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Monday 10 Jul 2006
Zhaoxing, China

Back in time

Following another grueling 8 hour bus journey on the worst roads we've been on, we arrived in the small 'Dong' village of Zhoazing. It's clear we've arrived just before it is due to get a makeover, by the Chinese tourist board. Zhoazing seems to be gearing up to be the next holiday hotspot, with gift shops and hotels springing up, but there isn't anyone in them yet. I'm sure there are plans to rebuild and repaint it like Lijiang in Yunnan but we've caught it just before the paint job, and it's like stepping back in time.

It really is a beautiful place, and the fact that the drum towers and 'rain and wind' bridges (see photos) haven't been touched up with fresh paint means it still retains its old world charm. Walking around you can really feel China's long history. This place hasn't changed for thousands of years. It's almost medieval. The architecture and farming methods are the same as they've been for generations.

The whole village is a hive of activity with women in conical hats coming in from the fields carrying baskets of vegetables, and boys herding pigs over bridges and down the central street. The men primarily seem to sit on the bridges and smoke. Animals are everywhere, and one morning we were startled when a bag we'd unwittingly sat next to took on a life of its own. It was stuffed full of roosters.

The central river is packed with people washing, preparing food and children playing. It's unusual to see so many kids running and playing in the street. The one child policy doesn't seem to be enforced here like it is in the cities. We're spending our afternoons sat on the bridges with the blokes watching the hustle and bustle of daily life.

Being in Zhoazing makes you realise quite how well organised the Chinese are. Like everywhere else in China, every bit of land is utilised but here it is seems more concentrated. Every inch of land is neatly ordered in to rows and rows of rice terraces, or squares of vegetable patches. The whole village seems to be out in the fields. I've never seen anywhere like it.

Being in China it's easy to forget it's still a third world country, in comparison to other places we've seen such as Russia and Argentina where poverty jumps up and smacks you in the face, people here seem to have a much better standard of living, whether they live in the city or rural areas like Zhoazing. And... absolutely everyone, everywhere in China seems to be out working.

It's not always easy travelling here, but out of everywhere we've been China is the country that has sparked the most late night discussions between us about democracy, equality, free press ...etc It's a fascinating place and from what we've seen, I think key to China's success will be that they're developing internally. Whether that's agriculture like Zhoazing or encouraging domestic tourism in Yunnan, it's all sustainable development.

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    Drum tower and rain and wind proof bridge
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    Sunset over one of the drum towers
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    A bag of chickens

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