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Drizzly Dehang

We finally managed to escape the Jisho disaster zone and set off for the ancient village of Dehang, home to the mysterious Miao people and conveniently located just a mile or two from the tallest suspension bridge in the world. We’re not that into bridges but find anything record breaking impossible to ignore (we recently spent an afternoon photographing the world’s largest capsule vending machine) so we signalled the bus driver to pull over and had a quick look. There’s no denying it was very tall. Our German friends would’ve gone wild.

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After 800 years, Dehang is still pretty rustic but immediately we saw signs that this tiny place was fast becoming overwhelmed by tourism. The miniature village square doubled up as a car park for the dozen or so mini-buses that brought in the day trippers (like us…eek!) and many of the buildings, with architectural style dating back to the 1200s, were squeezed between newly built concrete shops selling souvenirs and snacks.

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The surrounding countryside, however, was beautiful. A stone path led us away from the village along a rushing stream, swollen from the heavy rain, through the stepped rice terraces with dragonflies dancing above our heads and butterflies as big as saucers. It was a slippery hike, made slightly more taxing by having to walk in perfect unison under one umbrella but we enjoyed a couple of hours taking in the picturesque scenery, shared only by the odd farmer tending his rice crop.

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On our way back we took a different trail and after a edging sideways for a few hundred yards to avoid being swept into the fast-flowing stream below, were greeted by the deafening roar of China’s tallest waterfall, so strong you could feel the spray before you could see it. We ventured as close as we dared and emerged soaking wet and gasping. Having cursed Mother Nature for three days of solid rain, all was forgiven.

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After a quick stroll around the village, we grabbed a packet of Oreos and headed for the local open-air theatre to watch the Cultural Folk Show. As we sat down, three members of the cast approached, costumed up, asking if they could have a photo with us. We obliged, by now used to being papped by fascinated Chinese people, only this time was slightly more embarrassing as the only way to pose was to do so in front of the entire audience.

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The show was a struggle. Granted, the ear-splitting Mandarin narration didn’t help but the performers looked so awkward and miserable we could only assume they were ordinary local people now routinely dragged out to entertain tourists with traditional wedding dances. These guys clearly had more important things to be getting on with. By far the most entertaining part was when a little boy from the audience got up halfway through and weed onto the stage. With that unconventional show of appreciation, we bid farewell to Dehang.

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