The Hidden Treasure: Baimei Village
Bamei is a village hidden in remote mountains of Yun’nan Province. The only way of getting to this hidden treasure is to take a boat through the dark cave at the end of which there is a bright world full of peace and beauty. Anyone seeing photos of the entrance to this amazing world will surely be attracted. So was I.
Travel to Bamei is never easy
There is one long distance bus from Kunming, the capital of Yun’nan, for the start of the Bamei journey. It departs at 7: 40pm and arrives at Guangnan, the closest county to Bamei, at around 7am the next morning. Buses to Bamei departs from Guangnan every hour. The travel to Bamei is never easy. After one night and over one-hour bus trip, I finally finished the road trip and tried to find the boat to Bamei. From the bus stop, I walked along the river till one cave with over a dozen boats waiting there appeared from nowhere. The ticket for tourists includes three boat trips and one carriage ride. I shared the boat with about ten villagers. The small boat was like a leaf floating inside the dark cave. With no one talking, the soft bubbling of water sounded so clear that I almost saw the sharp boat head cut through the water. Some lights shed on the stones in water, but the boat just danced around them. The cave seemed to be bigger and deeper inside. Suddenly, the clear image of bamboo and a big wooden waterwheel was unveiled in the unexpected brightness with its shadow in the clear water. Here we are, Bamei, the hidden treasure.
Waterwheels are like symbols of Bamei, scattering everywhere. Villagers have their wooden houses besides peach blossoms and tall trees. The simple accommodation may frighten some foreigners away since there is no toilet bowl, shower or bathtub. I
found one small comfortable room on the second floor of a local residence. Luckily, electricity is supplied here, but there is no wifi nor is there a good phone connection. Looking out of the window frame with no glass, the river runs through the village. The host told me the upper section was for men while the lower section was for women, if you want a bath or wash, just go to the proper section. Some kids were playing in the river with ducks. In this peaceful place, there is no need to worry about robbery or stealing. I put my luggage under the bed and went on a tour around. The second boat trip was not as exciting as the first one. The boat floated slowly along the river under the shade of green trees. Sometimes we needed to push the branches sticking out over the water away. All the clouds, trees and flowers stayed motionless, like in a dream. Some horses were eating grass on the riverbank. That’s the place for carriage rides. The carriage was simple with two long stools inside and the road was quite bumpy. The ride was not so pleasant. Soon, the ride was over and we arrived at the other end of Bamei where the third boat trip through another cave would take tourists to get buses to Guangnan which offers better accommodation. However, I had decided to stay in Bamei instead.
The two caves have different names. The first boat trip is through Taoyuan Cave, while the third boat trip is through Wen’na Cave. The latter is more spacious, but still dark. Sometimes, I could feel something f ly over, maybe birds or bats. The stones are in strange shapes and bear different names. The boat trip ends in an open lake with cold and green water. A strange feeling stirred me, one step forward and I would be back to the modern world, but I chose not to. Boatmen were having their dinner. I told them I’d like a boat back. One boatman jumped in water and got some
Waterwheels are like symbols of Bamei, scattering everywhere.
villagers in the boat. This time they laughed and talked loudly in the dark cave, which made it kind of feel like I was going home.
I bought some barbeque fish and pickled vegetable at the local stalls, eating and waiting for the carriage back. The horse was quite reluctant to go, jumping and biting, but soon surrendered to the owner, an old tough man. I was the only tourist staying, so he knew where to go and dropped me at the centre of the village. After a day’s labor, people were relaxing in the river, naughty kids running, women washing clothes and men fishing.
There were three generations in the house in which I stayed. The old granny could not speak mandarin. She smiled and climbed to the storage attic floor, back with two small apples to share with me. The little boy ran around, jumped in and out of the river. The parents were busy with their chickens, ducks and pigs. Finally, I decided to enjoy the cool river as well. It was not easy to step over the mud and get into water. The so-called man section and woman section are so close to each other that I could only try to hide in water or behind a tree to finish my bath. The young wife hurried to prepare dinner and invited me to share the family dinner, but women are not allowed to eat together with the men. The granny and the wife had to wait until after the men finished eating and drinking, which made me feel sorry
for them and a little bit uncomfortable. After dinner, the granny and the wife cleaned and started embroidery with beautiful colors. The night was so quiet that I soon felt asleep to their low-voice chatting.
The next morning, all the villagers got up early and dressed well, men in black shirt with white broidery and women in blue or grey shirt with colourful broidery. Chickens and ducks were caged and ready to go. It was the local market day. All the boats were full of villagers. Their happy chatting and laughing sent swallows rushing out of the cave. In a local folk story, Bamei was first exposed on a market day like this. One old man visited the local market outside the cave frequently, telling no one where he was from. Curious people dug a small hole in his salt bag and traced it all the way to the cave.
One old man visited the local market outside the cave frequently, telling no one where he was from. Curious people dug a small hole in his salt bag and traced all the way to the cave.
Du r ing winter my onebedroom, 45sqm apartment transformed into a twobedroom, yet still 45sqm, apartment. Months earlier, my partner’s mother thrilled us at the news that she would be coming over to visit and explore China with us. As fast as the news was official, we chaotically scrambled to buy up on JD various necessities like extra toilet paper, extra power strips, and the much needed bed she would be needing to sleep in when we transformed our living room into an impromptu bedroom. Day zero of the month long trip soon arrived on our calendar, and as soon as she stepped off the plane we immediately began to show off what our daily life in this fastpaced city is like, and we discovered how someone new could give us unique