Sun, Sep 10, 2006 - Page 9 News List

New Chinese tourist Mecca is finding that success is a burden


A short distance away, a smiling villager was busy putting the finishing touches on a huge traditional-style home, placed conspicuously by a sharp bend in the snaking road.

"We moved to this spot because it is convenient to receive guests here," said the man's young daughter in law.

Along with this boom, however, have come problems often associated with development. State-run logging and home building have left the mountain nearly stripped of the tall pines and cedars that once graced its slopes.

The ensuing erosion washes out the roads and brings dangerous landslides with the least rain. Public services in the hills are scant, and travelers and residents alike dump their trash on the hillsides.

Each morning, bands of children pose by stone-paved roads affecting distant and beautiful gazes. Woe to the photographer who stumbles upon a scene like this without coins, though, because it is a practiced setup. Once the shutter clicks, they tug at you aggressively for money.

In the travel industry one finds examples of this sort of thing the world over, where the quest for the new and exotic is endless, driving herds of tourists from one "hot" place to the next, as destinations lose their exoticism and charm.

"Three years ago, the whole county received 10,000 tourists a year, and now it gets 50,000 in a week," said Lu Hailing, a photographer for a Chinese magazine, which helped create the boom by calling the village one of China's most beautiful places.

"The road to Jiaju village is sometimes jammed with traffic all the way up the mountain," Lu said.

Today, the sisters who pioneered the tourism industry here are breaking new ground, sounding an alarm about the environment and leading discussions on the mountain about managing growth.

"There are not enough rooms here, and some tourists are sleeping in cars or tents," said Xiao Lamu, who is 22.

With that, the older sister, Guihua, 27, was more blunt.

"It will be a disaster if every family builds houses," she said.

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