Bamei Village Travel Guide, Guangnan Yunnan
The famous Chinese litterateur Tao Yuanming who lived during the Eastern Jin Dynasty (317-420) once described of a Peach Blossom Valley isolated from the hustle and bustle of the ordinary world. People lived there in peaceful, serene isolation. The description of Tao Yuanming came true when Bamei Village was discovered.
Located 30km from Guangnan County in Wenshan Zhuang and Miao Autonomous Prefecture of Yunnan Province, and situated in a 30sqkm fertile basin at an altitude of 700 metres, Bamei Village is sheltered by great amphitheatres of mountains. Reputed as one of the most isolated communities of Zhuang minority in Guangnan, Bamei is a village without roads. Even up to now, the Bamei River has been the only access in and out of the village.
Visitors have to travel by small boat through a long, dark limestone tunnel. When you emerge from the tunnel you will be amazed. In a hidden valley, among a grove of green bamboos and old trees, lies Bamei Village. A blue stream gently flows by, and hard-working farmers silently till the green fields. It's a picture of another lost Shangri-la.
Due to inconvenient location and hard transit, the village escaped attacks by outsiders and the influences of the modern world, staying as unadorned and as pure as they always were. A well-preserved environment and sub-tropical climate made the area a "Promised Land" for the inhabitants.
The inhabitants belong to Zhuang minority. Bamei means 'cave in the forest' in Zhuang language. It is said that the ancestors of Bamei residents are a Zhuang family of Guangdong Province. 600 years ago, they escaped from brutal outlaws and found the cave by chance. They believed it was a perfect place to hide, so later they invited some friends to live with them. Since then, Bamei Village had become a Peach Blossom Valley for these virtuous, amicable Zhuang people.
Without cars, telephone or even television, local villagers still live a primitive, self-sufficient living - fishing, hunting and farming. They plant corns, sugarcanes and tropical fruits at the foot of mountains and grow rice near the riverside.
The traditional Zhuang culture and customs are still maintained here. Most of the villagers live in traditional Malan houses, a kind of diao jiao lou. Their customs and festivals are also well preserved. The Devil Festival, the Ox Soul Festival, and the Singing Festival are all celebrated grandly. People sing folk songs at their most important events, which is their way of interacting with others and expressing feelings.
Every summer senior villagers will hold a memorial ceremony for "the god of river," hoping for a good harvest. During the slack season, villagers will organize varied entertainment events like cockerel racing.
All of the children receive their education in the village's primary school. After graduation, some of them go to the county to further their schooling, while the others stay in the village, helping their families with the farm work.
But the traditional way of life is changing as the village has drawn increasing number of tourists. Local people have to buy food and daily necessities from outside places to meet the demand of visitors. Lured by the opportunities in modern cities, some young men have left the village.
When night falls, villagers light their oil lamps. Bonfires are built to welcome tourists and party thrown. As the local children run about in the glow of the flames, one cannot wonder if this fairyland, once hidden but now on the map, may soon lose its innocence and become another cultureless, contrived tourist attraction.
Depart from Kunming and reach Guangnan County first, then take a Bada-bound bus and get off at Fali Village, walk 1km to arrive at the entry-cave of Bamei Village. If you are coming from the Southwest Honghe,it takes about 1.5 hours to arrive Guangnan.
Admission Fee: Y35 (one-way ticket including the boat fee)
For those who want to experience local life,stay with one of the 120 or so local families is a good choice. But the accommodations are very basic with limited food options (fresh bean curd, fish, duck, chicken and rice wine are available) . Alternatively you can stay in Guangnan county seat. As always the ambience is changing as the village attempts to adapt to the lure of tourism. It is definitely a see sooner than later opportunity.