Maybe I should go back to that first day of arriving. It was the 18th, New Year's Eve. After resting on the bus as best as I could, a man came on with a flashlight asking if anyone was going to DuoYiShu and I said yes. So I walked out at (6? 7?) some dark hour of the morning, loaded up into a minibus with one woman and two men and we set off for DuoYiShu. When we arrived at the viewing area, I asked if he could tell me where the parking lot of Pugaolao Village was. The other man siting up front heard me struggling with my Chinese and he spoke to me in English. We all got out at Pugaolao and they seemed bothered by me traveling alone so they walked with me down a to convenience store that a local man had set up in his house. The man called a friend who spoke English and had me talk to him, the woman who traveled with us stared and said "You don't understand?" as she tried to work out my nationality and my appearance. So the man who ran the shop walked me partway before asking a woman with a big-eyed baby to help me out, she walked me partway then asked a little girl to help me out and she got me to the guesthouse. Dante had Virgil and Beatrice, but I got 4 guides on my journey through what felt like paradise despite how tired I was. Cool, clean morning air, sun already risen over the terraces, roads with water running down the gutters everywhere and taking advantage of the mountain that this village is built on, little girls in traditional Hani tunics, blue sky, and all of it more than welcome after the time I've spent in cold and wet Hunan. The change in the air was the first thing I noticed as the bus came up the mountain since I couldn't see much outside my window at night.
Human life and animal life are close to each other in Pugaolao. There were water buffalo, chickens, pigs, and geese moving through the streets and under people's homes.
Anyway, after a wild 4 bus journey (talk about it another time) I'm back in Kunming and getting ready for the 24 hour train ride back to Zhuzhou. Yuanyang was totally worth all that trouble and I felt at home there in a village of a few hundred people just working and living. The mountains and clean air probably helped me feel pretty good there too. I certainly found myself more relaxed than I had been in a while and perfectly content to eat at some of the shaokao (barbecue) stands and just wander through the villages. I'm leaving Yunnan with the memories of beautiful terraced mountains and though I know this one province alone has so much to offer, I also know that to leave content is all I can ask for because the thing with traveling is it's like reading. You come back knowing that there's more for you to look into and that no matter how much you read or how much you travel, there's always more.