After we had a good night rest we all gathered in the lobby and headed out to Xijiang Miao Village. It’s is only 35 km from Kaili to the village but it takes about one hour because of the mountainous terrain. The weather was on our side that day. It was sunny and green all around with the occasional stream. There was even one guy skinny dipping that almost made our bus tip over because he had us all rushing to one side of the vehicle.
The full Chinese name of the village is 西江千户苗寨 (xī jiāng qiān hù miáo zhài) which means the one thousand families Miao village of Xijiang. According to its Baidu entry in the year of 2005 it had a population of nearly 6,000 people who belong to 1288 households. I don’t know if I would call them villagers though, as their village is totally commercialized nowadays and functions as a museum for the Miao way of life. A ticket to this museum will cost you 180 yuan, unless you are a student and then it’s half price.
Visitor are are welcomed to village with sweet songs and clear wine which tastes much like the songs:
This welcoming routine actually takes place out of the village right next to the parking area. After it was over we got on small shuttles which took us into the village. It’s a fan ride with mountains on all side and when you get off you find yourself right on the river crossing:
From there you start walking towards the heart of the village. You walk up a very touristy lane of many little shops and small street stands with native snacks, traditional handcrafts and souvenirs. Walking the street one simply cannot ignore the loud hammering sound. It’s not construction, it’s preparation:
The white stuff in that small wooden basin is rice dough which is very sticky. The woman was kind enough to let us handle the hammer ourselves and must say the hard part was to separate it from the rice before you take a swing.
Rice was not the only thing getting pounded on that day:
These two “snacksmiths” are hammering on a mix of nuts, sugar and sesame forging them into one tough cookie called 苗乡酥 (miáo xiāng sū) which is definitely not for the faint of teeth.
When we made it to the center of the village is was high noon. The sun was strong that day but it didn’t seem bother the dancers of the main act so much. Maybe that’s because they had umbrellas:
Apart from the lovely dance there was also musical performances which included singing. Those who sat close to the performers had a second tasting of the sweet wine. After the show was over the shuttles took us the small lookout at the hilltop:
We spent about one hour up there, mostly taking group photos or watching the Chinese tourists taking photos of themselves wearing traditional Miao Clothes.
By time we got back down we all were quite hungry. Luckily, it was time for the main event – the ‘Miao long table feast’ (苗家长桌饭 – miáo jiā cháng zhuō fàn). Our entire group (excluding our teachers and Muslim classmates) was seated around one long table laden with best the native cuisine had to offer:
Like last night’s dinner the main course was the Sour Soup Fish with a side of Fried Rice with Egg. But there were also many other delicious and interesting dishes which kept us reaching for more. The two big stars of the meal were the smoked meat (腊肉 – là ròu) which is a southern art held in high honors, and the Guzang meat (牯藏肉 – gǔ zàng ròu) – a traditional dish named after the festival it’s usually made for, which is celebrated once every thirteen years. More “common” dishes we enjoyed that day were Diced Carrot and Meat Stir-fry (胡萝卜炒肉 – hú luó bo chǎo ròu), Eggplants and Minced Meat Stir-fry (肉沫茄子 – ròu mò qié zì), Soybeans and Meat Stir-fry (黄豆炒肉 – huáng dòu chǎo ròu), Potato Slices and Chinese Chive Stir-fry (土豆炒韭菜 – tǔ dòu chǎo jiǔ cài), Cowpea Clear Stir-fry (清炒豇豆 – qīng chǎo jiāng dòu) and Tofu Strips Stir-fried with Chili Peppers which they called 腰带豆腐皮 (yāo dài dòu fu pí) but I don’t that’s a common dish. You can photo of some of this dishes at the end of the post.
As a part of the ritual the waitress sang drinking songs while poured wine straight into our throats and toyed with our food, pretending they want to feed us using our chopsticks yet teasingly taking the food away at the very last second.
After lunch we headed back to Kaili and visited the Kaili Folk Museum. The museum is not small, it has three floors, each with 3-4 exhibition halls dedicated to the ethnic minorities living in the region (technically, they are not minorities within the boundaries of the districts).
Everything you need to know about the minorities is there: history, tradition and customs, clothes, jewelry, art and crafts, weapons and of course, food:
Dinner and Farewell
After the tour at the museum it was time for dinner. They took us to a restaurant which had a snack store built in and they told us we can try everything for free:
I learn the hard way the snacks were on the shelves while in the center it was mostly traditional Chinese medicine on display. I tasted something very bitter which can only be described as sliced tree branch. Luckily someone was there to stop me after my first bite.
The dinner was a real treat. Now that I think of it, that day was probably the best day food wise. Other meals didn’t come close.
Some of the dish were also what we had for lunch that day like Eggplants and Minced Meat Stir-fry (center) and the Fried Rice with Egg which has become the official filler of our trip. Other dishes we had were (Starting at the top left corner and going counter clockwise) Beef and Onion Stir-fry (洋葱炒牛肉 – yáng cōng chǎo niú ròu), Red Braised Potatoes and Pork (土豆红烧肉 – tǔ dòu hóng shāo ròu), Hand Shredded Cabbage (手撕包菜 – shǒu sī bāo cài), Zucchini shreds and Pork Stir-fry (小瓜炒肉 – xiǎo guā chǎo ròu), Taro Noodles (香芋粉 – xiāng yù fěn, center right, cut out), White Gourd in Meat and Veggie Soup (三鲜冬瓜条 – sān xiān dōng guā tiáo), Minced Meat and Pickled Cowpea (肉沫酸豇豆 – ròu mò suān jiāng dòu), Steamed Fish (清蒸鱼 – qīng zhēng yú) and Asparagus Lettuce and Meat Stir-fry (莴笋炒肉 – wō sǔn chǎo ròu).
After Dinner it was time for the city of Kaili to bid us farewell. We got on the bus and head west for Guiyang, the capital city of Guizhou Province. Over 130 km of mountain road separate the two cities and the journey took us almost three hours, including one bathroom stop. Our guide said less than 20% of the land in Guizhou was flat and leveled (she also said it’s hot in Guizhou because the mountains mean we are closer to the sun) but on the way I manage to take one picture of big chunk of plane fields. It was the biggest one I have seen during the entire trip:
That pastoral view on sunset marked the end of the second day of our trip. We were bound to see much more water in the day that followed as our main destination was Huangguoshu Waterfalls.
I leave you with a map showing the location of the village and some more photos I took that day.
View Guizhou Trip 2013 in a larger map