It turned out that both prayer and Disney had done us some favours, and amazingly even though the typhoon was less than an hour form us when we went to bed, it had spontaneously changed direction and voided our area completely. What a relief! The area had obviously been a little battered by the wind and rain but it was thing like what it could have been, so we felt incredible grateful.
Even though the typhoon had avoided us lots of the tourist destinations were shut due to concerns about the weather. We were supposed to be spending the night in a traditional round house but that was off the agenda as they had been closed in case the rain had damaged the foundations.
Mr Liu was a fantastic host and knew how disappointed we were, so he managed to called in some favours with locals and we were taken to ACTUAL round houses inhabited by real locals. This was such a treat as there were no other tourists and we could see how the round houses actually function day to day and meet some of the fascinating people who live in them. Some of the roundhouses in the area are 600 years old but the ones we saw were all early 19th century. Nonetheless the design hadn’t changed at all- around 75 people live on each floor of the cylindrical houses with communal cooking and storage spaces on the bottom.
Most round houses are three floors high so in theory around 200 people could be living in each one. The concept of roundhouses is equal, communal living where there is no hierarchy and everyone has exactly the same- all of the rooms are furnished identically and no spot is better than another.
Some of the inhabitants were just as fascinated by us as we were of them- I met a collection of old ladies (and I mean REALLY old) who had never seen an iPhone or taken a selfie before. They thought it was great fun, despite constantly wanting to touch the screen as they could see themselves in it! We couldn’t talk but I smiled a lot and they seemed to like it. They were touching my hair and leaning on my shoulder- I think they had as much fun as I did.
Our next stop was a private tea plantation where we did some tea tasting in really scenic area overlooked by the tourist round houses. I managed (at last) to find my favourite tea- Chinese oolong. The lady sold it to me at a really reasonable price- about £5 for a big jar, despite the fact it is often extremely pricey.
Our guide told us that our tea tasting experience Was much better than what people usually do in the roundhouses as the tea was fresher and cheaper. We also got to meet another great family, which has been one of my favourite things about travelling- we’ve met some really cool people as we have gone along to different rural locations. The family normally sell in bulk to the round houses so it was quite a treat for them to have visitors. They showed us where they dry the tea for selling and one of the men played a really old Chinese instrument for us- I’m not sure what it was but it was a bit like a square violin that was set up like a piano on legs and he played it with this little bows that looked like tooth flossers- do let me know if you have any idea what it was!
The family were so friendly, even though it was the mid autumn festival so an important time for them to spend as a family together. Surprise surprise I made friends with a little girl, who seemed to rather enjoy spinning around in a circle whilst holding my hand whilst I made noises as her dress swirled about. Fun has no language barrier after all.
As it was the mid autumn festival people all over the area were setting off firecrackers through the day, and we asked Mr Liu to get some for us from the village so we could try them out. In Chinese culture they use firecrackers to ward off bad spirits, but we just liked the loud noises and bright lights- the noise was deafening and you had to run away very quickly when you lit it so the sparks didn’t hit you.
It was certainly not very risk assessment friendly but fun none the less. Mr Liu was so kind and brought a beers and soft drinks for us to celebrate and toasted the festival with us. He also gave us moon cakes which people traditionally eat for the festival. He also gave us some hand held fireworks which we were a little nervous of but they were fun too- you just light the fuse and lift the tube to the sky and little sparks shoot up to the heavens. Another awesome experience- thank you to Mr Liu (pictured below).