Using our blog as a handy Chinese time machine, I would like to take you back a month to the October holiday. Since David’s passport was somewhere in Visa land and we had not made any money, we spent most of the holiday laying low in Beijing. However, David and I had been wanting to take a trip to the outskirts and more natural areas of Beijing, so when our friend Caroline suggested the ancient village of Cuandixia, we jumped at the opportunity. As explained by, this small village about 90 m outside Beijing “has a history of about 400 years and preserves more than 70 courtyards with approximately 500 rooms which were built during the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) and the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911).”

Four of us began our journey with a long bus ride to the western end of Line 1, the Pingguoyan Bus Terminal. Like bus terminals anyway it was pretty gritty and full of people trying to rip us off with taxi and car services. Caroline had researched the bus service, so we headed for the local bus to Cuandixia. Well, after the first bus came and left completely packed, we started looking towards a private car. We tried to ask a few Chinese going to the same town if they wanted to all go together, but they just nervously declined. Despite the fact that Caroline was slightly in favor of the 7RMB standing room only bus, we got a driver to down to 100RMB for the slightly over 2-hour trip. I will pay 20 RMB extra for a seat any day…heck, we know I will pay three times that for a cab in the city if I’m tired, cold, or lost and David isn’t around to complain about it.

Anyway, after a somewhat treacherous ride winding in and out of trucks on a windy mountain road, we arrived at the “quaint” village of Cuandixia. Well, not exactly. Although the area was certainly remote and natural, it was teeming with tourists. It wasn’t exactly the village we had envisioned in terms of seclusion, but the authentic courtyard houses were certainly not a let-down. We quickly breezed through Cuandixia and headed on a hike further into the mountains. The leaves were just changing, and the bright red vines snaking down the cliffs made a gorgeous spectacle that almost resembled dripping blood. We hiked for about two hours, stopping to take lots of photos and wound up in another ancient village called Baiyu.

Baiyu was great; truly secluded and sparsely populated with courthouse families cooking dinner and offering places to sleep. The people and animals in this little village made for one of the most fun picture-taking experiences I have had in China. As you can see from the photos, the doors and goat man were my favorite! We settled on a courtyard with a friendly Ayi, who made us a large dinner full of local ingredients as we chatted with some self-proclaimed avid “outdoorsmen” and women. I didn’t really love the dinner, kind of bland, and went to bed rather hungry.

The four of us shared a large room for 100 RMB ($15) and got up early to the rooster’s crow in the morning. We had a breakfast of soggy mantou and the most disgustingly rotten egg I’ve ever seen or smelled, so needless to say I was happy I packed a granola bar. We hiked for about two hours further into the mountains, hoping to catch a glance of The Great Wall in the distance, but had to head home for lack of water and to catch the bus. We stopped on the way back to have another local, bland lunch, but the highlight was a “grass” tea that is harvested from actual grass up in the mountains. I wouldn’t drink it every day, but it was a unique taste.

We walked back to Cuandixia to catch the local bus…and experience the least fun part of the trip. They crammed twice as many people on the bus as there were seats, and left us in there with no A/C for a half an hour before taking off. After walking most of the day we stood half of the way home, and then sat on the floor when the bus emptied a little. Thank goodness for my ipod, as I try to stay lost in the music. Overall though, a good trip to a more remote village outside of Beijing and nice break from the city.