The day we visited Mingshi was overcast with intermittent drizzle. We boarded an early bus from Daxin. A man got on carrying a live chicken in a sack which he placed under his seat despite the bird’s protest. He was followed by a woman carrying a bucket of fast food fried chicken which was placed under the seat directly in front of the squawking bird. After a 90 minute bus ride we arrived in the parking lot of a horribly overpriced Epcot-like theme park where performers donned the clothing and demonstrated the customs of the Zhuang ethnic minority group native to the region. We opted to skip the park and headed off down the road in search of food. The first place we stopped wasn’t open yet but their dog came out to meet us and began leading us further down the road. We crossed a bridge over a stream where a one-legged man was fishing. Every time he made a catch he effortlessly hopped the fish down a steep slope to a net where he was storing his bounty and then hopped back up to his perch on the bridge.
Our puppy guide led us off the main road onto a dirt path wandering off into the karsts. We walked for a while through complete silence until we heard a huge commotion coming from high up one of the cliffs. A group of twenty or more rhesus monkeys, most likely spooked by our arrival, scurried off into the trees, barking and howling the whole way. After another twenty minutes of wandering we came upon a little village of about 10 families. They told us that the monkeys make their way around the mountains surrounding their crops and occasionally come down to steal things.
After wandering for another hour or so we found a second village. They had hundreds of geese, ducks, and chickens that were either confined in pens made of woven bamboo or mulling about freely. Realizing we were lost, a man kindly offered to drive us back to the main road and dropped us off at a local restaurant for lunch. We couldn’t read anything on the menu but they took us back into their kitchen where we selected a fresh local vegetable, a homemade sausage dish, fried fish, and a winter-melon soup. We’d ordered way too much food so we offered some to the table next to us and they invited us to join them. They were 2 young couples from the local area out for a day trip over the Dragon Boat holiday. While they were interested to hear about life in America and what we thought of Xi Jinping’s (China’s President) visit to the US, we were eager to hear more about their local Zhuang customs. Although most younger Zhuang now wear contemporary clothing, they still dress up in their traditional garb for special holidays.
For more photos see our Guangxi Province Gallery.