Hear about travel to Guizhou China as the Amateur Traveler talks to travel writer Gina Czupka from thistimetomorrow.net about her trip to this off the beaten path destination.
Gina took a trip to this province in southwestern China which “is coming up on the radar in more places. It was just named to the New York Times list of 52 places to travel in 2016. I personally think it is a place you should go if you really want to see an unusual side of China that is disappearing.”
The region is richer in culture and in scenery than it is commercially. An old saying goes that “in Guizhou, there are no 3 kilometers without a mountain, no 3 days without rain, and no 3 coins in one pocket”.
Gina is a textile collector. She says “I base a lot of my travel on places I can go and see heritage textiles being made and see them living in a culture. Guizhou is one of the most exceptional places in the world to do that.”
We start in the provincial capital of Guiyang which is the easiest access point but then focus in on a series of villages around the city of Kaili. Kaili itself has weekend textile markets with a wide range of goods. “You will see mind-boggling diversity. You’ll see felted silks in some of the textiles. You’ll see folded appliqué silks. You’ll see hemp, indigo dyeing, these incredible embroideries, just a rainbow of techniques that are so labor and time-intensive.”
In Kaili, they saw a Lusheng festival (the Lusheng is a Hmong musical reed instrument with multiple bamboo pipes) where they got to see the musicians and dancers, taste the local food and even witnessed a Chinese bullfight.
While she usually travels independently, Gina did find that the use of a guide was helpful as the guide was the only person they met who spoke English. They made good use of the Google translate app.
DK Eyewitness Travel Guides – One of my favorite guidebook series
Travel to Salzburg, Austria – Episode 432
52 Places to Go in 2016
Guiyang Travel Guide
Zhenyuan County, Guizhou
Pork, Dreams, a Contest and Barbecue at Franklin Barbecue in Austin, Texas
A Little Song and Dance: The Zhouxi Lusheng Festival
Clash of the Titans: Bullfighting at the Zhouxi Lusheng Festival
About Travel to the Westfjords of Iceland – Episode 497 Steve wrote:
I just listened to the Travels to the Westfjords of Iceland Podcast. I really enjoyed it.
We’ve been to Iceland three times now. The last time we took a cruise that went along the west and north shores of Iceland. We stopped at many ports and used each port as a starting place to explore the surrounding area. It was a small Princess Cruises ship (700 passengers) that could get into almost any port. Princess put together excellent shore tours which we enjoyed. Iceland is as beautiful and challenging as Katie described. You really need a lot of time to explore this section Iceland.
I also heard recently from Barry Kramer who has written often for the Amateur Traveler:
I was listening to this week’s episode of the Amateur Traveler on the Dominican Republic and I began think about how much I look forward to hearing your podcast each week. At this time of the year, I wanted to let you know how much I really appreciate all the work you put into the podcast and Amateur Traveler Website.
The first time I listened to the Amateur Traveler, I felt I really got what you were trying to accomplish. I am one of those persons who really likes to hear about other people’s vacations and trips. I love hearing details, personal impressions, stories, and experiences. They really help me to think about all the wonderful and interesting places there are around the world. The variety of locations you have addressed is amazing, and your consistency in posting the podcast on a regular basis is admirable. I can truly say, that is some way, I find all the stories interesting and informative.
I also appreciate the way you always treat each guest respectfully and try to get the most out of them. I can tell that it is not always easy. In addition to providing a lot of entertainment, the information from the podcast is also really useful. Last year when I went to Peru, I checked back episodes of the Amateur Traveler to help with my planning. I also did this recently to help plan a future trip to Ireland.
Each year I do podcasts with the students I teach, so I know you put in many hours bringing valued and useful information to your listeners. I also appreciate you providing an outlet for me to write about my experiences by publishing my travel reports and articles on your blog. I have learned a lot from the process.
I wish you and your family a really wonderful holiday!
Looking forward to hearing about many interesting places in the new year,
Chris: Amateur Traveler episode 499. Today, the Amateur Traveler talks about silks, indigo dyeing, a Lusheng festival and a bull fight, as we go to Guizhou in China.
Chris: This episode of Amateur Traveler is sponsored by DK Eyewitness Travel Guides. These colorful guide books are filled with great information and are one of my favorite guidebooks. I have 25 of them right here on my bookshelf. Learn more at DK.com.
Welcome to the Amateur Traveler. I’m your host, Chris Christensen. It’s episode 499. No big festivities planned for episode 500, but we still have lots and lots of travel stories ahead of us. But first, let’s talk about Guizhou, province of China.
I’d like to welcome back to the show, Gina Czupka, travel writer and travel editor, who has come to talk to us about a destination in China this time. Gina, welcome back to the show.
Gina: Thanks. I’m happy to be back.
Chris: I say this time, it’s Gina’s second time on the show, and you may remember her because she was on, we think, a year or so ago. We didn’t look it up, talking about Salzburg in Austria.
Gina: Yeah, that was lost to the mists of time.
Chris: I can look it up, and I will look it up and put a link in both the show notes and in the lyrics of this episode. But you went some place in China that we have not talked about. Where did you go, and why should we follow you?
Gina: Yeah. We took a trip to Guizhou province, in Southwestern China. It’s kind of coming up on the radar in more places. It was just named to the New York Times Top 52 places to travel in 2016. But I personally believe it’s a place you should go, if you want to see a really unusual side of China that is kind of disappearing.
Chris: I was very interested when you pitched it to me because I did not recognize the name. It’s a place I do not know, so tell me more about how did you first find out about it?
Gina: I am actually a textile collector and I dabble in textile design.
Chris: Now that isn’t just a clothes shopper, you’re saying.
Gina: No, no. It goes a little deeper than that. I actually base a lot of my travel on places that I can go and see heritage textiles being made and see them living in a culture. Guizhou is one of the most exceptional places in the world to do that in this day and age.
Chris: It’s heritage because it’s still being made with traditional techniques, instead of being…
Gina: Yup. Handmade.
Gina: Yeah. Incredibly complex and diverse, and just visually stunning.
Chris: Excellent. Why should we go to Guizhou?
Gina: Everybody knows the size of Beijing and Shanghai, but Guizhou is another world, compared to those two places or Hong Kong, or anything like that. There are a lot of small, rural villages. A large component of the population is ethnic minorities and China has 56 ethnic minorities. I believe they make up about 38 to 40% of the population in Guizhou, as opposed to 10% of the population throughout the rest of China.
Chris: Interesting. What did you see? What kind of itinerary would you recommend for us?
Gina: The easiest point of entry is to fly into the provincial capital, which is Guiyang. From there, you can head out to a number of different places. But a really ideal place to base yourself, if you want to go out to villages, is a town called Kaili, which is small by Chinese standards, large by U.S. standards, as is always the case.
Chris: When you say it’s small by Chinese standards, I know someone. I think I’ve mentioned on the show, who’s wife is from China, who thinks they live in a village and they live in Denver.
Gina: Yeah. It amounts to that. But Kaili has some textile markets, I believe on the weekends that we unfortunately missed. But it’s a really great base to stay in, and then you can shoot out to a bunch of different villages in the area.
Chris: Okay. You say textile markets, are we far enough South that we’re talking about silks?
Gina: Yeah. Silk definitely comes into play, but you’ll see just this mind-boggling diversity. You’ll see felted silks in some of the textiles. You’ll see folded applique silks. You’ll see hemp, indigo dyeing, these incredible embroideries, just a rainbow of techniques that are just so labor and time intensive. This is a great place to see them, still being made.
Chris: When you say see them, how did you arrange to do that? Knowing that you’re interested in that, I assume you didn’t just go out in the countryside and start knocking on doors, and saying, “Can I see your silk?”
Gina: No. Actually, I probably could…
Chris: Could’ve had arranged it better? Okay.
Gina: …yeah. This is perhaps a cautionary tale or somewhat…it comes from a place of advice, but I am really used to independent travel and just getting out there and winging it. In Guizhou, I would highly, highly recommend contacting someone who knows the region really well. I actually did that in a very loose way, and contacted a guide who specializes in taking people to textile-producing villages. He gave me a few pointers, as far as getting to some festivals that were happening. We ended up getting into Guizhou and I felt lost, and I had his e-mail and cell phone number, so I just contacted him. He helped us out of a tough spot and got us a driver to take us out to villages.
Chris: Do you want to give him as a reference here? It sounds like you had a good experience with him.
Gina: Sure. His name is Billy Zhang. At the time, he was working for CITS, which is the Chinese tourism authority, but I don’t know that he still is. His website is called ToGuizhou.com, T-O-Guizhouu.com.
Chris: Okay. We’ll put a link to them in the show notes.
Gina: He’s just a terrific guy and so helpful.
Chris: Let’s talk first about some of the things that you did in your interest here, which is textiles. What did you get out and see?
Gina: We actually went in late February, which is not a comfortable time of year to travel. It’s cold. We actually got snowed into Kaili, but we were there in February because we wanted to see festivals where people would be wearing these costumes. I shouldn’t say costumes, but they’re…
Gina: …traditional dress. That was really the motivating factor. We went to a market in a town called Zhidong, and then we also were lucky enough to catch a Lusheng festival in a town called Zhouxi.
Chris: I don’t know that festival.
Gina: There are a number of different Lusheng festivals. A Lusheng is a Miao instrument composed of a number of bamboo pipes. It makes a high pitched sound that’s a little bit of an acquired taste. But it’s a Miao festival.
Chris: That is an ethnicity?
Chris: Okay. We’re not talking about the cat’s sound, not that kind of things.
Gina: Right. It’s an ethnicity. Here in the United States, there are some Miao people, but they’re better known as Hmong.
Chris: Okay. All right. Got you.
Gina: There are a lot of complexities, as far as how the groups break down, but it’s related. So we went to this Miao festival, and lushengs are the touchstone for this. The men play lusheng and the women dance around them.
Chris: You say that’s an acquired taste for that instrument. It didn’t sound like you acquired it.
Gina: I don’t mind it, but it is not exactly my husband’s taste.
Chris: Okay. Got it.
Gina: It’s just an incredible thing to see, this heritage being carried on and perpetuated even now. There are other aspects to the festival. There’s some food. There’s bull fights, which was a real experience.
Chris: A bull fight in China?
Gina: A bull fight. They are water buffalo bulls. The fight was actually held like down in a ravine. It was encircled by people, and they were the ones who were forming the barrier for these fighting bulls.
Chris: I see a flaw in this plan.
Chris: When you say fighting bulls, two bulls fighting each other?
Chris: Okay. I assumed there was not a matador in costume, that we were not talking about that, but I wasn’t sure what we’re talking about. Okay, interesting.
Gina: Different from the Spanish version. Two bulls would be let in from either side of the pitch and turned loose. They would either stand there and look at each other or they would charge each other, or as it happened, one would come at the other and the other would turn on his heel and run toward the line of people who were forming the end of the arena.
Chris: See previous comment about flaw in the system. Okay.
Chris: Who then ran for their lives at that point?
Gina: Yes. Parted very quickly, and then the bull’s handlers chase them down this ravine.
Chris: A bull fight goes until…is this one of those two bulls enter, one bull leaves?
Gina: It is two bulls enter, two bulls leave. They’re incredibly important animals and highly, highly valued. When it gets like it’s looking too aggressive, the handlers jump in with maybe a bamboo pole and tap them apart. Amazingly, that seemed to work.
Chris: How do you know who wins, or does that matter? This is so completely foreign to me, and I love it.
Gina: One of the bulls would turn out to be a little bit more visually submissive. If one bull was dominating the other to such a degree, they would pull them apart.
Chris: If you own the more dominant bull, does that mean you’re going to get more fees from people for the use of your bull?
Gina: I can’t comment with any certainty on that. I wasn’t around anyone who spoke English. But I think there was probably some betting going on.
Chris: Let’s take a break here and hear from our sponsor, who is DK Eyewitness Guides. Don’t happen to have a DK Eyewitness guide to Guizhou in China, so I picked the one that I have for Egypt, another exotic destination. Specifically, as we were thinking about textiles in markets, I was looking at Cairo and the street-by-street diagram around the Khan Al-Khalili. This is the kind of thing that I like in the eyewitness guide, which is this neighborhood view of this area in Cairo that is the center of the medieval bazaar. It gives you a route to go through it, shows you pictures of the kinds of things that you will see, and gives us this wonderful description. Any exploration of the Islamic Cairo begins at the medieval bazaar of Khan Al-Khalili, the commercial heart of the quarter. Traders line the streets all the way to the old city gates, but the bazaar’s narrow alleyways are at their densest and most beguiling in the original Khan area. The quarter’s many mosques, house,s and palaces offer an escape from the incessant sales pitches.
Hopefully, Guizhou won’t turn into that soon, but even if it does, the DK Eyewitness guide would help you navigate it. Check them out at DK.com.
You mentioned you’re not around anybody who spoke English, we’re in an area that is up-and-coming for tourism, but not as well developed, for instance, obviously as Beijing. But as a lot of places we’ve talked about on the show, how difficult? You do not speak Cantonese. Mandarin rather, I’m sorry. You do not speak Cantonese either, as I recall.
Gina: Nope, neither. Unfortunately.
Chris: I’m guessing, German did not help here.
Gina: It didn’t. No. Completely useless.
Chris: So how difficult was it to navigate around without Mandarin, or without some dialect of Chinese?
Gina: In complete honesty, it was a challenge. We somehow made it work, and thank heavens for Google’s translate app, which worked really well. But Billy Zhang was really the only person that we met in our entire time in Guizhou, who spoke English. Our driver that he hired, unfortunately didn’t speak English, but he was a wonderful guy, and we mimed our way through the day.
Chris: I find that to be more common with drivers in general, wherever I’ve been around the world that usually if you can speak English, you can basically command a different rate, and therefore you don’t work as a driver.
Gina: Right. Yup. I think that it may have also been a factor of us being there in off-season. There may be more guides around in summer or when it’s not actively raining and sleeting and snowing.
Chris: You mentioned the rain and the sleet and the snow. You’re in a mountainous climate, I’m guessing?
Gina: Yes. Guizhou is very hilly, mountainous, however you want to describe it. There’s a lot of up and down, but it’s a very striking landscape.
Chris: Okay. Circling back, one of the reasons you wanted to go to this festival was the traditional garb. What is the traditional garb there?
Gina: It varies from village to village, and from ethnic group to ethnic group. Within ethnic groups, there are sub-groups. So there really is no monolithic dress.
Chris: Even at this village, you were seeing a variety of…
Gina: Specific to Zhouxi, yes.
Chris: …okay. Can you put it in any sort of categories?
Gina: Sure. One thing that you will absolutely notice is the presence of silver. The women that are dressing up for the festivals are decked out in what looks like pounds and pounds and pounds of silver. They’re wearing elaborate headpieces that jangle and shimmer, huge necklaces, and there will be silver on the garments as well. It’s very flashy, very attention-getting.
Chris: Interesting. You were, I’m guessing, one of a small number of outsiders at the festival?
Gina: Yes, to say the least. There were a number of what appeared to be Chinese tourists, and I say appeared to be, that was because they had camera lenses that could get you fairly close to the moon.
Gina: But otherwise, it was just us, as far as Westerners at the festival.
Chris: As far as Westerners, did you feel like you were on the edge of the festival looking in, or were they inviting you in?
Gina: We did get a lot of attention while we were in the region, but it was mostly people looking. It wasn’t like extremely warm and welcoming, like you might get in some locations, but neither was it exclusive. So we were able to get in and get a close look. We’re welcomed into food stalls and people gave us little samples of food and smiled and laughed with us. It was all very comfortable, but we’re definitely a curiosity.
Chris: What kind of food were you seeing, or can you identify it?
Gina: Yes. Guizhou has really delicious food, in my opinion. I think that plenty of people are familiar with Sichuan food, and Guizhou is just South of Sichuan. You get heat like you would in Sichuan and there’s also the presence of the Sichuan peppercorns, that kind of numbing effect. But there’s also a lot of sour flavors so lots of pickles. I mean, just a rainbow of pickles that you can decorate your noodles with. So spicy, sour, delicious.
Chris: There is a picture that I cannot imagine. Okay, all right. Interesting. I like pickles, but you just went out of my familiarity zone in Chinese food there.
Gina: I think the one thing that I would say about the pickles is they’re not sweet, like some American pickles are sweet. It’s very savory and sharp, salty, savory. I could just eat it for days. It was absolutely delicious, and lots of good street food.
Chris: Okay. The pickle seller stalls.
Gina: Yeah. One thing that we ran into quite a bit was it was almost like a Chipotle situation. For lack of a better analogy, you would get your bowl of noodles, they would pour in some broth, and then you could just point to this array of fixings: pork belly, pickles, peanuts, chilies, just this beautiful array of colorful toppings. You would just pick out what you wanted and it was a delicious meal every time.
Chris: Excellent. Textiles again, circling back again to that. One of the things you wanted to see was some of the different techniques and such. What were you able to arrange?
Gina: We weren’t able to arrange anything specifically. We were just lucky enough to go out to some of the villages and see people actively working on things as they would in an everyday context. We saw a woman spinning. We saw indigo dye vats.
Chris: Spinning the silk threads, in that case?
Gina: I believe it was cotton actually, or it may have been hemp.
Gina: All of the fabric is handwoven. It’s not just embroidery, but it’s actually like what the coat is made out of. You’ll see these long, looping rolls of fabric being hung out to dry. Those are dyed in indigo, particularly in this village or one of the villages that we went to. So we saw the indigo dye vats.
Chris: Which is fascinating to me. We had a chance to do that when I was in Thailand, in Northern Thailand.
Gina: Isn’t it interesting?
Chris: You’re not that far away. We had a chance to come up with our own dyes, both batik, which is where the indigo is prevented from getting into the fabric by wax, for those of you who are not familiar with that, as well as what really, to me, is just tie-dyeing. But the interesting thing about that, for people who haven’t seen it, is you put it in water that is green and it comes out green, and then very rapidly oxidizes and turns into these amazing shades of blue, just a beautiful color.
Gina: It’s a color like no other, and it’s a global obsession. You find it in Central America, South America, West Africa. Everyone’s bonkers about West African indigos right now. But then in Thailand, Southwestern China, Laos, Vietnam, you’ll see a lot of indigo dyeing as well.
Chris: Interesting. Any other experiences there we want, before we move off of fabric and textiles into other areas?
Gina: One good thing to know is that you will probably pay a premium for really good items in this region because the first groups to get here, I think, were museums. This, I’ve kind of found out through talking to Billy. They came in and were doing a lot of buying for their own collections. I live in Minneapolis. My local museum, the Minneapolis Institute of Art or MIA, has an incredible collection of Chinese textiles including many, many costumes and garments from the Guizhou area.
Chris: Interesting. One warning you would give about this area.
Gina: You’ll need to think on your toes and be creative about how to communicate. Particularly, if you choose to go independent, which we did, and that meant getting your own taxis, getting on the bus. Everything that we did was like we had to have a little bit of a meeting in the morning, between my husband and I, to figure out how are we going to do this and what’s our strategy for getting across the message that we want to get across.
Chris: You mentioned you made heavy use of Google translate. As I recall, you do need to have a data plan to use that.
Gina: You do. Yup, that’s a great caution.
Chris: So plan accordingly.
Gina: Yes. Most of my data went to that.
Chris: Excellent. Anything else in the warning area?
Gina: In the warning area, not particularly. Other than, if you want a little bit easier experience, there are some great and very knowledgeable guides who do speak English in the area, because there has been this trickle of specialized interest travelers coming in. So the guides that are there are incredibly knowledgeable.
Chris: Excellent. What surprised you?
Gina: The challenge of it. It is China’s least developed province so it shouldn’t have been such a surprise to me, but the fact that it was difficult to get out everyday and make things happen. Ultimately, the secondary surprise to that was that people helped us. It really didn’t turned out being so difficult, it was just getting over that initial hump every morning.
Chris: Okay. Now we haven’t talked about doing any sort of traditional sightseeing, because you didn’t prioritize that, or because you didn’t find things that there were to see, the temples, the usual suspects in that area?
Gina: A little bit of both. We didn’t prioritize it. Our priority was getting out to see some of the villages that are in the area and still have this incredible traditional architecture as well. There are other places in Guizhou that are maybe a little bit more traditional travel destination there. China’s largest waterfall is in Guizhou province. It’s Huangguoshu, I believe.
Chris: Largest tallest or largest by volume?
Gina: I believe it’s by volume. You may need to fact check me on that. But it’s very large and it does get a lot of Chinese tourism, and then there’s another town. I believe it’s called Zhenyuan. It’s this traditional architecture built right up along this curving jade green river. We just didn’t have the time to get there, but it looks like a little bit more of a traditional tourism destination.
Chris: Okay. Anything else, before we start getting into our wrap-up questions, that you want to make sure that we cover?
Gina: Another benefit of Guizhou is that it’s landlocked and surrounded by incredible provinces. You have Yunnan, Sichuan, Guangxi, and Hunan, and Chongqing. I’m saying that totally wrong.
Chris: You’ve already established you don’t speak Chinese.
Gina: Yeah, my apologies for butchering it. But all of these surrounding provinces have their own attractions and amenities that are outstanding as well. So if you wanted to add a little jaunt into Guizhou while visiting these other places, I think it’s doable.
Chris: Right. Wouldn’t have to be your sole purpose of your trip to China necessarily.
Gina: Right. Yup.
Chris: Excellent. You’re standing in the prettiest spot that you saw, where are you standing and what are you looking at?
Gina: I am standing on a roadside in the mountains overlooking these green hills, and in the near distance is a village with an elaborate drum tower and these beautiful wooden houses with their sweeping curved roofs all stacked up along the hillsides.
Chris: The funny thing about that for me is that I’ve been in places like Xi’an or whatever, and they have the traditional drum tower there, but you half get the impression there, since it’s the only thing left from that time, that it’s built for tourists, which of course it wasn’t. But of course out here, anything that you’re looking at wasn’t built with a tourist in mind.
Chris: They had the drum tower because they wanted a tower for their drums.
Chris: You’re seeing very traditional architecture. As you went to the other villages, did you see more of the more modernizing influences as well? Is the region changing rapidly?
Gina: It is. A notable thing about it is that there’s development in the form of high-speed rail coming in. I will say that some of that was a little bit disheartening, because we did see things such as a plan to tear down a traditional village and rebuild it in a modern way. Not modern style buildings, but update it and clean it up, and make it pretty and sanitary, and that sort of thing. So there is a little bit of that happening.
Chris: I’m all in favor of the sanitary, not just as a tourist, but for the health of the people who are living there.
Gina: Absolutely, yes. We saw some instances of, out in the villages where it would’ve been nice for the local people to have better facilities. I think China’s breakneck pace of development is coming to Guizhou.
Chris: As you were getting around to the different villages, what was the quality of the roads there at this point?
Gina: Pretty good, in all honesty. The only places where it was bad was where construction was happening, and there it was ruckus.
Chris: Sure. Well, that’s not too surprising.
Chris: While you were there, you’re in a lesser visited province, one time when you felt close to home, very familiar and another time you felt furthest from home.
Gina: I think feeling closest to home was probably in our little hotel room in Kaili, where there was very efficient heating and a television. That was about as close to home as we ever felt.
Chris: I’m assuming the TV is not picking up CNN worldwide.
Gina: Nope, there was a Chinese state television station that was in English, and you will get all of the Chinese history programming you’ve ever wanted, which is fascinating. You’re definitely learning about things from a different perspective.
Chris: I would definitely like some Chinese history. I don’t know that I could get all that I’ve ever wanted.
Gina: You can watch it 24 hours a day. Feeling furthest away from home, being out in those villages, in the hills where there’s nothing else around but local people, and seeing indigo dyed jackets drawing in the wind. It was what I came there for and seeing it in a setting that was that beautiful was just magic.
Chris: One thing that makes you laugh and say, “Only in Guizhou.”
Gina: This might be a little bit off-color for some of your listeners, but we pulled over to the side of the road in a small village, and there was a group of guys who were butchering a pig on the side of the road, and had it strung up by its feet. They were just having a grand old time, and they signaled us to come on over and have a look at what they were doing. I just feel like I’ve never experienced that anywhere else I’ve been, and it was quite a moment.
Chris: I was a blogger for a year for the National Pork Board in the U.S. and I went to a dinner in Texas. I don’t think I’ve ever talked about this on the show before…in Austin, Texas. The entertainment for the evening was what you call a Pork Fabrication. Basically, it’s when one turns a pig carcass into pork with the sharp knives and saws. I thought it was fascinating, as they were pointing out, “This is where the ham comes from and this is where the bacon comes from.” Not everyone thought it was appropriate dinner entertainment.
Gina: I can see why. It’s graphic.
Chris: I would have to say, since you were invited to a pork dinner, you are probably at least not a vegan.
Chris: You would have that advantage there at least.
Gina: Any vegans going to rural China, just be aware that you’re going to see some things that might be a little unsettling.
Chris: Right, right.
Gina: Another thing that we saw that just made us go, “Wow! We’re really here.” We’re just driving down the road and we saw a wedding party. It was just the women’s side of the wedding party. There was the bride who had the most elaborate of all the headpieces. She was standing there looking somber and was surrounded by her wedding party who are also dressed just to the nines and in their silver as well. We stopped and pulled over, and gave our regards to them or our driver did. We looked out across the valley that the road was situated along and saw the groom’s car coming up the road to meet them.
Chris: Excellent. I’m assuming she is not wearing a white dress.
Gina: No. She’s wearing…
Chris: It’s more of a color of death, as I recall in China.
Chris: Red or it’s something different in this region?
Gina: It was red and black, and there was some blue in it, and heavily decked out in the traditional silver jewelry.
Chris: I am seeing that in some places in the cities, white is actually starting to get more popular, just because of the Western influence.
Chris: But I would not expect that as much here.
Gina: No, I think that will be slower to come in this region.
Chris: One thing you should remember to pack before you go.
Gina: Insulating layers, if you go in the winter. It’s definitely brisk and I think it probably can be humid and rainy when you’re there. There’s a proverb that I can’t think of directly, but it refers to the fact that Guizhou is quite rainy.
Chris: Okay. That lost a little there in translation from Chinese.
Chris: Last two questions. Finish this thought. You really know you’re in Guizhou when what?
Gina: You’re watching a group of Miao women dance around men playing lusheng.
Chris: Okay. If you had to summarize your experience in three words.
Gina: Challenging but worthy.
Chris: Excellent. That was three words. Okay. That worked for me. Here’s your Guizhou proverb. In Guizhou, there are no three kilometers without a mountain, no three days without rain, and no three coins in one pocket.
Gina: That’s the one.
Chris: Okay, excellent. Gina, where can people read more about your travels?
Gina: I have a blog called ThisTimeTomorrow.net.
Chris: Excellent. Our guest again, has been Gina Czupka. When you see her name spelled, you won’t laugh at me so much for hesitating when I go to pronounce it. C-Z-U-P-K-A. Gina, thanks so much for coming on Amateur Traveler and sharing with us your unusual and wonderful experience in China, in Guizhou.
Gina: It’s been a pleasure, and I hope it will get the region more attention because it’s very deserving.
Chris: In news of the community, still a few slots in that trip to Cambodia if you want to join me. I think there are 10 of us now actually, which would be a pretty good number.
On the Westfjords of Iceland podcast, I heard from Steve who said, “We’ve been to Iceland three times now. The last time we took a cruise that went along the West and North shores of Iceland. We stopped at many ports and used each port as a starting place to explore the surrounding area. It was a small Princess cruise ship, 700 passengers that could get into almost any port. Princess put together excellent shore tours, which we enjoyed. Iceland is as beautiful and challenging as Katie described. You really need a lot of time to explore this section of Iceland.” I didn’t realize that Princess did something like that, so Steve, that was interesting to find that out.
I heard from Barry Kramer recently, who’s written a number of guest posts on Amateur Traveler. He said, “I was listening to this week’s episode of Amateur Traveler on the Dominican Republic, and I began to think about how much I look forward to hearing your podcast each week. At this time of year, I wanted to let you know how much I really appreciate all the work you put into the podcast and Amateur Traveler website. The first time I listened to the Amateur Traveler, I felt I really got what you were trying to accomplish. I’m one of those persons who really likes to hear about other people’s vacations and trips. I love hearing details, personal impressions, stories and, experiences. They really help me to think about all the wonderful and interesting places there are around the world. The variety of locations you have addressed is amazing, and your consistency in posting the podcast on a regular basis is admirable. I can truly say that in some way, I find all the stories interesting and informative.”
“I also appreciate the way you always treat each guest respectfully, and try to get the most out of them. I can tell, that is not always easy. In addition to providing a lot of entertainment, the information from the podcast is also really useful. Last year, when I went to Peru, I checked back episodes of the Amateur Traveler to help with my planning. I also did this recently to help plan a future trip to Ireland. Each year, I do podcasts with the students I teach, so I know you put in many hours bringing valued and useful information to your listeners. I also appreciate you providing an outlet for me to write about my experiences, by publishing my travel reports and articles on your blog. I have learned a lot from the process.” Thanks so much, Barry.
I do want to point out that you too, like Barry, can submit articles for the Amateur Traveler. We do take guest posts. There are guest post guidelines linked from the top page if you’re interested in figuring out how you can share your travels, your travel stories with the readers of Amateur Traveler.
With that, we’re going to end this episode, this 499th episode of the Amateur Traveler. The transcript of this episode will be sponsored by JayWay Travel, experts in Eastern European travel. You may remember we heard more about them in the Croatia episode.
If you have a comment, feel free to leave it at AmateurTraveler.com, or do what Barry or Steve did and send me an e-mail to host at AmateurTraveler.com. As always, thanks so much for listening.
Transcription sponsored by JayWay Travel, specialists in Central & Eastern Europe custom tours.