For our second grandparent getaway, we headed west up through the Tianmushan mountains to a famously scenic corner of northeastern Jiangxi Province. For Chinese tourists, spring in Jiangxi’s Wuyuan County is something like the equivalent for us of fall in Vermont. It’s a beautiful area: rivers and wet fields sparkling in the soft sunlight, and rolling lush-green hills dotted with the white clusters of well-preserved little villages. Most of the villages, which are wide-open for tourists to visit and spend the night, are also connected to each other through the fields by well-made footpaths. In short, it’s a great place in China for a family of New Englanders to spend a couple of relaxing days.
That is, if they can avoid getting diarrhea for that long. Our little group of Yankees only made it about 12 hours before switching to a different kind of relaxation, the kind that involves laying in a bed and trying save up as much energy as possible for the next trip to the squat toilet. This is probably where the similarity of the Wuyuan experience to the Vermont experience ends, although, who knows, maybe the real reason leaf-peepers famously drive around so slowly on Vermont’s roads is because they’re waiting for you to pass them by so they can jump out and relieve themselves in privacy. “Ethan Allen’s revenge” can probably strike hard for those non-locals who get a little too eager with the roadside maple candy samples.
For us, our springtime idyll quickly turned to idle. Midway through our second day, while resting up in a quiet farmhouse and separated from our destination village by three hours of hiking up and over a high ridge through afternoon rain showers, we decided there was actually plenty of Wuyuan to enjoy right here, not far from a roof, bed and, toilet. So the afflicted got some rest, lulled to sleep by the rocking of their stomachs and the patter of rain on clay shingles above, while those who’d been spared did some hiking on their behalf.
By the third morning, everyone was ready to strike out once more, and even stupid confident enough to sample some local osmanthus and plum liquors not long after breakfast. Perhaps the home-made liquor promptly killed all the active squirmies in their stomachs, because somehow this time nobody threw up their dumplings. In the end, we were the picture of health: everybody kept everything inside them for the whole 4-hour bus ride home, and an over-tired Owen “impressed” all of his fellow passengers, right out of their sleep, with his resounding advice to all that we’d better finish up this bus ride now.