Secret Peek Into a Chinese Farm Home: Random Travel Experiences Are Still Alive!

By Mark Wiens 48 Comments
Yangshuo, China
Yangshuo, China

Are random travel experiences dead?

A few weeks ago I read a great article about the death of random travel experiences. Wandering Earl did an incredible job of painting a vivid and realistic picture of a random experience of something that could possibly happen to you if you keep yourself open, flexible and have a willing attitude.

Unfortunately, guided by iPhones and guidebooks, these random travel experiences seem to be dwindling to a halt for many travelers.

So I wanted to share a little random travel experience that was triggered by a lack of planning, an attitude of flexibility and just taking a few steps of curiosity to see what might happen.

Carrying Rice in Yangshuo, China
Carrying Rice in Yangshuo, China

A Random Travel Experience in China

I was taking a leisurely bike ride though the gorgeous countryside of Yangshuo, China.

The serene Yulong River wove its way through the rugged karst mountain landscape as rice fields moseyed their way through the gorgeous valley.

The beauty reminded me of a cross between the Batad rice terraces in the Philippines surrounded by similar limestones mountains in Halong Bay, Vietnam.

Gigantic Rice Bundle on a Cart
Gigantic Rice Bundle on a Cart

That’s when we decided to stop the bikes and take a few photos of a lady who was about to wheel a gargantuan cart of  rice in from the field.

We spied on her as she tied down the rice with a small piece of twine.

She smiled at us.

Smiling Lady in Yangshuo, China
Smiling Lady in Yangshuo, China

That’s when the accident happened.

She hit a small bump, and the top heavy cart of rice stalks toppled over to a thump on the ground.

Ok, really about 5 bundles fell off the cart and onto the ground.

She sighed with a little chuckle, indicating that she knew it was about to happen, but was hoping it wouldn’t.

By sheer instinct I rushed over to her and started helping in anyway possible. It took a total of about 1 minute to get her bundles thrown back on top of her giant cart and she re-tied it down with twine.

Her face illuminated with happiness and she started going into an excited frenzy of speaking Chinese at the speed of light.

Neither of us couldn’t understand a thing.

Luckily, she also used some hand gestures – one of those was the universal sign of “come with me.”

We followed for a few hundred meters where she put down her cart and walked us into her home in a tiny rice farming settlement.

Inside a Home in Rural China
Inside a Home in Rural China

The home was a typical Chinese rural style dwelling; The interior of the house appeared unfinished and it was filled with minimal furnishings.

Her mother and a few other family members were relaxing and napping in the house as we walked in. They greeted us cheerfully.

Dried Peanuts
Basket of Peanuts in Yangshuo, China

At this point I still didn’t have too much of an idea of what was going to happen, or why she had invited us over to her home.

We took a seat on small wooden stools as she slipped away into the kitchen. She returned with a couple paper cups of water and a colander full of dried peanuts which she motioned for us to eat.

Watermelon Seeds
Home Dried Watermelon Seeds

There was also a tray of home drying watermelon seeds that we nibbled on.

Chinese Farm Food
Rice Porridge and Cabbage

She disappeared into the kitchen once again and this time returned with bowls of home-grown rice from the field (in porridge form), a few pieces of cabbage and a small dollop of chili sauce for flavor.

It rice was cold, but it was an unadalterated taste of pure rice, served completely out of the generosity of a random lady.

I got the Mickey Mouse spoon!

In The Home of the Lady
In The Home of the Lady

We could barely make sense of each other’s words, but some forms of communication are universal.

Dried Peanuts
Filling Peanuts into My Camera Bag

I slipped outside the front door of the house and as I was peering at the gorgeous scenery she started filling up my camera bag with the rest of the peanuts to take home!

Though I refused, not wanting to take the peanuts from a family that didn’t have a lot – they wouldn’t let me go without them.

Backed by her kind generosity, she insisted.

Random travel experiences are still alive and thriving, we just need to be flexible and let them unravel as they are supposed to!

Have you had any recent random experiences?

48 comments. I'd love to hear from you!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

  • Kristin Addis

    7 years ago

    I’m headed to China in a couple of days and one of my readers posted a link to your China stuff on my fan page. So glad! I’ve found a bunch of cool things I want to do around Yangshuo now. Did you visit any other parts?

    • Mark Wiens

      7 years ago

      Hey Kristin, great to hear you’ll be going to China soon. How long will you be there? I only had a 1 month visa when I was in China, so instead of going to many places, I just decided to only stay in Yangshuo. It’s a great place, and so beautiful! Hope you have a wonderful trip!

      • Kristin Addis

        7 years ago

        I also only have a month. I’m currently in Yunnan which also seems to have all kinds of amazing things to do and see. It concerns me how big my list of places I want to see this month is growing, though! I’m hoping I can do it all without feeling like I missed the realness by rushing through. I’m definitely getting a second month when this one runs out for the north but MY GOODNESS what a massive country this is!

        • Mark Wiens

          7 years ago

          Hey Kristin, ha, yes it’s a truly massive country, I think we would need years to really experience it. But glad you’re making the most of your trip, enjoy!

  • Caz Makepeace

    10 years ago

    Great story Mark and leaves me longing for Asia and Africa, where random travel experiences and the kindness that emanates from people who have so little occur daily.
    Just beautiful. I miss that.

    • Mark Wiens

      10 years ago

      Thanks Caz. I agree, though random travel experiences can happen all over the world, I’ve had the most memorable experiences in Africa and Asia. I know you guys have had plenty memorable and random travel experiences as well!

  • wandering educators

    10 years ago

    i love this. it’s when you open yourself to possibility that good things happen. 🙂

    • Mark Wiens

      10 years ago

      For sure Jessie, and it’s always amazing what can happen when we open ourselves.

  • A Jung

    10 years ago

    Wished I could have been there! It just shows that we can clearly communicate with smiles, and acts of kindness and no words are really needed. Thanks, Mark!

    • Mark Wiens

      10 years ago

      Thanks Aunty Jung, yes, I fully agree with that!

  • Technosyncratic Travel Blog

    10 years ago

    The generosity of people all around the world is so incredible. We haven’t had anything quite like that happen (yet?) on this trip, but it’s something we’ve experienced in a lot of our other travels and volunteering.

    And…uh….you can eat watermelon seeds??

    • Mark Wiens

      10 years ago

      These random travel experiences will definitely come when we keep an openness and are flexible. I really agree, many people and cultures around the world are so kind and generous. Yah, lots of Chinese and other Asian countries in Asia eat watermelon seeds when they are dried. You crack the seed and eat the interior, sort of like a sunflower seed. These were so small though that they were tough to eat.

  • jenjenk

    10 years ago

    wow. definitely NOT like that!! that is amazing!!! I’m always so tongue tied, I always feel like a big huge pink elephant…

    • Mark Wiens

      10 years ago

      Thanks Jen, I know that if you just keep traveling, a really cool random experience will come!

  • The Travel Chica

    10 years ago

    I had a great experience with two families I met at the beach in El Salvador. I spent about 3 days with them and even went to their home in the city. Wonderful people!

    • Mark Wiens

      10 years ago

      Great Stephanie! I know that is an experience that will last within you forever – travel opens so many cool doors to great opportunities!

  • Sophie

    10 years ago

    Lovely story! These things seem to happen mostly in the Middle East for me.

    • Mark Wiens

      10 years ago

      Cool Sophie, when I was in Egypt a number of similar things happened to me as well. People that I’ve met in the Middle East are so extremely gracious and hospitable.

  • Laurel

    10 years ago

    What a wonderful local experience. I love random travel experiences, my most random one was sleeping in a generous taxi driver’s small apartment with him and his wife in Bangkok and is still one of my favorite travel memories.

    • Mark Wiens

      10 years ago

      Awesome Laurel and thanks for sharing. That sounds like another fantastic random travel experience!

  • adventureswithben

    10 years ago

    Hmmm, my random travel experience was eating Bunny Chow in a Gas Station in Durban. I felt like I was in high school again.

    • Mark Wiens

      10 years ago

      Ha – nice! The great thing is, we never know what we’re going to get into when we have random travel experiences!

  • Debbie Beardsley @ European Travelista

    10 years ago

    Oh this was such a special story! I know you will never forget that wonderful women and her family. I love this. . . it makes me feel a little better about the world 🙂

    • Mark Wiens

      10 years ago

      Great Debbie – sure about that, I’ll never forget her! Her act of graciousness left a lasting impression on me and if I ever return again I will definitely try to visit her.

  • Christopher

    10 years ago

    Wow Wow Wow. What a wonderful person. These are the experiences that could teach the world a great lesson. Sweet. Thank you.

    • Mark Wiens

      10 years ago

      No problem Christopher, thanks for reading!

  • jade

    10 years ago

    What an incredible adventure. I don’t think they are dead, I just think you have to search them out more than before.

    • Mark Wiens

      10 years ago

      Thanks Jade! Yup, random experiences are still thriving!

  • Pete

    10 years ago

    Beautiful. I love these stories, thank you for sharing. Too funny how she was stuffing peanuts into your bag

    • Mark Wiens

      10 years ago

      Thanks Pete! Yes, the peanuts were hilarious, I was trying to say no, but when I realized that she was absolutely going to give them to me, I accepted them graciously.

  • Nomadic Samuel

    10 years ago

    Great story Mark! It’s these memorable random encounters that keep a lot of us on the road for extended periods of time.

    • Mark Wiens

      10 years ago

      Right about that Samuel, I know you have many stories like this as well!

  • Cailin

    10 years ago

    What a great story! That is very cool 🙂
    It reminded me of the kind man I met in Bunol, Spain.

    Gotta love the random and unique travel experiences, they are actually one of the main reasons I travel. 🙂

    • Mark Wiens

      10 years ago

      The random meaningful experiences are a great reason to travel Cailin!

  • Raymond @ Man On The Lam

    10 years ago

    There is hope! Great story Mark. 🙂

  • Angela

    10 years ago

    Very nice, I would have loved to go to Yangshuo and Guilin, unfortunately I couldn’t make it during this trip to China, it’s definitely a must for next time.

    • Mark Wiens

      10 years ago

      There are so many places to see in China. On this trip I basically only visited Guilin and Yangshuo, so I am eager to explore more of China in the future.

  • Caanan @ No Vacation Required

    10 years ago

    I hate to sound like a total boob, but I have to admit that I got a little choked up reading this. Kinda made my day.

    Your small act of kindness was met with another, and your life is now richer because of it. Pretty darn cool.

    • Mark Wiens

      10 years ago

      Thanks Caanan! And the great thing is that things like this can happen all over the world!

  • Jeremy Branham

    10 years ago

    It’s great to see the kindness of others when we travel. It’s experiences like this that make travel meaningful. It’s not the monuments or sites or museums but real experiences that make traveling worth it. I sure hope that random travel experiences are still alive everywhere!

    • Mark Wiens

      10 years ago

      Awesome Jeremy! I fully agree, these sort of interacting experiences are the memories that will be remembered (and more meaningful) than anything else. Random experiences are definitely still alive when we choose to take them!

  • Earl

    10 years ago

    Such good stuff Mark, and for a minute there when I saw the photos of the peanuts in your camera bag I thought you were a peanut addict and slipped a few in there yourself!

    These are definitely the stories that make travel worthwhile and as you point out, they don’t involve guidebooks, smartphones or even a laptop. All it takes is a smile and a wave…it doesn’t really get any simpler than that.

    And the Mickey Mouse spoon is classic!

    • Mark Wiens

      10 years ago

      Thanks Earl!
      I am a huge lover of peanuts, it’s probably one of my favorite snacks, so I was quite exited that she dished them out to me. Yes, what a wonderful spoon!