Sam and I caught a bus to Menghai at around 9:00am and arrived around 10:30am. The next bus to Bada was at 2:30pm, so we had time to kill and explored the small town. We ventured through a small market where a nice woman gave us a free taste of sweet rice wine porridge. It was tasty, but also very strong. We thanked her and slowly ate it while we continued on our way. In these small towns, there is normally a center where there is a large mall and supermarket, but when you leave the center and move to the edges, you run into random farmland between apartment complexes. Since this once was country, the city was built around it. It’s normally lost behind the 3-4 story buildings, but when you explore the alleyways (like what we did), you normally stumble upon them.
Pond Next to Urban Countryside
From urban scape to farmland: behind us in this photo was an unorganized set of farmland with corn and rice paddies. We walked along the thin dirt path and crossed a makeshift bridge (three thick pieces of wood and one plank in the middle) to get to the other side of the village. The sun was beating down on us. It was so much warmer than Kunming. We found shady sanctuary at a Buddhist temple.
Menghai Buddhist Temple
We sat next to a golden shrine and listened to the screaming of children in the neighboring elementary school. I looked for a bathroom to change into shorts and also to use it…what I found was a cement wall and a pile of bricks. That will do! We meandered around the village until 2:30pm was around the corner. We got on the bus and I immediately conked out…I woke up to this scenery:
Scaling the Mountains on Bus
I always seem to forget Chinese countryside can be so beautiful. I noticed we had been traveling for about two hours out of the total of three. I thought I would ask around the bus (in total 10-12 people) for anyone who knew how to get to Manmai. I asked a few, but they shook their hands, mumbling that they don’t speak Mandarin. A 16 year-old Hani minority boy piped up and said he knew the way. I sat next to him. He wore fashionable clothing (black pants, striped button-up, black hat) and had a small guitar next to him. He went to Menghai to hang out with some friends and was heading back home to Mangwa, a village a bit north of Manmai. He explained that we could get off the bus early and hike two hours to the village. We had about 3-4 hours till sunset. I double checked with Sam to make sure he’s okay trusting his directions. Before we had time to really negotiate, the boy yelled at the driver to stop. He pointed at a dirt road and said hike down it for two hours and you’ll hit Manmai. Before we knew it, we were off the bus and all alone among mountains of tea plantations.
Tilted Shelter in a Tea Plantation
Sam and I Hiking to Manmai
We walked…and walked…and walked. At some points we hiked to the top of tea plantations, but since sunset was approaching, we kept to the path. We sang Disney songs, talked, and gazed at the scenery. It was a beautiful hike. We fortunately made it to the village right at sun down. We climbed up a hill to a shrine and watched the sunset from there:
Sunset Over a Wave of Mountains
It was dark when we entered the village. I asked around for a place to sleep. Most of the people didn’t understand Mandarin, so I resorted to body language. I put my hands together and imitated myself sleeping. She recognized what I meant and pointed down the hill. We continued through the dark path. I could make out bungalow homes (houses on stilts), but besides that it was too dark to see. We approached a home and ran into a smiling, middle-aged woman. I imitated sleeping again to her. She nods, mumbled in the local dialect, and ushered us into her home. Thankfully her daughter, Xinmeng, who is my age and speaks Mandarin, shows us our room (a large mattress on the ground). Sam and I joked that we can pretend we’re married. Her mother cooks us a meal and Xinmeng’s brother hands us rice wine. It was so strong. It burned my esophagus even after drinking. I took two sips the entire night. Sam, on the other hand, drank a shot and a half. I was surprised!
I talked with the family for a bit and then headed to bed. We had another early morning. We planned to explore the village and then travel through the rainforest to get to another Bulong town.