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Wild Wild West!~ cont/Yunnan1

Yunnan was my last and final destination of this trip! Positioned next to Tibet, Yunnan is one of the most spiritual places in the world. There I had a completely different experience from Xian and Sichuan. Some people would say I felt “one with god”. This was a land of peace, beauty, hope, and wonder, the magical secret garden of China. This is a simple world filled with simple people just like you and me and surrounded with the only medicine in the world, kindness and love.

When I first arrived, I flew into the Lijian airport. Lijian is the closest city abound the famous snow capped mountains, Tiger Leaping Gorge and the legendary Shangri-la. Many travellers usually fly into Kunming(the capital of Yunnan) and take a tour via Dali-Lijian-Shangri-la-Kumming-home. I was a little strapped for time at this point in my trip so I decided to fly directly into see the nature sceneries and less of the city sights of Yunnan.

Back in Shanghai, I had just received a we chat message from one of the employees at my doggy day care where I had placed my 1 year old rescue pup. I found out that the doggy day care which I have been using everyday for the past year had gone from “ok” to “out of business” in a weeks time, and when I asked them how long do I have, they responded with a stern answer, “a few days”. So after hearing that sudden news, I knew I only had a few days in Yunnan to explore and had to make the most out of the time I had.

There are many minorities that live in Yunnan.  Ethnic minorities in Yunnan account for about 34 percent of its total population. Major ethnic groups include Yi, Bai, Hani, Zhuang, Dai and Miao. I stayed at a little village in Lijian on the outskirts of the city where there were many Naxi and Bai people there. The minorities did not speak the same language however everyone was required to learn Mandarin at school so there they would communicate through mandarin.The hotel I stayed in was situated on the bottom of a snow capped mountain called Jade Dragon snow mountain. When I arrived, the hotel employees greeted me with much kindness and compassion and would take me on a tour around the small village, and cook me dinner at night. We shared laughters and share stories everynight over pots of Pu er tea(which is Yunnan’s staple) and watched Chinese TV on a huge flatscreen. One story I learnt while I was there was about the tea trading from Yunnan to TIbet. Back in the days, Tibet wanted tea and China wanted horses. So the story goes that the Yunnanese traders packed and compressed inferior fermented Pu’er tea into bricks and put them into sacks carried by mules. On the road around mountains and plateaus for miles baking under the high-altitude sun, the tea absorbed the sweat and heat from the mules carrying the bricks creating a new flavor altogether that the Tibetans liked. This became the fermented Pu er tea that we now drink today.

The next day, the hotel receptionist took me on a sightseeing tour to see the Tiger Leaping Gorge. The driver drove us about an hour and a half away from our hotel and dropped us off at the entryway of the gorge. There were darkly tanned Chinese men with red colored man carts lined up all around the side of the paved pathway. Since it was about a 40 minute walk to the end, I decided to request a cart there and then walk back. Rocky bumps, dark hollow caves, and bridges made the ride ever so exciting! We kindly asked the cart driver to stop along different scenery points along the way and he was very patient with us and would even offer to help us take pictures along the way! The people here were simple yet grateful for what they have and I for one was inspired to be in their presence.

I came to find that in almost every historical sight, chinese people have a story to tell. Legend tells that in order to escape from a hunter, a tiger jumped across the river at the narrowest point (still 25 metres (82 ft) wide), hence it’s name.

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To be continued…

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Posted by on March 21, 2013 in Travel, Uncategorized

 

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Wild Wild West! ~ cont/Sichuan

Next, I went by train to Chengdu Sichuan to see the Pandas! I never really went far on a train in Shanghai so I thought I’d live out of my shell and take the overnight train to Sichuan. It was fairly easy and cheap to get the train ticket once I got to the train station. But make sure you get the top bunk which is my preferred choice rather than having everyone sit on your bed if your is the bottom bunk. However do be warned that the top bunk is only for sleeping and not much moving as there is only about 2 feet of room above you! I have to say, it was a little uncomfortable at the beginning with 6 people sharing a 4X6 foot space but got used to it after awhile and found myself sound asleep before 12.

It was a 15 hour ride from Xian to Chengdu which didn’t seem like much when you take the late train and sleep most of the way there. When I arrived it was about 2pm in the afternoon. I got out of the train and was immediately sandwiched between minorities carrying babies on their backs and local tourists. There were people everywhere and once I got in line for a taxi, hagglers offered a ride to my hotel for supposedly half the price I would pay. I was almost convinced until they told me they were going to give me a ride in their motorcycle! Oh no, I thought!!! That’s an accident about to happen! So, I decided to stand and wait in the long line with the others and finally got a cab which turned out to be surprisingly cheaper than the risky motorcycle ride! Phewf!

At Chengdu, I stayed at the Chengdu Dreams-Travel Wenjun Mansion hotel. It was a mediocre hotel that was about $25/night which was a good deal, fairly clean, the location was very centralized and there was a huge park across the street which I liked for walking. Sichuan is located west of Xian and well known for their exquisitely complex cuisine. Perfectly stewed ma po dofu, Kung pao chicken and spicy hot pot were some of their specialties! It is the capital of Sichuan province in southwest China. They have a panda breeding center there which houses about 500 pandas that were rescued during the earthquake. This reserve is the only one of its kind in the world that’s located in a metropolitan area. It was really interesting to see the way the pandas live and learn little facts like, “When they are born, pandas are only a few inches long and have to be removed from their mother for protection”, or “Pandas are very calm, and solitary peaceful animals who spend most of the day eating bamboo”. This was a highly recommended place to go in Sichuan.

At night, I went to have hot pot at a famous hot pot place which turned my face bright red and into fire but it was good! And every reluctant bite I took became this decadent saucy concoction in my mouth! Yum!

To end my day, I went to see the Sichuan Opera, which is also the same as the famous Beijing opera with about 8 acts in the show. My favorite was the one with the wife challenging the husband to do different things for gambling all their money away and the changing faces show. This once was a common past time activity for Chinese people until the cultural revolution as shown in the movie, “Farewell my Concubine”. It was different from anything I’ve seen before and was definitely a treat to see. My night ended with a sweet little panda stuffed toy from my tour guide, how sweet!

The next day, I took a more local tour and went on my own to the park. There I was caught off guard by the beautiful ponds, and pagodas. Amidst the old Chinese men playing majong, I stumbled my way into the middle of a group of women dancing and danced the afternoon away!

Also, I went to visit the Wenshu Monastery, Jinli street(food street), and some teahouses(Sichuan is very well known for their green tea!)

Some places I didn’t get to see but recommend are:

 1)   Mt Qincheng (where you can see the huge Buddha on the mountain)

2)   Dujiangyan Irrigation System (oldest 2000 year old irrigation project that diverts water without a dam)

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Posted by on March 19, 2013 in Travel, Uncategorized

 

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Wild Wild West! Xian

When we think of wild wild west we usually think of cowboys and horses and standoffs, but in Asia the wild wild west is a land full of minority tribes, wild pandas, white hairy yaks, gorges and abundantly rich soil. Just a few months ago, I decide to take a solo adventure to different parts of China. I asked some local coworkers where the “must see” places were and they mentioned Dalian, Xian, Sichuan and Yunnan. I decided to go in November so it was starting to get chilly and the weather brought me west to venture into the wild wild west! The first place I flew into was Xian. This small little city was surround by a stone wall, a little bit like the great wall of China which you can only imagine seeing in the movies. It seemed like a city of kings and riches who had their palace and city protected by the great wall. It was a place full of history and is one of the oldest cities in China, over 3000 years old. I stayed there for 3 days and stayed at a little 3 star gem hotel called Lemon Hotel which was conveniently placed right in the middle of town. It was about 15-20 minutes walking distance from the popular food street downtown and the bell and drum tower and was easy access for taxis to pick you up to further places like the terra cotta soldiers. I woke up early around 9 the next day and went on a tour around Xian(arranged by the hotel, 500rmb from 9am-6pm for full day private driver). The next morning, I went to see the well known terracotta soldiers which was about an hour and a half ride from the city and upon arrival there were numerous local tour guides who were available to give tours. My driver helped me find someone who knew some english and we went our our merry way! Just being there was amazing and I could imagine myself being there when they buried these delicate regal soldiers. They created and buried these soldiers for the Qin Emperor in 210 BC when he died to protect him in the afterlife. There were 3 giant pits with over 8,000 soldiers, 130 chariots with 520 horses and 150 cavalry horses. I spent about 2-3 hours gazing and admiring at these historical figures that were buried and when I went into the museum afterwards I was lucky to be able to meet the guy who found the soldiers! He was an old man selling one of the books he wrote on the discovery and was signing away. Amazing enough, this story is of a poor farmer who was in his 50’s when he found the terracotta soldiers while digging in the well some 40 years ago. And now, he has become a rich old farmer who writes books and meets his fans. I guess miracles do happen:) Afterwards, we drove back to the city and bought these delicious red/orange persimmons on our way back from the side of the road. From what I remember, they were only a few dollars for a whole box of juicy fresh grown persimmons and boy were they good! When we went back, I dozed off a bit in the cab and my top notch driver dropped me back  to the hotel for a little R&R. A few hours later, he came back and took me on a walking tour downtown to see the rest of the sights. We went to the bell and drum tower which was beautifully lit up from the night lights and then went to splurge in the food market street with delicious small eats all around. In a lit up street with friendly smiling faces, muslim po(nan in soup) and flavorful coconut desserts, I felt like I was a little kid in candy store! I even got to meet some other people from Beijing at the muslim soup place which became my touring friends for the next few days! We went to see the Giant pagoda and relaxed at some local bar which was playing chinese guitar music. This was by far, my favorite city to visit, I had even considered living there for about 2 secs:) Loved it!

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Please read on and continue with me through my journey further west! Enjoy:)

 
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Posted by on March 18, 2013 in Markets, Travel

 

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