Saturday, May 30, 2015

Day 19: The Unbeatable Day that Ended with a Bang

I woke up this morning after the most comfortable night of sleep I have had so far, surrounded by the warm and pleasant scent of incense burning in our room. It was very dark when we arrived late last night, so when I looked out of the window for the first time this morning, I saw that our inn was completely surrounded by breathtaking mountains wrapped delicately in a light fog. Words cannot describe the beauty of Chengkan Village in Anhui, the village we spent the night in after a long day on the train. I'm fairly well traveled, but I can say that Chengkan is probably the most gorgeous and serene place I have ever had the pleasure of visiting. I went downstairs to meet the others for a breakfast that consisted of yogurt, toast, taro buns, adorable red bean buns sculpted to look like teddy bear faces, and more perfectly ripe loquats than we could ever hope to finish. We set out soon after for a village tour led by our super cute tour guide, April. 

Walking around Chengkan made me feel like I was in a dream. I couldn't keep myself from thinking about how wonderful life would be to just live off the land with such a close community surrounded by rivers, stone bridges, 1,800 year old architecture, and luscious green mountains. We visited many traditional village homes, and learned about the ancient lifestyle of the villagers in Anhui. I could probably go on typing about the beauty of Chengkan all day, but since I have so much more to blog about, I'll just leave you all with some photos. No magnitude of pictures, however, could ever do the landscape or the people of the village any justice. I was, of course, sad to leave Chengkan so soon, but I was left with a thirst to explore the ins and outs of Bishan, the village where we will be spending the next two nights. 

My first thought after arriving in Bishan was that we truly were in the absolute middle of nowhere. Outside of the relatively small village, there is not a single other sign of civilization as far as the eye can see. We unloaded our bags at the hotel, and then Jessica and I decided to explore the small streets of Bishan. The very first thing we saw after leaving our hotel was a man, using only a long stick, herding somewhere around 200 geese down the road. I was flabbergasted. Every single goose was exactly in line, and not a single one wandered away from the group or strayed from where the man was leading them. I started laughing, as this villager was just going about his business while herding hundreds of geese like there was absolutely nothing strange about it. The night only got better from there, and little did I know that the smile that the goose herder originally put on my face would not leave my cheeks for hours. 

We ate a group dinner at the hotel, and Dong Laoshi told us that she had a surprise for us that evening. We made our way outside after the sun had gone down, and were all standing in a group when all of the sudden there was a huge bang from behind us. We turned around saw fireworks lighting up the beautifully clear night sky. As the fireworks were going off, Dong Laoshi ran up to us with her hands full of sparklers. We spend the next ten minutes laughing and dancing to the multicolored lights of the Chinese sparklers. When the sparklers ran out, Dong Laoshi gave us yet another surprise. She led us to the little park, where all of the locals were dancing, playing games, and having a village-wide night of fun. All generations were there and enjoying the music, from elderly men and women watching the dancing to toddlers running around and playing tag. It didn't take long before we jumped right in with the dancing and tried our best to follow along. Dancing with the locals was probably my highlight of the trip so far, as it was just so amazing to have them accept us, smile and laugh with us, and teach us how to dance to their music. 

After probably close to an hour under the light of the stars, dancing away with the villagers of Bishan, we decided to head back for the night. I am more excited than I could ever express in this blog post to wake up tomorrow morning and experience this village all over again. This has been one of the most memorable days of my life, and I can't wait to see what adventures tomorrow brings. 

- Sierra S.

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