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Off the bus, into the countryside

Times Staff Writer

MANY people who see China do so from a tour bus. But adventurous travelers may find bonuses by leaving the beaten path.

In June, I made my seventh trip to China, hiring guides in the regions I visited instead of joining a tour group. My request to each guide was the same: Avoid tourist spots; take me to places where I'll see daily life.

The rewards were many. Instead of having trinkets thrust at me, I wandered through quiet villages where farmers led water buffalo down dusty streets, old men sat on patios playing mah-jongg, and women carried water from community wells. Many of these scenes became part of the photo journal I kept of the trip.

China's culture is fascinating. And, I've found, it's easier to connect with that culture by taking the road less traveled.

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