Monthly Archives: October 2009

Yunnan, Part IV

More photos from my trip in Yunnan.

After Tiger Leaping Gorge, we went to Shangri-La, a city in the very northwestern part of Yunnan. Shangri-La used to be Jiangtan Town (建塘镇) and its name was changed in 2001 based on the novel Lost Horizon by the author James Hilton. In the novel, Shangri-La is a Himalayan utopia, where the citizens are immortal and isolated from the outside world.

Shangri-La sits at a very high altitude and is a popular gateway to Tibet. We spent our first days outside of Shangri-La visiting a Buddhist monastery. Unfortunately for this blog, the monks did not permit photographs in the monastery. Which is too bad because it was really neat. The first floor of the monastery is where the monks would pray and meditate. It hosted over 1,000 praying stations, so 1,000 monks could pray and meditate at the same time. The 2nd, 3rd, and 4th floors had really elaborate buddhist shrines and decorations. The colors red and gold dominated every room. The shrine was under construction, the monks were doing all the work, and had been for about 15 years. The monks were friendly. I was told their money mostly came from donations and from tourist entry fees. We were in a pretty isolated area and it didn’t seem like many tourists made their way to monastery, which is maybe why the construction is taking so long.

Then we went back to Shangri-La for a couple of days, rented bikes and rode around town. Below are a few pictures of a Buddhist temple in Shangr-La.

Phil infron of the giant Buddist prayer wheel.

The temple in Shangri-La

Yunnan, Part III

From Lijiang it was a quick trip (3 hrs) to our primary destination of the trip: Tiger Leaping Gorge (虎跳峡). Tiger Leaping Gorge is one of the deepest river canyons in the world. The legend is that while running from a hunter a tiger leaped across the river.

Tiger Leaping Gorge

Tiger Leaping Gorge

We hiked for 3 days, 2 nights. We gave ourselves enough time for a leisurely pace and it was worth it. The views were incredible.

On the trail, there were small villages of approximately 10-20 buildings. Most of the villages had a guest house for tourists.

Guest house at Tiger Leaping Gorge.

Guest house at Tiger Leaping Gorge.

Sunset at Tiger Leaping Gorge. Look closely for Phil.

Sunset at Tiger Leaping Gorge. Look closely for Phil.

Yunnan, Part II

From Kunming jumped on a sleeper bus to Lijiang (12 hours). A sleeper bus has two levels of beds instead of seats. The beds are great for laying down, but a little uncomfortable if you want to ever sit up. Overall the beds are much, much better than a cramped seat that leans back 3 inches.

Picture of my feet, from inside the sleeper bus.

Picture of my shoes, feet, from inside the sleeper bus.

We arrived at Lijiang in the evening, it was already dark. Lijiang has an Old Town that’s registered on UNESCO’s World Heritage List. We were able to walk around a little bit and it was pretty neat. Cobblestone roads, no cars, “traditional” looking architecture, small bridges crossing small canals, overall a pretty nice town. The biggest downside of Lijiang is that many sections of the city are very new and are built to look like the Old Town. Pretty much every building is a storefront selling little nick-knacks for tourists. Combined with the newness of the buildings, it has kind of a Disneyland quality to it.

Lijian Old Town in the distance

Lijian Old Town and pagoda in the distance.

Sam at bar in Lijiang

Sam at bar in Lijiang

Yunnan, Part I

We recently had a week break for the Fall festival, so some fellow foreign teachers and I decided to make a trip to the southern province of Yunnan. It borders Myanmar, Laos, and Vietnam. Yunnan is considered the most ethnically diverse province in China, with 26 ethnic groups residing within its boarders. The east side of the Province runs up against the Pacific and the west side is high altitude, it is the the foothills of the Himalayas.

We took a train (25 hrs) from Changsha to Kunming, the capital of Yunnan.

John, during our first morning in Kunming, enjoying a cup of coffee at the Hump Hostel

John, during our first morning in Kunming, enjoying a cup of coffee at the Hump Hostel.

John, watching somone drop his camera

John watching someone drop his camera.

We spent a single day in Kunming. In the morning we walked around the city. In the city there are a pair of pagoda’s from the Tang Dynasty, built between 824-839.

Pogodas were built to store ancient texts and religiosu relics.

Pagoda's were built to store ancient texts and religiosu relics.

In the afternoon we went to Daguan Park. Daguan Park is very similar to Changsha’s own Martyr’s Park. Both are enormous tract of land, both have lots of people, both have nature-type things (trees and lakes), and both have a lot of amusement park rides.

Danny, left, and Brenden, right, at Dashuan Park

Danny, left/ back, and Brenden, right, at Daguan Park

The park was fine, just a little too similar to what we’ve already seen in Changsha. The highlight for me were the these big inflated cylinders floating on the water. They were similar to the plastic balls for gerbils to run around in, but for humans and floating on the water.

Amazed, Brenden and I tried one out.

My backside and John getting a picture of my backside

My backside. John getting a shot of my backside

It was exhausting and fun.

Me, left, Brenden, right

Me, left, Brenden, right

For the late afternoon, we went hiking in the hills on the outskirts of Kunming. Kunming is called the “Spring City” or the “City of of Eternal Spring” because of its temperate climate. And it’s true! The weather for the day we were in Kunming was fantastic.

From left to right, Brenden, John, Michaela, Sam, Danny, me.

From left to right, Brenden, John, Michaela, Sam, Danny, me.

National Day of China, Oct 1st

The People’s Republic of China was founded October 1st, 1949 with a celebration at Tiananmen Square in Beijing. This year was the 60th anniversary and there was a lot of excitement building up to October 1st. We were advised to not travel the Beijing for National Day. Security in China was extremely tight because of the anniversary, supposedly residents along the parade route were warned to not step out on their balconies, for they may be shot. Beijing was expected to be impossible for foreigners (police checks every half block). That and the fear that a nationalistic riot could break out at any moment kept me away; some Japanese reporters were assaulted in their hotel room after they tried to cover a rehearsal session.

Because I was on a sleeper train to the Yunnan Province on October 1st, I  completely missed the ceremony. But I found a short video of the parade that does some neat time lapse and slow motion tricks. There were two parades; the first a military parade in which China showcased its weapons and nuclear missiles and then a civilian’s parade with over 100,000 participants. The civilians parade’s floats had themes such as “progress of the motherland”, “scientific development”, “brilliant achievement” and “beautiful prosperous China.”