Updated: 2012-07-20 14:32
A villager named Old Huang told me that all residents of Bamei Village are of the Zhuang ethnic minority. During my short visit I found them to be kind, warm-hearted and generally happy with their lives, perhaps due to being self sufficient and hence able to work and live at their own pace. I was there in autumn when locals are busy either harvesting or collecting firewood on the mountain. As with many ethnic minorities, Zhuang women are central to the organization and maintenance of the whole family.
The Tuoniang River is a source of life to local inhabitants, providing them with clean drinking water, a source of irrigation via the picturesque but functional waterwheel, and a place to bathe. Old Huang told us the legend that gave the river its name. Tuoniang means "carry mother on the shoulders." Long ago during a period of constant war, a mother and her 16-year-old son agreed to attempt an escape from chaos. The son hit upon the idea of carrying his mother in one bamboo basket and their belongings in another to the site of what is now Bamei Village. When a torrential river got in the way, the boy's mother implored him to let her jump into the river and make good his own escape. He of course refused, and continued to battle his way across the raging waters carrying his mother on his shoulders. Just then, a beautiful Zhuang girl appeared in a flat-bottom boat singing the sweet refrain, "Green river, green mountains, a filial son carries his mother across the river." She helped the pair cross the torrent and took them to a place inhabited by immortals. The river instantly calmed and cleared, and was thereafter named Tuoniang.
The Tuoniang River has abundant fish. Since the river is in karst area, the fish are not large, but nonetheless succulent and tasty. Villagers catch dozens per day in bamboo traps that they set each evening. First marinating and then grilling fish on a bamboo spit over a charcoal fire is the preferred local cooking method. Another when entertaining guests is boiling fresh-caught fish with pickled Chinese cabbage, which produces a delectable soup.
Cattle wander freely in Bamei Village. They perform a vital function as draft animals as the narrow, shallow, rock-laden Tuoniang River cannot accommodate power-generating equipment. Placid but strong oxen and water buffalo plow fields and also draw the wooden carts that are the local form of public transportation.
Bamei people are diligent but know how to enjoy life. It is commonplace after a day's work to invite neighbors or visitors to sit at the table and share with them a tasty dish of fish or smoked pork, fried specialties or soybeans washed down with a cup of homebrewed rice wine. After dinner, they might then enjoy puffing on a water pipe or sipping a post-prandial cup of tea while listening to birdsong in the overhead branches of the banyan tree.
There is a set charge for dishes at local inhabitants' homes. All are made from self-produced organic vegetables and fruits, free-range chickens, ducks and pork as well as fish, smoked pork and sausages. A cup of homebrewed rice or corn wine is the perfect accompaniment.
Various standards of lodgings are available, all with rest rooms. The charge for a standard or single room is RMB 50. There is a cell phone signal, but no Internet access.
You can travel on asphalt road from either Guangnan County of Yunnan Province or Xilin County of Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region via Xiaofa Highway to Bamei Village.
The most convenient route to Bamei is from the Nanning-Kunming Expressway to Guangnan County. Fali Village has a travel service center with a parking lot and ticket office. Admission is RMB 30. A ticket on the daily bus that takes the 462 km journey directly from the passenger depot in eastern Kunming to Guangnan County is RMB 104. Chartered buses covering 43 kilometers from the county seat of Guangnan to Bamei Village are available at negotiable prices. You can also take a shuttle bus for RMB 11.