Interesting encounters upon traveling in China: Conversation with locals.
One of my favorite things during travels is the interaction I have with the locals. So, here I am to share two of my favorite and most interesting encounters I have had the opportunity to experience throughout these five years I have been here in China.
Lugu Lake, Yunnan.
Winter last year my friends and I were given the chance to visit the South western part of China, Yunnan province. Yunnan is famously known for its undoubtedly breath-taking views. For someone who enjoys nature, or I prefer to call myself as nature enthusiast because of reasons. I was excited to jump into the adventure. And I also enjoy going to places that has been left unexplored or less touristy.
A little bit of background story, Lugu Lake is in between two provinces, Sichuan and Yunnan because it is extremely huge! It is also the highest lake in Yunnan with elevation of 2685 metres.
So, back to the story. It was definitely an adventure. It took us a good amount of time to reach Lugu Lake from Beijing. A good 52 hours to be exact.
Beijing to Kunming 34 hours–Kunming to Lijiang 10 hours–Lijiang to Lugu Lake 8 hours
(Nope, I’m not kidding) #truestory
Anyway, it was undoubtedly the best place I have been to in China thus far. 52 hours seems a lot and it is a lot but to see such magnificent nature is totally worth all the pain.
Besides its obvious stunning view, the people has its own interesting story. So, it all started when we hopped on a van to Lugu Lake from Lijiang for a whole eight hours through mountainous road that leaves you half conscious for those with motion sickness. Here was when I had the chance to interact with one of the locals, the van driver. Who is also from an ethnicity called the Mosuo people.
So the van driver was enthusiastic to know more about our culture and we were too as excited to know about theirs. He suddenly opened up about a tradition they follow, which is called “walking marriages”.
What is walking marriage? It is where a lady is able to have many partners at the same time without having a particular marital status. There were a lot of questions we were curious to know the answers to like what if the lady becomes pregnant? Who would bear the responsibility? How does the system works?
The van driver was more than willing to answer to our curiosity. The brothers or uncles on the maternal side are to take responsibilities if the lady were to have a baby. In terms of how the system works, usually at night, the man would visit the lady that he is interested in, and if she accepts the guy, the house will be marked so this automatically “Disable” other guys to enter the premise. The guy is permitted to stay from the night till the next morning and they go on with their own lives right after without having an official status for a relationship.
Misconceptions towards the tradition.
However, there are a lot of misconceptions about the culture, because most of the ladies usually stick to one partner practically their whole lives, not all of them practice having multiple partners at a time but still for a lady to have multiple partners are not considered as taboo either. Ultimately, the choice depends on the person itself.
In our part of the world, this is ultimately forbidden. But to them, it is their tradition. It was really an incredible experience to hear the stories from the people who truly practices it rather than words of mouth because most of the time it is lost in translation. I understood this deeply due to the fact of how much misunderstandings Muslims face today.
Last month, a friend of mine and I traveled 21 hours by train from Beijing to a city named Xining. It is in a province called Qinghai. Qinghai province is located on western region of China and is also famous for its beautiful nature. Of course I could not miss the chance to go there. Although our stay was very short but it was very fruitful nonetheless.
Xining is a city that is populated with Muslims, so I felt rather at home, because everyone looked like me. It is home to some incredible halal foods I have ever tasted in China right from the authentic cold noodles to lamb intestines. (Yes, we went food hunting even with the time constraint and it was worth it!)
The main reason I went to Xining was because of Qinghai Lake. On the second day, we were ready to go to the lake. We booked a ride to go there because to use public transportation is quite impossible or rather difficult because it is definitely very very far. Throughout the journey we encountered so many incredible spots from Snow Mountains to Tibetan temples and of course the lake itself.
Married at first sight.
Towards the end of journey, we made a final stop at an ancient town. I have traveled so much. There will always be an ancient town in each city in this country. I am not a big fan of it to be honest, so I sat in the car with the driver. The driver whom is a 29 year old Muslim man had a rather interesting conversation with me.
He asked how old I am, and where do I study and yetta yetta yetta. The basic questions you would ask someone when you first met.
After all of that. He said when I was your age (23), I already had 3 kids, I was arranged to be married at the age of 18 with a 13 year old girl.
I obviously were….shocked? 13? Woahhhh. I barely know what love meant when I was 13! Apparently the Muslims in Xining get married very early and it is a normal thing. However, Chinese government has a policy that you can only get married when you turn 21. However, the Muslims there will still get married but only register when they reach 21. At the same time, the Qinghai provincial government have considered it to be legal anyway even if you were to be married under the age of 21 because the major population of the city are made of Muslims.
I wanted to know more obviously because I’m busybody like that. I asked what about the education of the couple. He said, we usually finish up till high school or even lower. I asked again, “you have a daughter, right? Would you the same to your daughter?” he did not even hesitate to say yes. I will arrange for her to be married when she turns 16.
At first I was definitely against the idea of that. But again who am I to judge? It is their culture after all. We might have the same religion but we do have different lifestyles. Just to show no man is similar to another.
So yeah. Looking forward to more interesting encounters in the future insyaAllah!