Think “Bridges of Madison County” but Chinese style – further into the mountains north of Guilin are remote villages with these iconic bridges. The one at San Jiang (3 rivers) is the oldest and most impressive.
We drove along narrow lanes through tea fields, rape fields and rice paddy, all shoe-horned in between steep mountains, to see another local feature – the drum tower.
These square pagodas are the equivalent of town halls, where the villagers meet to discuss complaints, settle disputes between families and to generally lay down the law. It is considered poor form to have to pass up an issue to State authorities. Nowadays they also contain a TV and the local menfolk sit watching sport, smoking and drinking beer, while the women work. Some things are universal. Sigh. It was a long journey back to Guilin and I can’t recommend being on the road after dark. At least in daylight you can see the hazards.
The Dong people, who live in the valleys, have some rather strange customs. When they marry, the woman doesn’t sleep with her husband but instead finds a boyfriend. She is expected to get pregnant and have a baby. She is then allowed to sleep with her husband having proved that she is fertile. The first born does not inherit and has no status. I know it’s good to have a trial run and ditch the first attempt – when making pancakes – but it seems pretty tough when applied to a baby.