Once, I entered a tiny village shop in rural China and the lady shopkeepers started screaming at the sight of me. They then ran out from behind the counter, ignoring all the waiting customers, and basically started groping me while saying something to the extent of "Wow, is this real?!"
Now, that's not the typical reaction in a city -- there, non-Asians are considered just exotic enough that strangers want to take pictures with us or maybe give us free drinks. But when a foreigner finds themselves in a tiny village where cabbages outnumber people, their status quickly changes from "hot girl at a bar" to "a bizarre hybrid of a rock star and some barely-humanoid, mythical cryptid."
Jacek Mokujin Adamus
"Sorry, we all thought you were Mark Wahlberg."
On one occasion, I was backpacking through the countryside around Suzhou in the east of China, and came across an old lady on the road. As we got closer, she looked at me, made a face like she'd just seen a ghost, and then straight-up bolted in the opposite direction. As far as I can tell, I wasn't doing anything that could have scared her, but I did exist in her general vicinity without having been born there. I quickly learned that in some parts of rural China, that sort of thing can pass for witchcraft. I've lost count of how many times even young Chinese people ran up to me and then just silently stood there with amazed looks on their faces.
One of the strangest experiences I've ever had was the time I backpacked through Tiger Leaping Gorge in the south of China. On the one hand, the scenery was absolutely breathtaking, but I unfortunately witnessed many acts of domestic violence in some of the hamlets I passed along the way. People yelling at their cowering spouses, pushing them against walls. ... It was incredibly uncomfortable to watch, particularly because all the aggressors were women.
Jacek Mokujin Adamus
Tiger Leaping Gorge is mainly inhabited by the Naxi people, a Chinese ethnic group where women call all the shots. Most guidebooks will tell you that only one subgroup of the Naxi people do this, but that's not what I saw. What I saw was a widespread mafia of elderly women keeping their husbands in check with the backs of their hands, and extorting money from tourists.