A Dip into the Sights and Sounds of the Local Menglian Culture
Arrival in Menglian
As I stepped out off the aeroplane onto the tarmac, I was pleasantly greeted by the cool night breeze. It was my first time here in Menglian, and with an anticipatory heart, I was excited for what this town had to offer.
One of the first places I visited was Mangzhang coffee farms situated deep within the Menglian countryside. The wide expanse of the rolling green hills is breathtaking, with dense foliage and countless coffee trees dotting the steep mountainsides. And mixed between fields of sprouting green shoots and flourishing undergrowth, local farmers worked and tilled the land in the sweltering hot sun.
Learning about Coffee
My primary role was to assist in the construction of the farm buildings, nonetheless, I had the opportunity to appreciate and learn more about the coffee cultivation and harvesting process – from seeing the workers pick and transport the coffee cherries, to gaining a better understanding of the processing, milling and drying methods. For an individual unfamiliar with coffee apart from the occasional latte and frappe, it was fascinating and insightful to go back to the original source and unearth the level of time, dedication and sheer hard work required to transform this seemingly humble seed to a high-end specialty beverage.
Despite the beauty and enthralling nature of the coffee farms, they are not the be-all-and-end-all of Menglian. In fact, there are many other attractions to explore as well, as I was about to discover for myself.
The Menglian Town Square
The town square or 广场 (Guang Chang) is a key highlight of the town. Throughout the day, it is largely empty and devoid of life. However, as night falls, the area takes on a completely new character, with throngs of people patronizing the makeshift market containing various stalls of food, games and other products. The atmosphere is abuzz with activity as shopkeepers sell their wares and the aroma of barbequed meats, fruit juice and fried pancakes waft through the air.
Further out, children excitedly play in huge bouncy castles and drive bumper cars with flashing neon lights, while groups of elderly men and women gather to dance and exercise to loud rhythmic tunes. As I jostled through the Saturday night crowds, it was exhilarating to join in with the festivities – to immerse myself within the local culture and savour a taste of the daily lives of the Menglian people. On the whole, the street food was cheap yet delicious, and I thoroughly enjoyed the experience and overall atmosphere.
Local Sites & Attractions
In addition, Menglian is surrounded with lush flora and fauna, with a rippling stream flowing through the center of the town itself, hemmed in by looming mountains on every side. Personally, I visited various boardwalks and nature hikes, such as the Three Mountains One River (三山一河) Nature Walk, and the Golden Pagoda Bridge. With the spectacular sights and scenery, it was a feast for the eyes and a refreshing respite from the heat.
Having only been to Shanghai and Beijing in the past, this was a side of China that was entirely new to me. Interacting with the locals granted me the privilege to gain a deeper appreciation of the culture, and the close proximity to nature gave me space to slow down and reflect. All in all, my visit was enriching, fulfilling and eye-opening in many ways, and I’m incredibly grateful to have had the opportunity to explore this little town of Menglian.
Nathania Chua – Nathania is a Singaporean who loves hearing people’s stories and is currently in process to become a social worker.