Monday, February 2, 2009

Yunnan trip part 1

I'm finally back!! The trip to Yunnan was a ton of fun, but it was intense and kind of stressful, so it's good to be back at TBC. I have TONS of pictures, so I will probably have to break up this post into a couple parts...or just keep updating it periodically.
Background info: Yunnan is the most southwestern province in China and its capital is Kunming. Google a map if you like. It is most well known for ethnic and geographic diversity, as you will see.


Kunming was the first city we went to. We had some free time, so we wandered around the city for a while trying to find some bird and flower market that they told us about, but we ended up stumbling upon another market that was way more interesting. It was a farmer's market of sorts, I guess. They were selling meat, animals, vegetables, beans, fruit, fried tofu, all kinds of stuff. It was full of people.
This adorable kid kept following us around the market and posing for pictures.
We were only in Kunming overnight before we took a plane to Zhongdian, more commonly known as Shangrila. Shangrila has a primarily Tibetan population because it's so close to Tibet. The first thing we did there was visit an orphanage, and I'm pretty sure this was my favorite part of the entire trip. The kids were so cute and so friendly. They first led us into a room where the kids sang and danced for us. Here's a video of the younger boys and girls dancing:


This is the classroom at the orphanage.

These two girls were so cute. When we walked out onto the playground, the older one tugged on my sleeve and dragged me with her to play. We threw a frisbee for a while, then the little one joined us. I accidentally hit her in the head with the frisbee. I felt like a horrible person, but she was ok. I also played hackeysack and jumproap with some other kids.

Later that day we went to a tibetan buddhist monastary. There were so many prayer flags! We had to hike up this huge hill before actually getting to the building. As far as you could see there were prayer flags everywhere. Even up to the top of the mountain. It was actually just a really big hill, but it seemed like a mountain to me. The real mountains were not far away. We were right by the Himalayas.
I got to make my own prayer flag :).

There are lots of yak here. (Yaks? I'm not sure what the plural of yak is...)
We were walking back to the bus when this guy came out of his gate and invited us into his home. It was so amazing!! All hand carved and hand painted. So beautiful.
It's hard to see the detail on the wood here, but it was so intricate. It was all over.

I just thought it was interesting that they some modern technology too. It looks kind of out of place here. I'm sure this man was quite wealthy, though.

That evening our entire group had dinner at a Tibetan family's house. This was their cooking area. Their house was very similar to the man's we visited before, but a little less ornate.
From left to right: weird flour that tasted like Cheerios, yak butter tea, yak cheese and sugar, yak yogurt, pita bread. I would not ever recommend anything yak dairy-related. Unless you like to eat things that taste like vomit. The pita bread and cheerio powder, however, were delicious. Also, this was just a snack to eat before dinner.

For dinner we had this amazing hotpot stew. I could not tell you what was in it, except for some type of meat (probably yak) and bread dumplings. It tasted fantastic, especially after the yak dairy.After dinner, the whole village came to the house for a party. The kids danced (as I'm finding is the norm for these minority cultures).

The next day we went to another Tibetan Buddhist monastery. This one was quite a bit wealthier than the one with all the prayer flags.

In the pagoda to the right there was a huge drum which a buddhist monk would periodically bang very loudly as a form of prayer. It kind of scared the crap out of me.We also went to Tiger Leaping Gorge. That is the Yantze river there surrounded by what I'm pretty sure are the Himalayas.
Lots of crazy rapids at Tiger Leaping Gorge.
This was the hotel we stayed at in Lijiang. This was my favorite city during the trip. We found this amazing baotze and jiaotze restaurant (dumplings) that was this tiny hole-in-the-wall. I have discovered that holes-in-the-wall are where you will find the best and cheepest food. They seriously have better tasting food than the fancy restaurants.
Old town Lijiang was beautiful. They called it old town, but really the whole city was leveled by an earthquake in 1997 or thereabouts, so it's all newly built. It's basically a tourist trap, but a really pretty and entertaining tourist trap.
They sold pinapples on sticks. Best street fruit ever. Although the tangerines here are pretty good too.
A group of us took a long bike ride to a monastery outside of Lijiang. It was something like 30km roundtrip. We stopped halfway at this pretty resevoir where you could see the Himalayas in the background.
We rode through this town and hiked up a very large hill (after a very long bike ride) to get to the monastery.
We were kind of all half-dead once we reached the top.
The monastery wasn't really anything special, but it did have these weird handprints all over. I asked the tourguide about them, and he said that they were just graffiti. I thought they looked really neat, though.
Me and my bike. It was so adorable; I wanted to keep it. Sadly, it was not very good for off-roading...but it had a nice bell.

So once we got back from the bike ride, we competed in a scavenger hunt in old town Lijiang. This is where I ate bugs. Yes bugs. Bamboo babies and dragonfly larvae to be specific. They weren't bad, actually. Although I guess anything tastes ok once it's fried and salted.Incase you wanted proof:

Also, as a side note, Jay Chou endorses tons of products here. Unfortunately, all the ones I've tried so far have been disgusting. I'm pretty sure one of our group members got violently ill after eating these potato-flavored potato chips. I personally tried an endorsed jelly drink which nearly made me sick.
We went to some carved buddhist grottes which were kind of cool, but the most impressive part was the view from the mountain.We stayed overnight in this tiny town called Shaxi. I don't think they actually had a hotel there, so we were put in guesthouses. I never realized how much I had taken western hotels for granted. I had a single room (which was one perk), but there was no heating (and the window above the door had no glass in it), and no private bathroom or shower. Also, at around 9pm that night, some Chinese man banged on my door and yelled, "Chi fan! Chi fan!" which means, "Eat food! Eat food!" It was a little terrifying. And I didn't want any food from him. I slept surprisingly well, but I'm glad we only had one night here.
Village market close to new years. Everyone was buying lots of stuff for the holiday. The streets were packed.
I just thought this was really cool. As we were riding in the bus, we could see this blanket of clouds coming over the tops of the mountains.
This was a temple in a small village. The local religion was a mix of Buddhism, Taoism, and Confucianism.
Kids with fireworks are frightening.
This town we visited had a large population of the Bai minority who are famous for their tie-dyed cloth. The gutters in the streets were dyed from the indigo they used.So once we left that temple, these Bai ladies started leading us down the narrow village streets. We had no idea where they were taking us, but they were quite persistent. I hoped we weren't going to be shipped off as slaves. But really they were just trying to sell us stuff. They led us into a house and up the stairs to the attic where there were mounds and mounds of this dyed cloth. It was so beautiful! They had all kinds of colors, too.

I have lots more to come, and I will try to post as soon as I can! I hope everyone at home is well! I miss you all!


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  2. Of course you hit a girl on the head with a frisbee. Even in China.

    I miss you too! your pictures are fantastic!