The Southern Tour: A Rural Chinese Town

The next morning, I found myself looking at a town that was larger than it had appeared the night before, but not as large as I had expected for the town of Pu’er. Some investigation revealed that it was not, in fact, Pu’er, but the town of Mohei. I was not clear on had we had ended up at one and not the other, and in the real scheme of things it doesn’t actually matter. On many levels, I was glad that we stayed in this smaller, less developed town. Over the time we spent there, it proved to be very friendly and a true example of a way of life that is slowly being pushed out by the rising tide of commerce. Mohei probably had no more than four or five hundred residents, and I had a real sense of the patterns of life in a part of China that is far removed from the workings of the west. Take a look at the picture of my hotel room and you will understand what I mean. For only three dollars a night, it was amazing.

Despite such lack of foreign influence, the people in the town were not as interested in our group as I have seen in some of the other places I have traveled. Sure, they spent a good bit of time watching us, but in exactly the same manner as you would surely observe if a group of Chinese showed up in a rural southern town in the United States. Only rarely did I encounter the abrasive and blatant “hello” that foreigners so frequently hear when walking through parts of China less frequented by tourists. Undeveloped as it was, it was apparent that we were not the first westerners to have ventured through this small place.

For various reasons, I won’t go into much more detail than this about the town, but instead will give you some of these pictures. Some of my favorite moments from the trip occurred while we were getting on and getting off of the bus that toured us around. If our group itself didn’t draw much attention, the bus certainly did, and there were usually a number of people that seemed to be more interested in the process of of our entry and exit than in our actual presence. It was as though the excitement only remained while we were still in transit, perhaps a hope that a new, more interesting batch of foreigners might replace us over the course of our daily absence. When I watch Chinese observing a group of foreigners, I can’t help but wonder how we compare to their expectations- Based on what I have read an heard about the Chinese perception of Americans and our customs, I can’t help but think that they must find a real American not nearly as interesting.

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