Category: China, 2012

Hurricane Helen and the Surprise Festival

November 5

Breakfast at the hotel, then off to a Shui festival, stopping en route at a market of Shui and Miao people in the Sandu area. Market is in the town of Dujiang (jiang means “river”).

Oops, on the way to the market, we learn that a festival is taking place at another village, and we detour to go to the festival. This is typical of the organic way this trip develops. The village is Gaodong and we will see the white collar Miao people.

Okay, now, having been to the festival, I can report that it was amazing. It all came about because Lee was checking directions and a lady who the group nicknamed “Hurricane Helen” told him about the festival. Nicely dressed and wearing high heels, Helen hopped on our bus and directed us to the festival, where we were greeted by women with baijou, a liquor, in bowls and horns, which they poured into our mouths.


They placed a string with a pink egg cradled in red threads around each of our necks.

A group of young girls in costume sang for us.


We were then herded up the hill by Hurricane Helen, past musicians and other costumed ladies. From there, Helen escorted us to the headman’s house, where we were served lunch, along with many Chinese visitors to the festival. Hurricane Helen is a force. You would not want to get in her way. Evidently, November is National Firecracker Month in Guizhou, because here, as elsewhere, firecrackers were fired off in constantly, rapid-fire, sounding like gun shots.

After lunch, we wandered down through crowds of people to two open areas, separated by a kind of moat. The place had a county fair atmosphere, with stands selling food and other items, balloons, cotton candy, etc. In one area, bull fighting would take place; on the other side of the moat, dancing. We opted to watch the dancing, along with thousands of others who sat or stood in tiers on the surrounding hillsides, creating a colorful backdrop to the festival.







There were five or six different types of Miao people, all dressed in distinctive costumes, children and young and old women, dancing in circles to lusheng music and, later, to drums.

We were objects of some curiosity and were asked by many to pose for photos with their friends or family members. That was a fair trade, as the photographic opportunities for us were amazing. I wound up taking 362 photos for the day. (I discovered from talking to others later that I was definitely below what most took). There was ample time to experiment, as for example in two panning shots below, intentionally blurry, which you may or may not care for.



People were very friendly and a few of us were pushed into a dance line to participate, as I am here with the lusheng players.


To put it mildly, it was quite a scene, totally different than the first festival we went to, which was more intimate, but seems very tame by comparison. Those who saw some of the bull fighting reported that the fighting at the first festival had been much better. Even, Nevada, who has been to many of these festivals in her seven trips to Guizhou was quite blown away by the day’s activities.

At a couple points, bulls escaped on the other side, jumped and climbed over the moat, scattering us and the rest of the crowd and dancers. Lee fell down as the first bull escaped, but four men helped her up immediately. After four hours or so, we made our way through the crowd (not an easy task) and back to the bus. For the first time, it began to drizzle, but we were able to find shelter and wait for our bus. Though I have not commented upon it, we’ve been incredibly fortunate with the weather so far.

We were scheduled to do a home stay tonight, but because of the six-hour unanticipated stop at the festival, we decided not to do the home stay, to the relief of all of us. While I’m sure the home stay would have been interesting /fun, at least in retrospect, this was a good night not to do one.

The hotel we are staying at in Sandu is quite fine, though I do have a walk up to my fourth floor room. Unlike at the guest house we stayed at several nights ago, which was a walk up to the third floor, I did not carry my luggage up, as I’m still paying a bit of a price in my back from the guest house (though it’s better today, after Sandy loaned me me the miracle spray that she bought in Beijing).

Out for dinner (yes, we tried Chinese again) at an excellent restaurant. I have to admit that, though I generally am not looking forward to going out to dinner, I’ve enjoyed them much more than I’ve expected to. Back to the hotel to finish the blog and download more photos. Also sprayed more of Sandy’s magic spray, which she bought for me at a pharmacy across from the hotel,

(Note: If you are reading this blog regularly, you may want to look back at yesterday’s post quickly, because some of the photos may have appeared after the time you saw it.)

3 comments to Hurricane Helen and the Surprise Festival

  • Pat Hemmens

    Great photos – and lovely to see that cultural diversity seems to be flourishing in China now. By the way, climbing stairs is brilliant exercise (although not carrying luggage, I grant you) – when I’m on my own, I try not to take the lift if it’s five floors or fewer (and I’ve only got a few years on you). You’ll be as fit as a flea by the time you get home!

  • Sharon Silverman

    All I can say is WOW!! The experience sounds amazing, and the photos are gorgeous. Eager to hear more upon your return.

  • Wendy

    I thought it was a most excellent choice to go for the dancers over the bulls, thinking you’d be at a safe distance from bulls on the loose. Wrong! Man, the Chinese are a lot tougher than they look . . . between doing heavy manual labor with babies strapped on their backs and cavorting with wild bulls, not to mention a certain lack of toilet seats, elevators, and bellmen! Love the pictures you added to the previous post. The one of the girls on stilts is very striking. I like the two different shots on benches and the one of the older woman, too. Wonder if you’ll start taking more pictures, now that you’ve compared notes with others on the trip. Let us know!

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