September 12, 2006

Equality Packed

Women and girls of the Zhuong ethnic group crowd around our bus to porter our bags and packs up to the rice terraces. One lady was smaller than the wheelie-bag strapped on her back.

A visit to such a remote village in China is a treasured memory for all our travellers during the photo tour. On this instance we have taken a morning flight out of Shanghai and the temptations four-star pampering in a truly unique city. We spent hours driving through increasingly picturesque countryside and find ourselves at the threshold to Long-Ji and the rice terraces of Ping'An.

Ahead of us lies half a kilometre of steps leading up through the valley and into the lower reaches of the terraced gardens. A good thing we don't have to carry our bags!

I feel a little guilty because I have a few extraneous items in my kit. A replica Ming Dynasty bronze urn from Beijing and a generous bottle of rice wine from the historical town of Wuzhen. Both are souvenirs of the highest calibre. I need not have worried too much of course, for my fellow passengers will cast the greater burden. At least the women will.

It seems a cruel irony that these miniature ladies of the Zhoung tribes will be burdened with the task of carrying excess baggage for the excessive ladies of our tour. The average check-in weight of our four men on tour is 16kg. The figure for our seven females is 23kg. Decades of fighting for women's rights in western countries has created the right for tourists to add another 7kilos onto the backs of diminutive porters.

I guess neither Germaine Greer nor Shire Hite wrote books about travelling light.

When we all reached the guest house, several minutes behind our luggage, the breath-taking views were suspended for a moment while we filled our lungs with air. A pile of backpacks, wheelies and tote bags covered the entrance while our liberated women headed for the viewing deck.

So the four of us men got to work on getting our bags upstairs to the rooms :)

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