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The poster in the room suggesting visiting a tea plantation as part of a custom tour where you hire a car for a day. Can I get there on public transit?
"Four kilometer walk from the bus stop."
"No problem, I can walk that far."
"The way is not marked; it will be hard to find."
"I speak enough Chinese and you've written down the location in characters. I can ask for directions long the way."
Short walk to the bus station. Inquired around for my destination and the first minivan was going my way. 3rmb [48 cents.]
The driver stops to let me out. I ask at the corner convenience store for the 'tea factory.' Straight up the road. Easy.
I found the tea factory but nothing of note was happening except renovations. "I want to see tea bushes." "Up the road to and to the left."
I did have to guess as when to go left. My first instinct was correct. Easy.
I did have to pass a gate guard house* where I wrote down my name. They also wanted my company and phone number. I suppose I could have made something up but I just said I don't have one for the first and that I forgot for the second. One asked about smoking. I thought maybe he was asking for a bribe. The other guard did not want me to pass. The first let me.
On I walked. I passed an electric grid substation and a nice but uninhabited compound. The stone road wound its way up the mountainside.
As last I saw rows and rows of short green bushes. Tea! I crunched up a leaf. No aroma. At the factory I was told that it was the wrong season. Further on many bushes were pruned of all leaves, just many gray stumps in a clump. Didn't matter - I've now been to a tea plantation in Yunnan. I walked on.
I passed a few rough and simple homes*, laundry & corn drying in the courtyard. I passed several graves* scattered about the tea bushes, all facing somewhat to the east.
Below me were towns, villages, factories and farmlands stretching to the lake, beyond which were low hills barely visible in the haze. Above me were snow-sprinkled mountain tops. Let's keep walking!
After some time I was passed on a motor bike by a local. I soon came to his destination. Not to many people on this road [I saw some power company people at the substation and no one since] and far fewer big noses, if any. He greated me and asked if I'd like some water or tea. I'm in Yunnan, the home of some of the finest teas in the world and I've just made a pilgramage to a tea plantation even though it's out of season... "Tea, please!!!" There was a small building consisting of open courtyard on the east and three small rooms across the west. The only entrance was from the south. Wanted and conduct posters told me it was a work station of some sort, not a home. The 10 people, 2 women and 8 men, were finishing up lunch, one dish still sizzling in the wok. They invited me eat! A huge pot of steamed rice sat on the table, enough for 20 more people. One gentleman took a thermos of hot water and rinced a bowl and pair of chopsticks. He wiped the rim of the bowl with his probably rarely washed fingers. I ate. I drank tea a few feet from where it's grown. I listened to them laugh hartily, probably at me some of the times. They seemed a happy lot.
Three started singing in turns, each turn being lengthy. I assume it was a tradition Chinese ditty but there must have been some improvisation as one line was sung directly to one gentleman and everyone but me roared in laughter.
But I must return to civilization and end my lovely walk and visit at the foot of the mountain*. Sigh...
Twas super easy day. I walked many more than four kilometers just because it was such a beautiful day with the blue-est skies* I've ever seen in China. It was quiet and wooded - perfect recipe for a walk. When I returned to the hostel I drew a map of my route so the next tea aficionado can make the same trek. So if you're ever in Dali and want to see the tea plantation just go to the Jade Emu and ask for Jan't map. I signed it.
Photos coming soon.
on March 13, 2012
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