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Entries about huanglong

Sichuan Provincial

We head to the hills; to the ancient Tibetian border area

sunny 32 °C

The airport, where we await our delayed flight, is heaving with several officials broadcasting messages using megaphones, an overhead speaker system blaring and families shouting across each other in strong, flat, nasal Mandarin. It is a crazily loud space and a stark contrast to the quite city-centre parks, where LED signs inform of the decibel ratings to ensure peace.

I've been reading about Mao and the cultural revolution (1960's), and cannot get my head around these people and how they suffered under a nut-job of a tyrant who declared that stamp collecting, flowers, dancing, singing, sport, writing, poetry, (except his own) nice clothes and having long hair (to name a few), were bourgeois, and so to be drummed out through violence. He stated that lawns were capitalist and so all grass must be removed. Thousands were forced (as punishment) to literally pluck grass from parks and lawns across the country. During a famine of his making (he took the farmers from the fields to make steel - over 30,000,000 people starved to death) he decided that sparrows were eating the seeds and must be annihilated. Citizens were ordered to make loud noise near trees so that the sparrows would not land, and would die of exhaustion! How, did a country like this go from being dominated by peasant farmers, through that terrible time and into this modern, educated, wealthy society? I look at India and my (probably Western) view of the poverty, the antiquated thinking, and the injustice that seems rife there, and am utterly struck by the contrast. China is so shockingly sophisticated.

In spite of a thick free-thinking veneer, there is still obvious control here. All books, films, websites etc are vetted by the government, and although you are given control to set the air conditioning temperature in your hotel room, it does not budge from 24C. Access to media is much better than expected, but by no means open. The Seven O'Clock News is a study in propaganda, where terrible things happen in other parts of the world, but all is good and right in China. The people say that if they live a good life, they will go to the Seven O'clock News when they die! The government has just released the growth statistics for the past quarter, and as expected, things are just getting better. Yet those we speak to say that they are noticing a downturn. House prices are rocketing in spite of the huge numbers of uninhabited 'ghost cities', the cost of living is rising and development is slowing. I can see why the world economy is nervous - these guys do things in such a big way that they set the agenda.

It was during the terrible famine under Mao that the people ate everything that swam, walked or flew (sadly, including children which were dried and sold as 'rabbit'). Some of the eating habits remain - some curious selections for our dinner last night: Blood and Guts Soup, Pork Face with Mushrooms, or Pickled Rabbit's Head (ew, they have the pointiest, boniest little toothy skulls with bits of marinated flesh sticking to the cheeks). We went for the safety of Kung Pao Chicken (a hugely famous dish from this area), which is considered pretty light-weight on the heat scale. Attached photo shows the remaining pile of chilli we were unable to finish.

We've spent the last couple of days in the stunning mountainous area of Sichuan Province. In spite of being almost in the centre of China, this is the ancient border of Tibet (Tang Dynasty, 8th C). The influence is unmistakeable -- a different language, different food and architecture, and there are Tibetan prayer flags everywhere. The people refer to themselves as Tibetan and the Chinese as Chinese! (They also actually look Tibetan). It is happiness to be back in Yak country (I am utterly smitten with them, and they are very tasty too!). We have walked through the stunning National Parks that are extraordinarily beautiful. They say it is a place for all seasons, and it is undeniable when you see images of the stunning 'on fire' Autumn colours, the icy white of snow and frozen waterfalls in Winter, and the soft pinks and whites of wild Rhododendron, Azalea and Roses (they come from this area) in Spring. Our photos cannot do justice to the grandeur of the mountains, the rich turquoise clarity of the water, or the forests which are dominated by the dusky blue of fur trees, interspersed with lacy green silver birch and aspen, and the graceful drape of the clustered white flowers of butterfly bushes. There used to be panda here too, but when they opened the park to the public, the 40,000 visitors per day proved too much for them.

The park crowds are a beast in of themselves. There were only 24,000 people on the day we visited, yet the queue jumping, the pushing to get on and off buses (note to self: be sure to push on before letting others off), and those walking several abreast on narrow pathways was enough to drive us mad. Everyone uses umbrellas to keep their skin as white as possible, and most of them are at Tony's eye height. The obliviousness to others is quite striking. Driving in these mountainous areas is also a bit of a challenge. Rear view and side mirrors are not used (often blocked off with curtains) and drivers rely on other cars to toot at them if they are getting in the way. The horn is also used to tell pedestrians to get off the road, as an indicator, and to show that the vehicle will not be giving way at that sign!

En-route now to Xian and the Terracotta Warriors. Our 11.00am flight left at 10.45am, and T is amusing himself reading adverts about Soy Sauce flavoured Liquor...

T-shirt of the day: Off-line is the new cool.
(NB: there is an ongoing T-shirt popularity battle here between Paul Frank and Mickey Mouse. Although we are seriously unsure of why such old fodder is popular, we suspect Paul Frank is winning...As there is no explanation for this, it shall remain a mystery)

Posted by 2kiwisontour 01:53 Archived in China Tagged sichuan huanglong Comments (0)

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