We stopped in this town in the February of 2011 for the Explosive Dragon Festival. The insanity and fun is indescribable. Below is a description of our time there:

Early on the 13th we went to meet up with a few members of a local band that also happened to be friends with Lisa, Jeremy’s wife. They had hired a car for the day since the festival in Bin Yang was two hours away from Liuzhou. We arrived in BinYang and at the first look this place worried me because there was NOTHING around except for a few factories. Seeing the discouragement in my face Jeremy assured me that when you ask, “Where are we?” it may just be a good sign. After a few phone calls to try and get directions we arrived at one of the band member’s uncle’s house and was served a lovely lunch. The lunch consisted of some field vegetables and dog toes…yep you don’t need to read it again I said dog toes, I mostly stuck to the rice and convinced myself that I was full.

Once lunch finished the band member’s aunt took us out into the back alleys towards the temple to see what was going on at around 13:00. Bin Yang has several very nice old back alleys that provided for some picture taking of pig heads, cats (for eating), bamboo rats (again for eating), and really nice architecture. On our way to the temple we stopped and picked up safety gear for the evening activities. At first I refused the safety glasses but on second thought I thought about a country that doesn’t have smoke detectors selling safety glasses and thought I must really need these. Coming from the backside of the temple we could hear that something was defiantly going on. When we arrived in the temple square it was hard to see because of the smoke except multiple people swinging exploding fireworks above their heads. People also took this chance to make offerings to Buddha by using a giant fire and the easily accessible incense. A week before this both and ancient temple and the tallest building in a major city burned down due to different celebrations.

After not too long of a time I was hit on my shoulder by one of the guys who had brought us to the town and he told me that it was time to leave the area through a gesture rather than words because the sound from the fireworks was deafening. I followed the Chinese guy out of the crowd but then turned around and saw that Jeremy was no where to be seen. Someone from our group sent Jeremy a message that we were next to the pig’s head and that he should meet us there, in those old back streets there were pigs’ heads on at least every corner…Jeremy returned the message by saying that he was at the post office and that he would wait there for us. This was of course a better meeting place than a pigs head.

After collecting Jeremy we headed back to our friend’s uncle’s place for a short rest. On our way back we saw a group of people eating which I thought would make for a good picture and I snapped a few which also drew attention to ourselves. One girl stood up and wanted to take our picture, this will be a reoccurring event throughout the day even though we were with a band that had played in multiple cities throughout China. The girl invited us to eat with them but knowing that we were planning to eat in about an hour I refused.

Shortly after we returned to the uncle’s house we left again to go to a large restaurant filled with business leaders from the community. On the table was hot pot that included MORE dog and some sour rice noodles, I ate a great deal of the rice noodles. Now because this is China and it was all men at the table the alcohol came out, but I really didn’t want to drink much because I was unaware of what would happen that night and out of fear of having something stolen out of my camera bag since we were warned about thieves working the festival. One of the Chinese guys we were at the dinner with said that he didn’t want to stay long and both Jeremy and I were fine with this so soon after the rice noodles were gone we departed for the uncle’s house again for a rest and to wait for the evening festivities to begin.

While at the house people were walking up and down the street throwing little white balls that exploded with white smoke and a small bang when a little pressure was added. The Chinese guys we were with bought several bags of them and handed some to me. When in Rome…when a group of people passed in front of the house and groups of people threw their small white fireworks at me I returned fire. Everyone of all ages ran around the city during the afternoon throwing these things at each other like I remembering doing with “Dixie pops” when I was small.

Around 18:00 we walked up the street to the intersection close to the uncle’s house. Once the buses and cars carrying police officers and SWAT was escorted through the crowds under fire from the little white exploding balls. The dragons that had been made especially for this festival began to ran down the road to the main intersection surrounded by people swinging exploding fireworks above their heads, people with large torches, and men with two meter sticks in charge of not letting people too close to the dragons. We followed the dragons as they came under siege from numerous people with lit fireworks trying to destroy the dragons. Fireworks flying everywhere around the dragons and into the crowds the intersection began to fill with the smoke from the fireworks as the dragons “battled” against the people and for their “lives.” The men carrying the dragons wore only yellow pants and a conical rice picker hat; compared to my hat, safety glasses, double facemasks, earplugs, and winter coat. I wondered what had to possess anyone to allow people to throw exploding fireworks at them with the exception of lots of pride and alcohol.

We would try to take pictures of this insanity for the next two and half hours before we agreed that it was time for a break. Since we were trapped between two dragons when this decision came we had to search for a way out of the war zone. Once we got far enough away from the dragons that we could see more than a few feet clearly we took out the earplugs and wiped off our glasses and cameras that were both covered with firework dust. After ten minutes or so we headed back in for another forty-five minute session before we had to head back for our scheduled meeting time for our departure. I took a few more pictures but the smoke had become so bad that I wasn’t able to get much.

We soon made our way through the festival heading back to the uncle’s house in what we thought was preparation to leave. When we got back to the house we again cleaned off our cameras and took off our safety gear. Shortly there after we heard the sound of fireworks getting louder outside the house and were surprised to find that when we opened the door ANOTHER dragon. This would delay our departure that I was more than ready for. I put my earplugs back in and was invited upstairs to see the fight from another angle. I didn’t take my DSLR this time but I did take my small point and shoot Nikon so that I could get video of the onslaught. It took the citizens of the town another forty-five minutes to slay the dragon, which finally allowed us to start to make our way to the car so that we could return. On our way back one our friends got some BBQed field mouse that I declined but Jeremy took a full stick of. Jeremy described it as being covered in a sauce that disguised any other flavor and full of bones that made it hard to eat, soon there after our driver came back with the car.

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