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Away for a While Southeastern China Lindsi Milligan of Sandy, Utah, says her hair grows fast. Though she has a pixie cut now, she claims that, in a year and a half or so, it could be halfway down her back. But when Milligan traveled to China to teach English for the International Language Programs for six months, she found a whole village of incredible women who have been growing their sleek black hair since birth—and for 10 yuan they’ll undo their intricate buns to show just how long the locks have become[KH1]. These Yao women are a minority in an the already tiny sector, Ping’an, of located in one of the largest countries on the globe—Ping’an, China. The women, as part of their unique culture are extraordinarily protective of their hair. After cutting it once, at age eighteen or twenty, they re-weave the cut section into the rest of their growing tresses—then it just grows naturally for the rest of their lives.[KH2] And though coming halfway around the world just to see their hair-twisting ritual wouldritual would be worth the trip, Ping’an Southeastern China is also home to China’s iconic terraced rice fields, its people’s rich traditional culture, and beautifully tranquil landscapes perfect for exploring. A visit to this spot on the globe would allow a visitor to be more than a tourist, but witness how the people of China really live[KH3]. . Ping’an, located in Southeastern China, is a small town outside of the larger tourist city of Guilin. Many tourists begin their journey in the city Guilin and the surrounding Guilin area is home to some of the most beautiful sights in all of China.. Within the boundaries of the city itself lie the famous twin pagodas, the Jingjiang Princes' City, and the picturesque Elephant


Trunk Hill. Here the booming traffic of tourists is like Shanghai, Guangzhou, and many of China’s other bolstering communities. However, just two hours south of the city, Ping’an is a village suburb that, though known by tourists, is much less populated. ”If you’re really wanting to experience the Chinese culture,” Milligan says, “this town is the way to go. Situated on top of rice fields, there are no automobiles to speak of. You get where you need to go by foot.” The bus which takes travelers to Ping’an drops them off at the bottom of a hill. From there because of the steep and very narrow roads, there aren’t even rickshaws to help travelers make the journey. It’s just two legs and a roller bag (if you were lucky enough to think ahead). And on the way up the mountain, vendors of all sorts sell traditional homemade crafts that are indicative of their unique culture. The Yao women specifically weave ornately vibrant blankets, table cloths, and clothing, while ever trying to convince passersby to purchase a view of their sleek floor-length hair. They have learned to survive on the appeal of their traditions. After the 45 minute hike to the top, the view is endless—visitors can see dozens of steep peaks that are chiseled into rice terraces. Each stair has its own mini rice field, and the residents of Ping’an and the surrounding villages are in charge of maintaining and harvesting them in the appropriate seasons. The epicenter of the Ping’an village has closely stacked wooden homes—each adorned with traditional red lanterns, and tiny steep alleys connect one home to the next. For travelers who want to stay for a while, the Liqing Hotel, [KH4]is the perfect place. Not only are the rooms affordable, they also open up to a balcony, which overlooks the entire Ping’an area. From there, visitors can see everything from the vendors’ homes to the dozens of surrounding peaks, which


showcase the rice field’s layers upon layer of water soaked strips. In the morning, rather than waking up to alarms or the bustle of traffic, travelers will hear the varying cries of roosters throughout the town. As Milligan says, “it’s like walking your way into the past.” But Ping’an isn’t as anachronistic as it can get. Because the village has attracted tourists over the years, the area has developed a little more than the surrounding villages. This is precisely why, after spending a day or two traversing the steeps of Ping’an, travelers[KH5] should also take a trip to the beloved Long’ji. Only an hour walk from [KH6]Ping’an, Long’ji removes all sense of time and place. Here travelers will find that there are fewer residents, who—rather than making their money off of the touristic track—are truly the men and women working the fields. Here there are no sounds of generators from electricity. There is not the hurried talk of haggling. It just slows down everything. Few visitors know about it, so it’s likely a place to find solitude and just see everyday people in their everyday lives—hanging out laundry on the lines, scrubbing clean in outdoor plastic tubs, squatting near their doors while shelling peas or preparing dinner. Pigs, chickens, and wild puppies roam aimlessly along the stone alleyways, and there is utter serenity. But Ping’an and Long’ji are not the only areas surrounding Guilin that are worth taking a scenic look at. Nearby Long’ji, is also the picturesque town of Yangshuo—home of the parabolic mountains and moon rock[KH7]. “The highlight of my China trip was Yangshuo,” Milligan says. “The landscape was absolutely beautiful not to mention all the things you could do in that area. From riding down the river to mud caving, [KH8]there’s just so much to explore and do. It’s hard not to be adventurous.”

away for a while  

away for a while

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