While interning at Carrefour in Hong Kong, I took a three day trip to Yin De, a city in the Guang Dong province that is famous for its red tea, with my Hong Kong friend, Grace. I have never had so much tea in the span of three days in my entire life. Traveling in Yin De is not for those who are used to going around comfortably with everything conveniently planned out. My parents lost sleep since the day I had told them I was going until the day I came back. They had contacted their Chinese connections to alert them that I was in the country so I was expected to keep in touch at all times. It was a little ridiculous but I couldn't blame them. Honestly my view of country-side China had always been very messy and scary, but this trip completely changed my outlook because the locals we came in touch with were so amazingly kind and generous.
Yin De involves a lot of sketchy rides, endless walking in hot conditions, and hitch-hiking, but the discomfort created a lot of stories that made the trouble all worth it. There are no real taxis in that town; most people either have cars or are driven around in these mini-vans (which seemed very dangerous at first) where you negotiate prices with the drivers. There are no brochures either and very few people from outside of the country go here meaning it's hard to get travelers' stories online through Google. In remote places like this, connecting with the local people is pretty much the only way you can get around. In the end what stuck with me was not the beautiful scenery but the different people who all had a part in making our journey successful.
The first days were spent exploring the main city and drinking all the tea it had to offer. In Chinese tea serving, you don't just drink once. You are served multiple steeps one after the other, I'm still not sure exactly how one would determine to end the serving. We were continuously drinking tea around town and also decided to visit actual tea fields.
Getting to the tea field was interesting. It is not opened for tourism meaning there are no buses to take. In the end, we took a taxi. Our taxi driver was kind of enough to wait for us and acted as a guide in the tea fields for a very cheap price. And while this sounds dangerous, he voluntarily took us to the tea factory of a relative where they served us fresh tea from leaves that had been processed just the day before.
The tea fields were absent of any tourists. It was very peaceful with a few locals picking tea leaves, paying no mind to us. Yin De has true un-staged, rustic beauty whereas other tourist cities often purposely make things look old.
The next day, we went to the Yin De forest, our main destination of the trip. It was around a two hour bus ride from the made city hub. Transportation was a huge problem when we got there, we were also not sure how to go about exploring the forest since there are no official guides. An impromptu decision to go have dinner in what seemed like a safe restaurant turned out to be a huge blessing. The chef happened to run a social media group that was all about sharing routes and tips when it came to exploring the forest.
The woman in this photo owns a small field that grows miniature watermelons and many other fruits. She also has chickens that run around freely. We were looking for shortcuts and ended up on her field. She kindly treated us to some of her fresh watermelon and rejected our money when we offered to pay.
After walking for around three miles, we came to a river. We needed to cross the river but were too tired to walk all the way to the bridge. Grace engaged with the few young boys swimming in the water hole on the other side. After having a jolly conversation with them for some time, they helped us build a stone bridge. Of course we still got wet and the rest of the journey was rather painful in soggy shoes and socks but I was more touched than anything that the young boys had helped us. We were two random strangers who obviously were not from the area. If this were in the states, I'm not so confident we would have received help.
One of the most notable things when I was there was the serenity of everything. There were merchants around but they are not used to tourists and so do not hawk at you and call out to buy things. When we passed by mini villages, some people invited us in for tea, though we declined because we were on a right schedule. At the last spot of the forest, a kind family from the nearby province gave us a ride back to the main town where we could catch a bus to the train station.