Jinghong - 2 day minority village trek disaster
Trip Start Jul 17, 2009
23Trip End Sep 01, 2009
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After being traumatised by the handheld fireworks display, I was then faced with a screaming Lizzie running out of our bathroom. As if our disgusting bathroom with a shower over a hole in the floor (toilet) where all the sewage from other rooms could be seen (and smelt) below was not enough, we had a massive cockroach as a guest
The following morning, we went to Mei Mei’s café to meet our guide for the trek. We were late, as usual and the guide clearly looked unimpressed. However, as it was a private trek for just the 2 of us and we were paying a considerable amount by Chinese standards for it, so we were not overly concerned… although looking back however, it may have been one of the motivations for what was to come.
The guide had a driver who took us to the starting point of the trek. We were only slightly alarmed when he drove us to a motorway junction and told us to get out. Not an encouraging start.
He took across rice fields and showed us where the ‘Nestle’ workers worked/lived. After about 10 minutes with us, he paced off ahead and we just followed. When we caught up with him, he just paced off again
The guide continued his practice of walking off and leaving us to walk alone, so from the outset we got the impression he was not interested in talking to us or keeping to our pace. I do feel that if you are paying for a guide they should be walking with you, regardless of whether you are naturally faster or slower than them, but as usual, in China, everything is backwards.
After walking about 1.5 hours we arrived in a little village called Si Tu, populated by about 150 people Jinuo people, a minority tribe from south China. We were brought to a small family dwelling with a grandma and some children knocking about. The children were lying on the floor watching tv and playing with some little birds they keep as pets. The guide told us we would be eating here and Grandma was going to cook for us. While we were waiting, the guide showed us around the rest of the village.
Each home around the village had at least one guard dog who barked ferociously as you walked past, which made us quite uneasy (one even had devil-like bright red eyebrows)
We sat in another family home while the ‘lady of the house’ offered us freshly cut pineapple and cucumber. The guide started his first of many discussions about prostitution and also about the Cultural Revolution, which was actually pretty interesting as he and his family had lived it first hand. It also confirmed everything I had read previously, so it was good to know the information I had garnered over the years was factually correct. There was a little kitten at that home that was so ill it already looked like it had died – but was still walking about. It is so hard to see the way they treat animals here, but our protests about animal cruelty fall on deaf ears so there is little point trying. They actually only keep dogs for 3 years as guard dogs – then they eat them…
Grandma cooked us about 7 different little dishes to eat with our rice, such as potatoes and radishes and mushrooms in different sauces. No meat. It was quite delicious. Better than the standard fare you end up getting in the rest of China anyway
After lunch we set off on the next part of our ‘easy trek’ through rainforest (old big/wide trees), jungle (shorter, thinner trees), newly planted rubber tree terraces and we even saw some live deforestation, which was quite disheartening. The guide continued his practice of walking off and leaving us to work out where we were going, alone. The majority of our trek was through tall grasses and forests and none of these actually had paths, you just had to push or slash your way through, which we were not expecting and not what we would class as ‘easy’. We constantly had sharp leaves razoring our legs through our trousers and stabby sticks spearing our feet through our sandals.
By about 4pm, Lizzie had given up the will to live but we had to continue. Astonishingly, I was still upbeat although outraged at the fact we bought another fake easy trek, like Thailand last time. We caught up with the guide at a little hovel in the middle of nowhere. He was sitting outside the house smoking what appeared to be a massive bong. After trying to dodge the question several times, he told us it was tobacco, but it was clearly opium, as the province is the most well known for growing opium and it did not even look like tobacco. We were not offered any.
We continued walking for another 3.5 hours, through tall grasses & tea and rubber tree plantations, up and down steep hills, in the heat, until we reached another village called ManXiu, populated by about 500 Jinuo people.
We were taken to a house, led up the stairs and told to sit on a kind of balcony area which contained an enclosed shower with a massive dog shit in the middle
The home consisted of one big main room with a fire for cooking and had 2 smaller rooms off it. The older parents lived in one room and the daughter, her husband and their little girl in the other. We were not introduced to the family properly and so felt a little uneasy about encroaching on them. The guide did not seem to care about this formality and we were told we would be spending the night there. In the last few years the village had got electricity, so they had electric lights, a fridge and a tv.
While we waited for dinner to be served, I had quite a heated conversation with the guide about Communism in China and the situation in Tibet. The ignorant imbecile was convinced that Tibetans are happier since China invaded their country. I argued that I really did not think that any of the Tibetans would be particularly enamoured with the massive armed police presence that lines every significant building in Lhasa, or with the fact they are spied upon constantly to the point where they cannot have a private conversation or with the fact that Tibetans and their traditions are to the point of extinction. He argued (fruitlessly) that it was never really a significant country anyway. This obviously enraged me and Lizzie had to calm me down in case anyone was listening – there is literally no freedom of speech in this country and the guide himself could be arrested if anyone had overheard him having that conversation with me. I then felt paranoid all night that the guide might secretly be a government spy and I would either be evicted from the country or thrown in jail - and noone would know
After the debate, we had dinner, the same kind of fare as we had earlier, but with an additional dish of scrabbled eggs with grass, which was actually very nice! We ate at a small table with the guide and the young man of the house who we spoke to through the guide, although he was more interested in speaking himself. The conversation turned again to prostitutes, this time Thai prostitutes.
After dinner we discovered the family had no toilet and we were told to go by the roadside/river. On returning to the hut, the guide was standing almost naked in the middle of the room in nothing but a pair of bright red Y-Fronts which made us quite hysterical. I was more concerned that he spoke to us and acted like nothing had happened. The guy was about 40!
We had a terrible night sleep, sleeping on a pure polyester duvet directly on the wooden floor. It was baking hot, with no fan and we thought we might melt to death in the night. We had to sleep in our clothes because Red Pants was sleeping right next to us.
We had a midnight chat and decided we had had enough walking; we were nackered, Red Pants constantly left us on our own and we were sure we had seen everything we could possibly see. We decided that as soon as we got to the first village the next day, we would catch the bus back to Jinghong.
At 7am we awoke to a command from Red Pants - “Get up now”
Red Pants, as usual, had marched out of sight and after half an hour in the baking sun on our “even easier day’s trek” we decided we were not walking anymore. When we caught up with Red Pants I told him that when we got to the next village we wanted to catch the bus, he told me the village was 4 hours away. I nearly died inside. It was not an option, so we hitch hiked on the back of a tractor that was towing a motor bike.
Lizzie and I played ‘I’m a Celebrity Get me out of Here’ where we had to choose between vile tasks or spending another day trekking with Red Pants. Tasks included eating a kittens eye and being shut in a coffin for 3 minutes with loads of cockroaches.
We finally arrive in our concluding destination: Ganlanba, where we were shown the local Buddhist temple. We sat down with the Red Pants and talked about religion and surprise surprise he managed to turn the conversation to prostitution this time English prostitutes. We were scheduled to eat in Ganlanba, but we couldn’t face spending any more time with Red Pants so we asked to catch the bus straight back to Jinghong
The things you see are very difficult to cope with at times and in order to survive you have to make everything in to joke, otherwise you would die of depression. The massive police and government control over everyone: what they read, hear, learn, where they go, where they live, travel; the way they treat animals, the hardship, the corruptness, the low wages for the farmers who work their asses off, is all so depressing.
We went back to our Random Shit Hole in Jinghong for one more night and were awoken at 3am by some local lads who had rolled in from the local nightclub with, to our chagrin, some local prostitutes. Marvellous. I went outside to shout at them to keep the noise down, but they were more interested in getting a good look at us. Another brilliant night’s sleep…
Fish Face - thanks for the email, glad you FINALLY got round to emailing me. Glad you;re ok. All is well here, food is generally beyond shite, as you can see. Lizi ordered 'Delicious Chicken' last night which consisted of 2 feet (with claws) and some ribcage. Great!! xx
Pa - thanks for the warning about the PLAGUE!!!!!!!!! How mental. Luckily we are nowhere near, but I have been warning other travellers. Let me know if you get some chickens and I will help with names. xx
Ma - thanks for the email, we are not kidnapped. Currently in Kunming in the rain!! Leaving for Guilin tomoro. Enjoy being home, being nice to the cats for me. Dont understand Nicks special new obsession with running.... says wants to be FIT bless him xx
Jane/ Khayam - Hope you all coping without me ;-) Have you sorted Qasiim out don't want to be left with the rejects!! Hope the baby is coming on ok K. I am ok, losing weight through the SHOCKING food, looking forward to Philpotts when I get back!! x