“A forgotten place, untouched by the impatient life of the big cities…”
While wandering onwards and upwards to the foot of the bamboo-forest, I found that at least one of the promises of this small paradise would not be kept: the fresh mosquito bites appearing on my skin were itching terribly!
Iwas fed up. Fed up with traffic jams and crowds of tourists near the West Lake and western style cafes. I needed a time out from crammed boulevards, crammed supermarkets and the crammed city of Hangzhou. There seemed to be plenty of mosquitoes in my apartment again, when I received an email from a Chinese friend. She told me about “Wuwencun” - a romantic village in the middle of the bamboo forests of Huzhou district, north of Hangzhou. One of the accursed punkies in my room was once more zipping around my head while I was digging out my Chinese dictionary. “Wuwencun” – didn’t that literally mean “town without mosquitoes?” Yes, it did. Beautiful landscape, fresh air, bamboo as far as the eye can see- and no mosquitoes? Too good to be true! I decided to verify this title and prepared for a trip the following weekend.
Although Wuwencun really seemed to be in the middle of nowhere and none of my other Chinese friends had ever heard of the place, it was not hard to get there. I took the bus from Hangzhou North Bus Station to the city of Anji. During the ninety-minute ride, the whizzing landscape with its bamboo-littered hills became more and more lovely. From Anji I took one of the local buses to a place called Zhangwuzhen, a small village quite close to my destination which added another fifty-minute ride passing small villages imbedded in the bamboo hills. As there is no bus to Wuwencun itself, one of the local cabs took me there. “In the summer some Chinese tourists come to this place, but the season is already over”, the driver told me, while blowing the horn strenuously. We were cutting one of the narrow curves, drawing through the bamboo hills when his driving enthusiasm was cut by a family of geese slowly crossing the street. “Foreigners usually never come here,” he went on the say while we waited. After fifteen minutes, we arrived in Wuwencun.
The sound of a light breeze wafting through the bamboo-crowns was all around when I got out of the car. I left the main street and started to walk up one of the small side paths. This place was really turning out to be what it had sounded like- a romantic oasis hidden in the bamboo valleys. A forgotten place, untouched by the impatient life of the big cities. Two native women were eating their supper hungrily, while the laundry was drying in the light autumn sun. They didn’t seem to care about the amazing view over the bamboo forest behind them- they had probably seen it a million times. They did however, seem to care a lot about the stranger passing by and observed me curiously. Foreigners must really never visit this place.
I saw an old man sitting in one of the yards and darning his jacket- a chicken and some other poultry flitting around him. Some steps further a dog slept beside the front door on the shady veranda, while some grain lay drying in the sun. While wandering onwards and upwards to the foot of the bamboo-forest, I found that at least one of the promises of this small paradise would not be kept: the fresh mosquito bites appearing on my skin were itching terribly!
“I can give you some medicine,” a local farmer called out to me having seen my disaster. He invited me into his home and didn’t only offer me some midge oil, but also a rich cup of self-grown green tea. Drinking and scratching, I listened to his tales. He told me about his daughters and his wife who had all moved to Hangzhou for work, about his life in Wuwencun as a bamboo farmer, and that I was the first foreign guest in his house.
“But why is the place called Wuwencun?” I dug further. He laughed. “Years ago there really were few mosquitoes here, but as the weather got warmer, the midges got more and more.” Mosquitoes or not- whoever comes to Wuwencun will find that time has stood still. It is a piece of paradise only a few kilometers away from Hangzhou, and more beautiful than I expected. “You have to visit us again next time,” the farmer yelled after me as he waved goodbye. I definitely will.