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Tadzik has visited Zhaoxing on his first trip to China in 2008. It is - or was - a traditional Dong minority village. Already at that time the village was on the verge of a big transformation, with some construction work going on, but at the time, it was still a dusty village with not much life going on there. It was a bare mention in Lonely Planet guide book. These days, with the nearby Congjiang connected with a high speed rail line with Guiyang, the province capital, the place was no longer remote, allowing the tourism could come to this corner of the world. Tadzik suggested we include this region in our itinerary, as it was easily accessible and beautiful. And according to Lonely Planet guidebook - only 'a bit' touristy.

What we found was a definitely more than 'a bit touristy'. It was basically a resort town now, with village life pushed very much outside of the center. For us living in Switzerland, we have a pretty good idea of how the Chinese do tourism, so we already had some expectations, but it was quite extraordinary how the tourism looks when it every business caters for the local taste. Daily performances of the traditional dance and customs, tourists dressing up in local costumes and hiring photographer, everyone buying and wearing clothes dyed with traditional blue dye 'as they used to do it there'. It is more like a visit to a theme park than a village - all together quite bizarre. Tourism developed at the scale that you have to ask yourself if there is anything more to see there, when it is solely catering to the tourists needs. Local customs are reduced to a form of entertainment. Obviously I don't expect people to stay poor for my entertainment - even though when looking at who is owning the business it does not seem to have created opportunities for the locals but rather entreprenours that come from all over China.

But the questions that come to my head is: does progress have to look like this? Does it have to be people buying and selling shit, dressing up and completely forgetting the real culture and customs on the way? In a sence, the outcome of Chinese socialism seems to be rather similar to the Western neoliberal capitalism - with more wealth transfer to the middle class allowing them to spend the newly earned money rather than living in permanent austerity and the cost of living crisis.

In my dreamy and naive world view, I can imagine a world where progress could come in a form of giving people electricity, sewage and access to education and allowing them to continue living a quiet village life, rather than de facto forcing them to become mere merchants, hosts or entertainers. But unfortunately China also follows the logic of tricle down economic growth - the already educated middle classes open hotels and restaurants (as they have a skillset to do it), and the villagers can only profit by selling crafts for 10 yuans or running street barbaque joints.

That was just my grumpy, forever moaning side note. We actually had a good time in Zhaoxing - traveling with 2 small children doesn't really allow for real adventure, nor does it require it.

So much has happened during the trip that the days spent in Zhaoxing blend in together a little bit. We had a lot of watermelon juices, street barbecue and family naps in our air conditioned room. The village isn't big so everyday we wandered the same streets, bought food from the same people. Baba played with local and tourist children, and watch older villagers taking the rest under the drum tower, while they watched he too.

One evening we went to an evening show of local songs and customs, which for Baba was probably the highlight of the whole stay. It was fun, although again I cannot fully turn on my Orwellian doublethink and forget that the beautiful dresses, customs and songs that used to mean something are now just a cheap show for tourists. But Baba loved the singing, and the costumes, and every time a song ended she kept on saying 'more' - for her everything was as real as it gets.

Overall it was a nice ease-in into the trip, although we probably overstayed by a day.

Would we have come to Zhaoxing knowing what we would find there? Probably not. But it was yet another reminder that China is not what you think it is, and it will not be the same even five years from now.