somehow decided to walk straight on. The road was leading us higher, and we could see the main road below us. Moreover, the valley we had considered as a hiking option, now became visible even further below. When we reached a point where we could descend again, hiking in that valley became an option. But even though it looked pretty enough, with a road snaking through the rice fields in the valley bed, we decided to take a path leading up the hill. Our curiosity gained the upper hand: we wanted to know what was behind the ridge. We had to scramble up a little bit, and when we reached the highest point, stopped for a moment to soak in the view on all sides. It was fantastic: the valleys with the rice terraces, the roads leading through the valleys, the cliffs and mountains rising up from this green landscape - indeed, a sight to behold. We found a real path again, which took us right under a cliff, and we quite soon reached a village. Strangely enough, we did not see anyone. From a vantage point, we saw a manmade lake in the middle, with what looked like a dance floor right above it. Still - no one. It seemed strange that in an agricultural village like this one, everyone would be sleeping. The mystery was to be solved soon. We heard laughter and voices coming from one part, followed the sound, and stumbled upon what seemed a good party. Here they were, the villagers: feasting on what looked like tasteful food. All in a good mood, most in their best dresses. That is, the women: as is so often the case, the men did not look anything special. We observed what was going on, tables with old women, children, while it seemed that the most beautiful women of the village were dressed up in the most colourful, light blue dresses with silver necklaces. When looking around, we soon guessed the reason for this gathering: a car decorated with flowers, with mattresses on the roof, was waiting on a small car park.
While we never saw the couple, we assumed we had just ran into a wedding party. After just looking at the villagers and being lifted by their good mood, we started feeling more comfortable, and it became harder to not accept their frequent offers to join in the lunch they were enjoying. When one of the colourfully dressed, beautiful young women invited us in, we could not resist anymore and accepted. Before we knew it, a table in the middle of the room was filled with all kinds of dishes, we were seated, and we were joined by the most beautiful girls of the village. I quickly scanned the food and it did not look bad at all: vegetables, tofu, meat, chicken were at least some ingredients I could identify. There were some bowls with less straightforward food, which I decided to skip. Talking to our company was not easy, but they certainly had a sense of humour - as I found out when the most beautiful of them all took a piece of one of the dishes I had decided to skip, and deposited it in my bowl. It turned out to be pure fat, and I could only manage to eat it by making it as small as possible and mixing it with boiled rice. Inevitably, fireworks were lighted, and a while later, we realized it was time to go. We tried to thank our hosts as good as we could, said goodbye, and were on our way back to the main road. One of the villagers followed us and pointed out the way - just to make sure we took the shortest route. Thoroughly satisfied by our new experiences, we took the bus back to Kaili. The local meal we had enjoyed would last us for the rest of the day.
Personal travel impressions both in words and images from Shi Long Zhai (). Clicking on the pictures enlarges them and enables you to send the picture as a free e-card or download it for personal use, for instance, on your weblog. Or click on the map above to visit more places close to Shi Long Zhai.
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