Unexpected companions in Maguan.
Residents of Maguan have seen few tourists, and you attract some friendly attention. After a day of wandering the streets, you meet a high school math teacher who wants to practice his English and guide you through the town. He ushers you to the towns biggest attraction. At a nearby park, you and he ascend hundreds of steps along the face of a cliff. You soon find yourself in a maze of ancient Buddhist caves, still maintained by a few devotees.
The intimidating climb.
In the main cave, you find the seated bodhisatva.
At the side of the bodhisatva, tiny Guanyins glow in the light of candles and burning incense.
Later, your guide returns to the hotel with you to share stories. He says that this town "lags behind" the rest of China; economic and cultural reforms occuring in larger cities have not reached here. As you listen, you realize that the cultural revolution lingers in Maguan, and you realize why your guide refused to be photographed with you at the park.
After chatting, you join him for dinner at a large restaurant. The place resembles a high school cafeteria, packed with Han and minority Chinese. You notice one table where an Asian couple with blue jeans and jackets have joined a dozen brightly clothed Miao minority people. After you sit, the man approaches. He greets you in English, with an American accent. You are suprised, because noone in this area has spoken English as well.
The man explains that he has returned from Minnesota with his wife to visit relatives. When you assess his dinner party and ask if he is Miao, his look turns stern. He explains that he is not Miao, as the Chinese would call him. He is one of the Hmong, the ethnic group that fought in Laos for the US during the Vietnam War. The man quickly returns to his dinner, and you are left slightly puzzled.
More info on the Hmong
Guidebooks have very little information on this area. You contemplate a bus trip into the country side to learn more about this remote Yunnan region. Otherwise, it's time to check out the weird, knobby hills of Yangshuo .
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