One of the most fun things we saw during our short stay in Dazhai was villagers rehearsing for an upcoming parade. There was an open space a stone’s throw from our hotel where a group gathered to practice their roles in a dragon dance. We joined the locals and watched and laughed with them, listening to the music and watching the small-town spectacle as, through enthusiastic instruction from the choreographer and many a fumbled step, the act slowly came together over the course of the day.
Another thing I loved about Dazhai was how it smelled. The air was SO fresh up there in the mountains, autumnal crisp and such a nice change after traffic-clogged Guilin.
The days were sun-filled, gold-spun. The warm, slanting sunlight of autumn set the hills ablaze with light and filled the air with the smells of warm, dry end-of-the-year vegetation. Nights turned cold, and silver stars blazed above us in a dark, clear sky as the village became perfumed with the spicy scent of wood smoke.
Our hotel smelled great too. The walls of rough timber, which our hostess said were “Chinese pine”, perfumed the entire building with the most delicious, fresh pine scent. The whole atmosphere was rustic but clean, peaceful and totally uplifting; I felt like Heidi happy, comfortable and comforted in her grandfather’s mountain cottage.
The one smell I didn’t enjoy was one we came across time and again in Asia – the awful scent of burning garbage. I can understand that places as remote as Dazhai don’t have regular garbage collection, but still, I can’t help but cringe at the sight and smell of burning plastic.
It’s probably not the worst smell in the world but everything about its sickly sweet scent screams crime against nature to my olfactory system. I hate it. I’m happy to say though that overall the nature in and around Dazhai was very clean and clearly loved, and if there was smoke in the air, it was much more likely to be from burning brush as the farmers cleared their fields, rather than non-organic trash, like this:
Perhaps in part because of signs like these, that were all over the hiking paths 🙂 :
Of course food is always one of my most favorite ways to experience a place! The eats in Dazhai were pretty simple, but I enjoyed them – for the most part. Sandy, the owner of our guesthouse, was also the cook, and she provided us with simple but lovely meals; bread and yogurt made fresh in-house, nice veggie stir-fries, delicious local tofu, things like that.
We ate out one night at another guesthouse down the road, where the menu was a bit more expansive. We stopped there earlier to enjoy a coffee and watch the parade practice. I was so proud of myself when I used my super limited Chinese to ask for milk for my coffee. The sweet woman who ran the place promptly responded to my request by squeezing milk from a small juice-box-sized package into my cup. Unorthodox technique but not quite so unorthodox as the flavor-combination of coffee and strawberry milk – the pink packaging should have tipped me off – which is not a drink I’d recommend to anyone! 😉
I wasn’t so put off though and I’m glad we had food there later. The “fried wild vegetable” was a tad on the healthy side but I’m happy I tried it; the “fried wild tuber onion” was off the hook in my opinion (I am a fiend for all things in the onion family though) and my in-China-favorite, pumpkin was also totally delicious!