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OCTOBER 23, 2000 VOL. 156 NO. 16

Detour
By RON GLUCKMAN

  TRAVEL WATCH
Getting Maximum Mileage from Air Miles
Air miles are boring. Trying to understand what you're entitled to from which airline in an era of alliances, partnerships and code-sharing is about as much fun as sitting down to do your taxes

Detour
Chuandixiacun is not on the tourist map

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Travel Watch Archive: Browse hundreds of Asian travel tips


Chuandixiacun is not on the tourist map. In fact, it's not on any map at all. Hidden among terraced hills a few hours' drive southwest from Beijing, the perfectly preserved Ming village was first settled in the 14th century. Flagstone paths wind among brick and stone houses that are topped with curved, gray tile roofs. Villagers welcome visitors into delightful courtyard dwellings to view corn, peppers and mushrooms drying on sills, and to savor the scent of vegetables simmering in ancient ovens. The village has undergone major renovations over the years. While many of the structures from the Ming and Qing dynasties are standing, some stone walls bear traces of a more recent era—handpainted (and increasingly rare) slogans from the Cultural Revolution: let's keep high the thoughts of chairman mao and courageously march with a red flag!

The walls of the fortified town attest to a time when relatives lived clustered together as protection from roaming bandits. For centuries only members of the tight-knit clan were allowed inside the walls. But this year, for the first time, the town has been licensed to host foreign guests. Accommodations are as traditional as the architecture: expect to sleep en masse on an enormous kang, a stone platform with fires stoked underneath for warmth. Your hosts may also slaughter a goat and cook it for your supper.

Prices are about $2 per person per night; the barbecued goat costs extra. Wang Youning is one such proprietress, offering lodging in a home she says is 300 years old. Tel: (86-10) 6981-8096; fax: 6984-8540. Cars can be hired from most hotels in Beijing, or you can make an arrangement with a local taxi ($60-$100 a day).

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