Jamming in Yangshuo

Jamming in Yangshuo

We have been introducing our Daughter to the work of Wes Anderson and last night we watched The Darjeeling Limited.

There's an episode in the movie where the three brothers, who are travelling through India together, get invited to attend a funeral. We started to explain how easy it is to get involved in adventures like that if you go off the beaten track while travelling and it reminded me of an incident that happened during one of our trips into China.

Anna and I were backpacking through China with no itinerary, our plan was to stay until the money ran out - seemed like a good idea at the time but it did cause problems. One of the places we travelled to was a small village, Yangshuo, in the South of China and we got stuck there for a few weeks.

At that time China was just opening up to foreign visitors and the Chinese people weren't too sure how to treat us. Ordinary Chinese people had to have a special travel pass even to go to the next village and this took about two weeks to get approved. Consequently as soon as we arrived in a town or village we would get out travel arrangements sorted out for our next journey.

No-one in the village was prepared to take responsibility for issuing any tickets and we just got stuck. It was quite an idyllic spot so we weren’t too concerned and decided to wait and see how it played out.

It was during our time in the village that the incident I had remembered happened; Anna and I were strolling along one day and we saw a group of musicians "jamming" outside a small shack. My harmonica was in my backpack and I thought about going over to join in but the music was strangely discordant and I decided against it – good decision!

our favourite eating place in Yangshuo

The next day we were in our favourite eating place in the village and heard the same music but interspersed with firecrackers, we got to the door in time to see a funeral procession going by. We had seen Chinese funeral processions on the small island we lived on, just off Hong Kong Island, but we were not prepared for how moving this one was.

The first group of people were crying loudly, their noses were streaming as fast as their eyes and their limbs seemed to be out of control. It was only when we saw them returning from the burial all smiles and laughing together that we found out that the first group were all professional mourners – and not one RADA trained person amongst them.

So, all in all I was happy that I didn’t "jam" and make a fool of both myself and the western culture I was representing unlike the American tourist who was in amongst the funeral procession taking photos of the crying people. He had followed them all the way to the burial ground where, apparently, he was eventually forcibly ejected and strangely we never saw him again (I think that was just a coincidence though).

The photograph is taken from inside of the place we would go to for breakfast and dinner, the man squatting is the owner of the restaurant and the child is his son. As you can see from the photo the High Street was pretty much a dirt track and full of character. Towards the end of the block this restaurant was on there was a small house and the occupiers had a television, in the evenings villagers would pay to watch the TV and the elderly couple who lived there did a good trade in teas and snacks.

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