January 20, 2009

Tunxi, Xidi and Hongcun, China

The small city of Tunxi, which is a good base if you want to visit Mt. Huangshan, was a refreshing break from the mixed East-West vibe of my previous destinations, allowing me to the opportunity to get back to playing games of charades when communicating and to wondering exactly how the Chinese get around without any signs written in English.
I arrived in the early evening after a scenic bus ride through mountains that were dotted with tiered rice farms and small villages, which were so picturesque it even had the locals dreamily gazing out the windows instead of engaging in their favorite traveling activity of sleeping. The streets were filled with a vibrant college campus like energy and after walking for a while, I got the feeling that everyone here knows each other and that no one stays indoors during the afternoons, preferring instead to play card games in the park, shop with friends or eat at one of the many food vendors that line the alleys.
I stayed on for a few days after returning from Mt. Huangshan to enjoy the warmth radiating from the people of this relaxed mountain town and also from the electric heating blanket that was placed on my bed which had me clinging to the mattress as if it were the last spare boat on the sinking Titanic.
My new friendship with another guest at the hostel, Ville from Finland, put me in the local company of one of his classmates from their university in Shanghai, who, along with her group of friends, showed us all around. Two of the places Ruby and Vivy took us to were the close-by Unesco water villages of Xidi and Hongcun, where we had a magical afternoon that included lunch with locals hazing us with strong rice wine and delicious food, wandering the ancient streets, photographing the buildings and villagers in the late afternoon light.
After almost a week, it was time to press on in search of more adventures, but as the villages slowly faded into highways out the window of my Chinese sleeper bus, the positive energy and friendships gleaned from Tunxi remained a bright spot on the pages of my travels.


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