Trip Start Feb 03, 2008
33Trip End Aug 16, 2009
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Where I stayed
Dan and I have come to the town of Xiajiang, a small town built high on the muddy, stony banks a green river and populated by the Dong minority. We're closer to Guangxi province now, and despite the small note about the town's market in our guidebook, off the tourist track completely.
The guidebook says this market is interesting because many of the villagers come to it by boat from their villages along the river. So, after stashing our now-muddy backpacks at the restaurant connected to the only inn in town, Dan and I beelined for the riverbank, hoping to catch some photos of local people coming by water.
Only two small boats pulled up on the white stone riverbank, but we could see a horde of people carrying baskets and lugging vegetables on the opposite bank
Shivering in the cold wind that blew from the next bend downriver, we watched more people scamper down the orange muddy cliff across the river. They got on the brown, open-sided ferry and made a thirty-second trip across the flat green water. Dan and I took some pictures half-heartedly as the people got off the ferry. Unlike in the last place where we went to the market, here we felt really conspicuous. The people weren't smiling at us like the Shidong people did, and I feel like they're less affluent and not at all used to tourists.
They also seem more traditional. Whereas a large portion of the Miao women of Shidong were wearing traditional-style hairdos and headpieces, most of the women in Xiajiang are wearing full traditional dress. The signature cloth of this region is a handwoven, hand dyed , dark purple, cloth which may or may not be treated with blood or eggs, and is beaten with sticks to make it shiny. The women wear a wrap-around shirt of this material fastened at a little embroidered-edged zig zag below their right shoulder. Women who could afford it seemed to embellish this jacket with pieces of colorful silk at the elbows and wrists. Under it they wore blue and white pleated skirts at about knee length, thick stockings, and then puttees of the same indigo fabric as the jackets on both legs, from the knees down
Married women covered their heads with hand towels or stiff scarves of the indigo fabric, but unmarried women, or slightly less traditional women, wore their heads uncovered, and their extremely long hair wound up in an elaborate twist, usually above the left eye. This twist seemed to be held in place with a comb (young girls favored bright pink plastic ones, more mature tastes seemed to prefer carved wooden or horn ones) and two long silver hairpins tipped with an ornamentation that looked like the Seattle Space Needle.
Some men were also wearing the indigo cloth jackets, though theirs were more simple and buttoned up the front like a Han Chinese style shirt. A few men wore black or indigo turbans on their heads.
Maybe more impressive than their clothes, however, was the jewelry the women wore. Most women wore at least one thick, heavy, neck ring, and the most decked-out women wore three or four different-sized ones. A few women wore silver ear cuffs, which hung off of the ear, rather than through it, as thick as my little finger, while others had bright bunches of pink and blue yarn threaded through their earlobes.
Under the jacket, women wore an apron-like front piece that usually had an embroidered panel on it
On their feet, most women seemed to wear the choice of farmers all over China--army-green canvas shoes with rubber toes, reminiscent of the Converse brand. A few women we saw were barefoot, despite the cold weather. In contrast, I was wearing two pairs of wool socks over hiking boots and three sweaters.
In all, I spent the four hours we walked through the market in awe of the women's clothes, and impressed, above all, that the women were still dressing traditionally, even though they were carrying cell phones and buying DVDs to take back to their drafty wooden homes in the terraced hills above Xiajiang.
The things for sale were similar to those we had seen in Shidong a few days earlier: cloth, cooking pots, farming tools, livestock, noodles, rice, beer and other staples. We saw girls buying long locks of hair, to make their elaborate twists more impressive, I suppose, and a few people playing games of chance
Like the Shidong market, the Xiajiang market had a healthy trade going in poultry and livestock, getting ready for the Chinese New Year, we assumed. They were also selling dogs as food. At first we thought the dogs were for home protection, since they weren't in cages, but then we saw a man negotiate for a dog, and then get a huge balance stick to weigh the dog. It was being sold by the pound, so it must have been destined for the soup pot.
We are going back to the land of the Miao tomorrow, as we head for Congjiang. We had been warned, by the CITS (travel agency) in Kaili and again by the bus driver in Rongjiang, that for three days at the beginning of Chinese New Year we probably won't find any restaurants or stores open, so we plan to hang out in Congjiang and take some day trips to Miao and Dong villages near there.
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WHAT IT COST:
Minibus from Rongjiang to Xiajiang: 13 RMB each
Room with three beds, no bath in Xiajiang's only inn: 50 RMB (we didn't need the other bed, but we needed a place to stay so we didn't argue)
Fried noodles in the market area: 6 RMB per plate
A bottle of beer to go with the noodles: 3 RMB
Pork on a stick in the market: 2 RMB per stick
A pound of sticky rice to go with the pork: 2 RMB
Dinner in the restaurant connected to the inn: 50 RMB, including tea, rice, three dishes with home-cured pork, and beer.