Visits to the Village: Changing for the Better

By / HIMC / Updated: 22:42,05-July-2022

Editor’s note:

"Visits to the Village: Ten Years On" is finally here. This documentary series takes a look at China's newly revitalized beautiful countryside with its verdant vistas and reinvigorated villages nestled in among lucid waters and the lush mountains, as one charming village after another develops their own flavor of rural revitalization through integrating culture and tourism. How do these once impoverished but now pretty villages end up making a pretty penny? What's it like to experience the charms of a Li village given a new lease of life through tourism? What stories have come out of the 'new urbanization+beautiful countryside' innovative integration project?

With the 20th National Congress of the CPC due to commence later this year, “Visits to the Village” highlights the extraordinary achievements made in Hainan's rural areas in the past ten years since the 18th National Congress. Follow Lara as she witnesses the surprising and monumental changes that have taken place in the Chinese countryside and experiences a day in the life of rural residents following the implementation of the rural revitalization strategy within the Hainan Free Trade Port.

Each episode sees Lara travel to a village and experience different roles. In Haikou's Bumao Village, she volunteers as a science teacher and takes students for an educational stroll through the Tanfengyang Provincial Wetland Park. She takes over from a guesthouse owner and experiences the charms of a Li village making new inroads with tourism in Zhongliao Village, Sanya, before surfing on down to Hainan's 'Santorini' in Tianya town, where she learns and then teaches others to paddle-board. In Haikou's Qilou historic quarter, Lara and her friends don traditional Chinese Qipao dresses and experience the quaint delights of times gone by. At the Soong Family Cultural Park, she gets an insight into 'Red' culture in her role as a tour guide.

If you’ve been following all the episodes in this series of Visits to the Village, you would know that I’ve visited several of OCT’s completed projects. For this episode, the difference is that I actually got to witness the work that goes into these projects prior to becoming the sort of places that tourists and travelers want to make a point of visiting. Starting with newly constructed roads (leading to loads of entertainment, comfortable accommodation and the cultural elements that have become key aspects of each village) there’s a lot of work that goes into a given project which I wouldn’t have otherwise known about if not for the tasks that were given to me as an OCT “staff member for the day” when I arrived at Maoming’s Tangxia Village in Guangdong Province just across the Qiongzhou Straits from Hainan Island.

In the normal day to day life of an OCT staff member, there are a lot of expected and unexpected responsibilities such as talking to potential investors, presenting the construction plans, consulting the villagers about the roles they will play in the project and inspecting the construction sites. For me, although I only needed to participate in the work for a day, it was exhausting! My main takeaway was that, even though I had to forego my normal gym routine for a couple of days, the amount of running around I did all over the place more than made up for it. This was especially the case in Tangxia Village – where the project was so new that the construction dust practically hadn’t even had time to settle yet. Occasionally, I would see the builders stop and take a gulp of water before proceeding with the next section that needed brick laying and cement paving. At the frantic pace they were moving, it looked as though they didn’t so much as notice the cold weather that was bothering me.

By the end of a long and tiring day, I sat down and chatted with my then-colleagues about Tangxia’s planned future. Then, I went off and visited a very exciting and already completed part of the project: the Youfucheng Theme Park. Now that was one aesthetic experience for the books! The newly constructed buildings mimicked ancient traditional Chinese style buildings and absolutely took my breath away. It was like I had started off on another time-travel adventure like my recent trip to Haikou’s Historic Downtown and the Ancestral Home of the Soong Family. The blessing ceremony that I had the privilege of participating in sent chills down my spine both when I watched it at first, and after I joined in. Including laser light technology, 3D projections, holograms and some pretty insane sound equipment, the performances that took place in the project’s 360-degree theatre were cleverly directed in a way that made the actors’ deliveries nothing short of magical.

Before I knew it, my trip to Maoming was coming to an end and I had to head off to my next destination in Jiangmen. For this part of the trip, my mission had me taking guests around Gulou Waterpark and experiencing all the entertainment it has on offer. From a beautiful snack street to a boat trip in a dragonboat, and finally watching traditional Chinese dancing, there was a crazy amount of stuff available for me to do and both my guests and I needed to mentally prepare ourselves for a day full of fun and games.

By the looks of it, they had a lot of fun. For me, the fun started when it was all over and I got to go off on my own and explore Henghai Village. Away from the hustle and bustle of the water park, Henghai is a charming little village where you can still see ordinary people living their real lives. To be perfectly honest, that’s my favorite part of all these villages. It’s not that I’m not into the fancily constructed old style buildings, the joy rides, or the performances, it’s just that the original essence of these villages and the people who make up these villages are far more unique and wonderful to my way of thinking.

Jiangmen was my last stop in Guangdong before heading back to the island. Looking back on the time I spent in Maoming and Jiangmen, I felt truly privileged to not only get to see the way these places look after they have been transformed and revitalized, but to see the way they looked beforehand and to experience the hard work that goes into bringing these countryside projects to life. No matter where I go next, I know I will fondly remember the people and the places that I encountered here and at all of the other OCT projects we’ve recently featured.



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