This girl is a member of the Ji Nuo tribe, I visited the mountain park where she gives tours. She was so knowledgeable about the plant life around the village. She was as much a naturalist as she was a local expert on the village life.
Tea Tree Flower
I had never seen a tee tree flower before. I have visited tea farms before where the bushes were cropped short and leaves picked while they were tender and small like swallows' beaks. In the mountain the trees grow tall and the leaves are picked when they are fully grown.
These old ladies tied a piece of yarn to the body of a butterfly so the young girl could play with it as a pet.
Part of me thought that this was being put on as some sort of show for the foreign tourist. But the girl was convincingly unguarded in her joy that I was as charmed by her as she was by her new pet. I watched her for a while as she enjoyed having her own butterfly.
Soon the butterfly did what comes natural and with great effort flew away. The long yarn leash was heavy but it was strong enough to fly upward until unfortunately it got caught in a tree. She girl gasped and I too thought that if we were unable to help the butterfly that the rest of the day would have been a bit sad no matter how much we tried to hide what we felt
I hoisted a young man on my shoulder where he could grasp the yarn and gentle untangle the leased creature from the branches.
Soon after we carefully untied the yarn and let the butterfly free. This girl loves her mountain and everything living on it.
Moonshine at Sunrise
At a show, guests were given an assortment so snacks like steamed corn, sweet potato, and star fruit. We enjoyed the snacks with a shot of un-aged corn liquor.
Charming Lady with a Snake
I was invited to a shaded hut where a woman had a wicker basket that she was enthusiastic to show me. From it she pulled out a cobra.
I was shooting at 18mm. I managed to get a lots of shots but unfortunately most of them were unusable because the room was pretty dark. After a while, I finally realized that I was really close to the snake and that this is a really really dangerous snake.
The tea leaves are dried and pounded into a cake. The leaves are dried and for the next 6 years remain only lightly fermented. It should be stored in non-airtight container away from anything that has a strong odor. Over time it will mature as it continues to ferment.
Before modern methods were developed to accelerate this process, the tea would take 10 years to transform to fully fermented tea. An old says states that:
The first generation buys the tea/the second generation passes it down/the third generation sells the tea.
The Beauty Pageant
Xishuangbanna is well known for sublimely beautiful women. I attended a performance which included a beauty pageant.
After a few dance numbers which, demonstrated different aspects of the local tradition, the girls reemerged wearing numbers. For 100 RMB ($15) you could buy a fragrant box which is to be worn on the neck of your favorite beauty as your vote for her.
Eventually the real competition seemed to be between the tourists to see who can out bid the other. It seemed a little silly when a man bought 6 fragrant boxes to give to his favorite only to soon be outdone.
The girls did not seem really impressed by this. They just stood around and smiled to each other as they let tourists take photos next to them.
I was told by my guide that the men just want to show off in front of their employees on their company's trip.