This is the continuation of Part One, which was posted last week.
Accepting P and Z’s invitation, we got into their car again, and made our way to their apartment.
S and I looked at each other in bewilderment, as we were still very unsure of how this was all going to turn out. We hadn’t envisioned our only day in Luzhou being spent at a stranger’s birthday party. Then again, it seemed a much better use of our time than wandering the streets trying to find the motel.
We arrived to a table of home-cooked food, garnished liberally with chilis and spices that characterise local Sichuan cuisine, as well as a very excited eight-year-old boy. He practiced his English with us while we still tried to make sense of everything that was happening.
Z asked us our plans, and I explained that I had hoped to visit the town of Yaoba.
‘It’s very difficult to get there,’ he said, laughing at us for even considered going there by ourselves. ‘The buses stop early, so you won’t be able to get back to Luzhou if you left now.’
‘I have to go and finish up some things at work now, but we’ll drive you back to the motel, and pick you up in a couple of hours to drive you there.’
Going to Yaoba
Later that afternoon, the whole family arrived in their small car to pick us up. We spent about an hour and a half driving through the countryside on our way to Yaoba, with P and Z outlining some of the history of the city and its surroundings.
We were the only tourists in Yaoba, and the residents were very curious to see us there. Z explained that they hardly ever saw foreigners in their town; in fact, for some it would be their first time seeing anyone from outside China.
Yaoba has a rich history, and despite its status as an ‘ancient town’ (古镇), generations of families still reside there and go about their daily lives. The town is famous for its well-preserved Buddhist temple, and its atmosphere has made it an ideal location for a number of film and television productions.
After touring Yaoba’s landmarks, P and Z suggested we visit a local restaurant for dinner. Apparently, wild boar is quite a delicacy, so they decided it would be great for their new foreign friends to give it a try.
It was here that we were taught to clean our plates and cups by rinsing them with hot tea, a trick that later proved useful in other situations.
As it became dark, we travelled back to Luzhou. We had to get a bus to Chengdu early the next morning, so this was the last time S and I would be seeing our new friends. We exchanged contact details, and reluctantly said our goodbyes.
Although I haven’t been able to visit the family again since, we have kept in regular contact. If they hadn’t approached to help us that day, it is doubtful whether we would have found our way to the motel, let alone Yaoba. When travelling, sometimes you have to take risks; you may be rewarded with finding lifelong friends in unexpected places.