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Roar! Whoosh! Bam! I was shooting exploding arrows at the T. rex"s gnashing jaws with my crossbow as I teetered atop the rope bridge.
Suddenly, a cloud of giant insects buzzed in, whipping stingers and jabbing jaws at me.
Buzz! Stab! Bite!
Bugs are hard to hit with arrows.
An ogre the size of a skyscraper snoozed to my right. Its horns had been sawed off. A chain choked its throat.
I wondered if I"d have to battle this giant creature later. I never found out－because I died.
Not really－but virtually.
In reality, I was atop a wood-plank bridge. And I was actually clutching a crossbow.
But the bridge was a prop in a room. And the weapon was of the video-game variety that shoots signals rather than physical projectiles.
I was visiting the remote Beidou Bay VR Town. It"s a truly technological and innovative poverty-relief project in a forested mountainside village in rural Guizhou province.
Later, I was a dynastic warrior saving kidnapped princesses. I was actually riding an animatronic plastic horse.
Next, I drove a car that blasted other vehicles with bursting turtle shells. I was actually steering a real bumper car.
All of these experiences came from a set of virtual reality goggles. And it frankly felt quite real－despite the fantasticality of the worlds into which I was questing.
The park is a tourist attraction that provides employment for former farmers in a place where sheer karst peaks make agricultural production an uphill battle in every sense.
Visitors meet virtual dragons and real androids.
Villagers dressed in cosplay outfits roam the roads with balloon animals or dance in an outdoor auditorium. Androids dance in sync to techno music in such buildings as the Castle of Robots.
The amusement park in Malang village is virtually and literally a technological wonderland that surreally occupies an otherwise rustic and underdeveloped settlement.
The park, which employs 60 villagers as cleaners, security guards and tour guides, has attracted 110,000 visitors since it opened in July.
I"ve spent much of my 11 years as a journalist in China traveling to remote areas to cover poverty alleviation.
Some projects are more conventional, such as constructing transportation infrastructure, relocating isolated residents to urbanized areas and introducing more advanced agriculture.
Other methods are more pioneering－giving ethnic Mongolian nomads emus to herd, rather than sheep, to prevent desertification and raise incomes; creating solar grids in drought-prone areas, with the profits going to locals; replanting deserts with a shrub that produces a parasite on its roots traditionally believed to boost virility. Consequently, it is very lucrative.
But this was the first time I had witnessed high technology, such as virtual reality, being used to produce prosperity in poor settlements－notably, in a place where villagers previously had little contact with computers.
I pondered this as I watched an elderly farmer, hunched over a cane, cross a street from the park and head toward the foot of the mountains.
She has, perhaps, never used the internet, but she lives next to a virtual world, populated by mythical beings that seem at least virtually real to the tourists who arrive to engage them.
The park will improve her life, since it has become central to the local economy, offering much greater developmental promise than crops.
It"s a place where fantasy becomes reality for guests and dreams of a better life come true for the residents.
Yang Wanli contributed to this story.