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Colourful Yunan

Shangri-La to Hong Kong

semi-overcast 30 °C

Well, we finally got through the 3 luggage scans, 2 additional body swipes with a pat down and 4 ticket checks to catch our flight out of 'Tibet'. We (read Tony) is becoming slightly more relaxed about our luggage, as not one person we have met so far has been able to lift it without groaning.

Shangri La is still considered part of Tibet by the people, just not by the maps. Disappointingly, it turned out to be one of our least favourite places. There were piles of rubble everywhere, houses and buildings being torn down or newly built, and all appeared to be in a plain ole' state of disarray.

Shangri La and Lijiang are famous in this area for being a part of what was called the Horse-Tea Road - like the Silk Road only not as sexy. The route allowed traders to collect gold from India, tea and silver from southern China, jade from Myanmar and, using Mongolian horses, trek the goods to Lhasa and across the continent as far as Britain and Ireland! The city of Lijiang, where we are now, was a centre of this trade and contributed rich silk embroidery to trader's wares.

It took a few hairy hours to drive here as they are still building the roads. There appears to be a code -which we cannot decipher- that tells on which side of the road to drive at certain times. What was a three lane duel carriageway seemingly without warning changed to a single lane each way as it went through a tunnel - suddenly there were lights coming straight at us through the dark!

This town has a lovely Nouveau Ancienne feel. As appears to be the norm in China, it is often difficult to distinguish the real from a copy. Much heritage was lost during the Cultural Revolution, so they are just rebuilding it and saying that it is old... Lijiang is one large garden surrounded by jagged mountains. The glacier that has been a permanent feature forever (ok not forever, but for quite a long time) has reduced by over 50% in the last 10 years as global warming has a disproportionately larger effect at altitude and the poles. There are 16 ethnic minority groups here, each with their own colourful dress and jewellery. The young ones prefer western clothing, but older woman are wonderfully clad and their faces are weathered and hard-worn. It is quite peculiar to see them hail a bus or rev the gears on a scooter. Many of these minorities were dispossessed when their farms were flooded for yet another dam project (oh the pun), so the government has sponsored teachers to help them re-learn traditional trades such as embroidery. However many are uneducated and do not speak Mandarin, so weeny bit of a challenge there.

We are staying in a charming ~800 year old inn with lovely views of other ~800 year old inn roofs, with a similarly aged air-conditioning unit that, in the night, filled T's shoe with water. Surprise! The vast majority of tourists, both here and everywhere we have been, are Chinese -- internal tourism is now one of the leading earners for much of Eastern China - we have to get down to breakfast as soon as it opens, or we end up competing with a smoking, hoicking locust swarm.

Negotiating the maze of the old town is made more difficult as the maps are not consistently North facing. Like me, the Chinese seem to require turning the map in the direction you are going, much to Tony's annoyance. ... yet 1.5 billion people, plus me can't be wrong! The town is really just a large mall where tourists consume dust-catchers and strange foods. Some of the more interesting 'stalls' are those that make intricate designs out of melted sugar - anything from stunning phoenix and dragons to guns - thought of you K. (for those who don't know, K was not allowed guns as a child [hippy crap, I know...], so he used to bite them out of his toast and kill things at breakfast...)

Our current guide is well read, and we are able to have great political conversations with him. We were laughing at some of the English T-shirts and he told us that it goes both ways -- apparently there are a few western babes walking around with 'whore' tattooed in Mandarin down the back of their necks (we think they may have thought it meant "chicken")!

It's a few days later and we are belting this out as we realise we are a bit behind. Currently in Kunming about to head to Guilan. Visited a pet market here where you could buy yourself a chameleon, a snake, scorpions, baby alligators or baby black-tipped reef sharks as pets. Plus of course, the lovely furry things to feed to each. Watched as a tank full of Arawana were fed a bucket of live gold fish. The poor little things were utterly hoovered by the Arawana in short order! Harsh, but true to life. Anything goes here! Local markets and restaurants are filled with cages of live (not for long) chickens and ducks and temporary swimming pools of fish. Our local supermarket even had a live alligator for sale -- I guess they like things fresh. They say here that China could never have been the location of the Garden of Eden -- the Chinese would have eaten the snake!

The place is so consumerist it gives the USA a run for its money. Local joke: Putin, Obama and Xi were driving cars along a road when they came to a fork. Putin turned left without hesitation, and Obama went right. Xi's driver was unclear what to do and asked President Xi which way they should go. Xi said, indicate to turn left, but then, turn right.

T-shirt of the day: (over-laid on a picture of Mickey Mouse with a fat dooby in one white-gloved hand... ) "disobey, smoke marijuana, f**k the police" China really is loosening up!
Runner up: Seen on a large, soft and humourless middle aged man: "Bag of Parody"

Posted by 2kiwisontour 03:37 Archived in China Tagged china hong_kong yunan gulin Comments (0)

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