May 22, 2015

{Los Angeles Photographer: Longji Rice Terraces-China}

Falling in love with this city last night I wanted to go for a run in the early morning hours to explore; the unpredictable rain put a halt to that. After showering and packing my things, I’ll be staying in a different location tonight, I went down for breakfast. In a frantic mess, the middle-aged Chinese woman rushed in the back. Observing everyone else at the self-served breakfast I gathered she was preparing something special for me. When I travel to new places part of the experience, good or bad, is trying new food. I didn’t want a Western breakfast catered just for me, I wanted what everyone else was having. As she brought out some white toast and jelly, along side an egg over easy, I pointed at what the other tables were eating and pointed back to myself. She grabbed me one of the most amazing pork dumplings I’ve ever had. Fluffy, perfect in shape and consistency and filled with flavorful pork and spices. I hopped up to the counter to grab some spice, China has this amazing red sauce with spices that I’ve found to be consistently in restaurants, and poured it on the side of my plate. The Chinese always stare as if to think, “This poor white girl doesn’t know what she’s getting in to.” I hopped up to the counter motioning for another dumpling and again filled my plate with the spice. As I didn’t want the egg to go to waste (I’m odd and only like my eggs in cakes or cookies) I motioned to the table next to me if they’d like it. She happily reached her arms out and ate it with her chopsticks.

At 9 am I met Jack in the lobby, out stretching his hand to greet me he said, “You look so much younger than you do on your website.” I laughed, I’ll take the compliment. He got his American name after watching Titanic, I can’t pronounce or try to repeat what his actual name is. On the hour long drive to the Longji rice terraces we talked about his personal life, he’s 29, from Beijing, married to a Chinese woman he met on a tour, and has a 2.5 year old son in addition to my trip thus far where he educated me with the Tibetan culture, the “mountain Chinese” I’d described from Jiuzhai.  A bad three-tour bus accident, had us stuck in traffic for almost 45 minutes where Jack complained about the waste of time and bad weather. I told him he wasn’t allowed to be negative anymore that perhaps the stall in traffic was so we could have a chance for better weather. I told him I’d pray for good weather to which he said, “nobody here trusts a religion, they just trust themselves.” Save a few light showers the weather was perfect, looks like my prayers worked! A mudslide prevented us from taking the route previously anticipated so we decided to take the reverse route through the terraces. Snacking on a mango I’d purchased from a woman near the hotel last night, I was prepared for a day of exploring. The foggy weather proved to bring a mystic ambience that was present in my photographs. Hiking through villages, photographing farmers and townspeople.

By 3pm we stopped at a restaurant in the mountains to eat. I had a pork dish with bamboo sprouts and rice, it was very good. The restaurant was empty sans the two of us and you could stare into the kitchen to watch the fresh vegetables dropped into the wok. Three more hours and we’d arrived at the highest viewing point for the terraces and as the fog rolled in it was absolutely stunning. Mud-splattered legs and shoes I hopped into the back of the car and we drove three hours to Yangshuo. I smell quite pleasant, let me tell you; like murky swamp water and perspiration. I sure as heck don’t attract the mosquitos (my superhuman power I’ve been blessed with) but maybe it will appeal to the men :). Due to the mass appeal, I hear they’re making a new fragrance, to be sold at a Nordstrom near you.

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Probably my favorite photograph from today. She saw my camera and said in Chinese, “I am not pretty enough to be photographed.” This moment was capture after we had told her she was very beautiful.
Nicole Priest Photo-Longji Rice Terraces 7 copy

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