Monthly Archives: May 2013

Exploring Yunnan: Weekend Trip to the “Redlands (红土地),” Dongchuan, Yunnan Day #2

Justin and I woke up early in the morning to eat breakfast and see our friends off before starting our trek to a village about 20 kilometers north (I forgot the name of it). We walked along local dirt paths most of the way. It was a much better experience on foot than in the van the other day. We could take our time and also mostly avoid the main road. Though we got lost a couple of times, we always somehow found the one road that went to the village we were going to. I highly recommend hiking through the hills…what a trek!

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The View

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Locals Tilling the Hilly Land

During the middle of our hike, it started to downpour. Fortunately, at that point, we were on the main road. Soon after we flagged down a car and asked if we could hitch a ride wherever they were going. Turned out we caught a ride with a group of migrant workers from Jilin Province who were working on the wind turbines in the area. We chatted about their work and what they think of the “Redlands.” They said they are already used to the scenery that it’s not too special. However, they were kind to take us to a famous viewing point on the way where we took pictures. Though they had said they were used to the scenery, I noticed that the group still gazed out at the hilly fields and distant mountains. There’s still something special in the landscape for them.

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Locals Caught in the Rain

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The View with the Migrant Workers

The migrant workers dropped us off at their work site and pointed us in the right direction north. We thanked them and went on our way. We hiked for another hour or two before it started to downpour once again. We hid under tall trees in a village with local woman. She began talking with us in a thick Yunnan accent, but I could overall understand what she was saying: “Nimen ke nadiya de ren? (Where are you from?).” A van reared around the corner about to drive through the village until the older woman yelled in the local dialect at the driver. He stopped for her, but the woman then persuaded him to allow us in his car too. He warmly allowed us in, making it the second time that day we hitchhiked! 

The driver dropped off the woman first. She waved goodbye and darted to her home to avoid the rain. We drove for another 10-20 minutes until we hit our final destination. We gave the driver 20 kuai (he didn’t ask for much, which was nice of him) and exited the car. We found ourselves in a hillside town surrounded by mountains. As we searched for a hotel, a swarm of children suddenly filled the streets. They had just finished classes. Many were walking back home to their neighboring villages or hopping on tour buses (turned into a school bus in the day time). After searching for a while, we finally found a hotel below the village. We hiked around the hills and got some dinner afterwards (unfortunately I forgot to bring my camera!). We stayed the night and took the early bus out back to Kunming the next morning.

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Exploring Yunnan: Weekend Trip to the “Redlands (红土地)” Dongchuan, Yunnan

My friend and I took a 5-6 hour bus from the Kunming North Bus Station (北部汽车客运站). It was a long ride, but it was worth it when we arrived at the “Redlands,” which were an hour or so west from Dongchuan. We befriended some Chinese tourists on the bus. When we arrived, we decided to split a van and drive around the area. For the day, the van was around 200 yuan (if I remember correctly) in total which we split between the five of us. We found a hotel, ate lunch, and then met up to take the van. We were with a professional Chinese photographer, who kept on telling us the Redlands is “a photographer’s paradise.” Supposedly, the photographers who first found this place kept the location a secret a decade or more ago. However, somehow the location has been leaked, which had led to tourism to enter the society. So far, from my observations, the tourism industry is facilitated by the local people.

I will make these next two posts a photo essay of my stay. Because words can’t really describe how beautiful this place was:

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The Redlands in the Afternoon

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Approaching Sunset

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The End of the Day

I took so many pictures…it’s hard not to! I only chose a selection. After the sunset, we went back to the hotel to get some dinner with our new friends. They planned to leave the next day. My friend and I still planned on hiking through the Redlands the next day. We would then take a bus back to Kunming the day after.

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Exploring Kunming: Biking to the Bamboo Temple

For my day off, my friend and I decided to bike to the Bamboo Temple(筇竹寺), which is located west of the city, north of West Mountain (西山). We headed west and hit the third ring road. We started biking down south and on the way passed another temple, Guanyin Pavilion (观音阁). It was a temple dedicated to the Buddhist Goddess of Mercy, Guanyin. We took a break to check it out.

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Guan Yin Pavilion (观音阁) on Third Ring Road

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Buddha Hall

After walking around the small temple, we continued biking down the third ring road until we found a small road that seemed to climb the mountain on the right. This must be the windy road up to the Bamboo Temple! We biked and hiked up for an hour or so before we finally reached it. We paid a small fee to enter the facilities. The Bamboo Temple is famous for being placed within a bamboo forest, as well as for its 500 unique clay statues. Each has its own unique face, posture, expression, everything. It’s incredible! Unfortunately, the room was closed when we got there, so I did not get any good pictures.

You can look up more information about the Bamboo Temple’s history here.

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Behind the Temple

I also forget to take pictures of the main entrance way and temple of the Bamboo Temple, but my friend and I explored behind the temple where we found a long hallway of lanterns alongside man-made ponds. It was isolated and relaxing. It was nice to escape the stress of the city and have some peace and quiet.

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Posing Behind the Main Buddha Hall

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All Natural-The Bamboo Temple

While we walking around, we met a 97 year-old man walking about in tip-top shape. He sparked conversation with us and told us more about the temple. He even knew how to speak some English! We were amazed by his vivacity and sharpness at such an old age. Think back on it, I wish I had learned more about this curious old man. I’ll just have to visit the temple again and hope he’s there.

If you have an open morning/early afternoon, I highly recommend biking or hiking up to the Bamboo Temple. You can get some exercise and enjoy some traditional Chinese culture.

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Rule of Law in China–Where is it? Advice for Future Expats Looking for Housing in the Mainland

This is a personal example of poor choice in housing in China and how it affected my stay:

When I moved to Kunming in December 2012, I first stayed in a hostel for less than a week. I then found a temporary housing situation for a few weeks with a foreigner through the Kunming expat website (gokunming.com). When looking for permanent housing, I used gokunming.com, as well as a popular Chinese “craigslist-like” website, www.58.com. I decided I did not want to go through a realtor. That was one mistake.

In total, I spent two weeks checking out many apartments around the city center. In the end, I found a place through http://www.58.com. The wife of the landlord showed me the apartment: I would get my own bedroom with a bathroom. I also would live with Chinese nationals, which was one of my requirements. I lived in the apartment for a couple days before signing the half-year lease. The male landlord visited the apartment with the lease in hand and asked for my 6 months rent and deposit up front. Before handing him the rent, I skimmed over the Chinese lease and then signed it. Thinking back on it, I recommend asking for the lease in advance, especially if it is written in Mandarin, and to read it over very thoroughly. At that time, I also assumed the man was the landlord. This was another mistake I made: I should have asked him to bring his certificate of property ownership(房产证)to clarify he was in fact the owner of the apartment.

After that, I did not see my landlord for months. I went on with my life and started conducting Fulbright research. Three months into my lease, I got a phone call from my landlord. He asked me when I planned to move out. I said sometime in June. After that, he did not contact me until the end of April, informing me that I needed to move out in May. I said that is inconvenient, but if I have to, I need at least a month for preparation. I would move at the end of May. A few days later, my roommates told me the landlord was forcing us all to move out in the next two days. We all agreed his sudden decision to kick us out was against the contract.

After calling to get more details, it turned out our landlord was in actuality a “middleman.” His lease ended at the beginning of May. That is why he needed to kick us out. I asked for the actual landlord’s number to see if I could persuade her to allow us more time in her apartment. She was not very understanding about our situation. I decided doing this over the phone was not efficient, so I organized the “middleman” and the landlord to come over that night.

Before the meeting, I asked the landlord to bring her certificate of ownership. She did not have one because “the building is still new,” but she did have a “house purchase document” with her daughter’s name of it. It was her daughter’s house. That night, the middleman came to our place very late at around 11pm. The meeting was supposed to begin at 9pm. He blamed it on “traffic.” When the entire group was together, my roommates and I directly told the “middleman” that he breached all our contracts. He did not give us a month’s notice to move out early. We wanted reparations (违约金). Since the contract was made and signed by the “middleman,” he would need to pay.

One clause on the contract specifically said that if either side breaks the contract, then that side must pay in total 3 months rent (for me, 1,200rmb x3) to the other party. The “middleman” said he would allow that, but not that easily. If I asked for reparations, he would not give us any money back at this time and would first force us to find a lawyer (around 5000rmb). He said at court he would wholeheartedly acknowledge his faults. Basically, his meaning was we would waste 5000rmb on the lawyer, just to get around the same amount of money in reparations six months later through the legal system. He did not want give us the three months rent up front. Either way, he would be losing a lot of money. However, he would rather us lose money on getting a lawyer before he was satisfied to give us our entitled reparations.

I did not want to find a lawyer, but I decided, I wouldn’t move out until I got reparations.

I became very frustrated with the “middleman” and how he was treating the law as if it can be bargained. It was his contract, but he was not following his written guidelines. I knew if I had broken the contract, he would have definitely asked me for three months rent for reparations. However, when the tables turned, he would not go through with it. After some discussion with my roommates, we decided we wanted to break ties with this man. But how?

Instead of paying reparations, his solutions were: 1) we could stay at his house and just continue the lease, but I did not trust him enough to do that. 2) He then suggested paying for our accommodations while we searched for new places to live, but I wanted to do it on my own. We then started bargaining over the reparations clause. After much coaxing, he sullenly accepted to pay one extra month of rent as reparations, as well as to pay back the deposit and unfinished rent.

In the end, I received almost 5,000rmb and my roommates got their money back too. The “middleman” did not want to lose any more face, so he kept on complaining how we were in the wrong and that he was going against the contract for giving us this money. We all knew he was embarrassed. The real landlord was present the entire discussion, but in the end, she did not allow us extra time to move out. Even though she knew we all did not have homes to go to, she still kicked us out. So, in the end, I had bad opinions of the both of them. I am glad I got my money back. Now I could finally break ties with these people and live on with my life.

This incident affected my Fulbright grant because I had to find a new home in the middle of my grant period. It was inconvenient, but not “the end of the world.” It would be best to find a stable home with a nice landlord to avoid this kind of problem.

Advice:

1. Go through a realtor for the safest housing options.

2. Ask for the lease in advance so you have enough time to thoroughly read over it.

  • Be sure the lease mentions a penalty fee (违约金) for either party breaking the contract
  • Be sure the lease mentions that the landlord or renter must inform the other party a month in advance for an early move out.
  • Be sure to ask the landlord to bring a certificate of property ownership (房产证) before signing the lease to be sure s/he is in fact the apartment owner.
  • If there is a “middle man” (中间人), be sure the real owner of the apartment signs the lease.
  • If there is a “middle man” (中间人), be aware of the risks with signing under him/her.
  • If possible, ask previous tenants their thoughts on the landlord.

3. If you have to confront an unreasonable landlord, be sure to conduct the meeting calmly, but sternly.

  • Call in the local neighborhood committee (juweihui 居委会) for mediation.
  • Visit the local police station with your lease document to see if they are willing to assist you.
  • If you feel at all threatened, call the police.

4. Call for help and advice from your friends or law professionals. You should not go through this alone!

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