Posts Tagged With: Yunnan

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!


The View


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.


Locals Caught in the Rain


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:

IMG_2107 IMG_2076

The Redlands in the Afternoon


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 Yunnan: Day Trip in Shangri-la (Zhongdian)

The Monkey King entered the temple and learned from the master, the immortal, for many decades. When the master saw his potential, he taught the king in secret to show him the sacred techniques, such as the somersault flying cloud and transformations. The Monkey King, his Buddhist name Sun Wukong, learned very quickly and became proud of his powers. He once showed off to his fellow monks by transforming into everyday objects. The master became enraged and banished from the temple warning him never to tell a soul that he taught him, such an egotistic beast. Though he didn’t tell Sun Wukong, the master felt an ominous presence and future from the monkey, and regretted teaching him the Way. “What have I done?”

After getting breakfast and buying tickets back to Lijiang, I called my friend who gave us ambiguous directions that would take us to the large Buddhist Monastery that is nestled in the mountains outside of the city. We took the number one bus to the last stop, then followed a road that the bus driver pointed out to us where we passed a large stone stuppa. After reaching a fork, we turned right and followed the path into a large field where we saw a white house in the distance. We were to walk behind the house and hike through Tibetan towns before approaching the temple. We were taking this strange route so to avoid the 80yuan door fee.


Shangri-la in the Distance

The group I walked with (including four Germans, a Korean, and one identical twin) were very patient as I made them trek with me all around the Shangri-la countryside. Shangri-la is supposedly the “Paradise of the Orient,” at least that is what Western folklore has engrained into my eurocentric mind. The Chinese government destined the small town of Zhongdian to be created into Shangri-la in 2001 for touristic purposes. For more than ten years, this place has been “Heaven on aEarth,” but it seemed like any other tourist town within the ancient city, and like any other town in the countryside. It was nice to get out of the touristy part of the city and see what average Zhongdian citizens do each day. For instance, we were invited to a Tibetan birthday party when we entered one of the Tibetan towns. I saw more Tibetans outside of Shangri-la than in the main city.


“One of these things are not like the other, one of these things do not belong…”

Everyone was very inviting and asked us to sit at one of the tables. They gave us a tray of cookies and dumplings and then many glasses of yak butter tea. We were all pretty bashful for crashing the party, but everyone seemed pretty excited to have so many foreigners at the party. They then invited us into the home, which was beautifully decorated with woodcarvings, paintings, and elaborate carpets. I set next to an old man who was wearing traditional Tibetan garb and was missing some teeth. He kept smiling at me and welcoming me to his town. After an hour, we politely excused ourselves. We made a card for the birthday man (he turned 60 years old) and then continued our way to the monastery. We were almost there.

We walked along the wall of the temple and looked for a back door. We passed Tibetan who were walking around the temple clockwise, while we were walking counter-clockwise. We later learned we were walking in the incorrect direction. We hit the top of the steps and got this view:


Songzanlin Monastery

We found a broken part of the wall and entered through there. We walked up alleyways and alongside crumbling houses before we approached the beautiful monastery. We were about to enter the front of the temple when I saw a little monk shivering in a large, wool blanket. I went up to him and asked him if he studied here and how old he was. He said he was brought here when he was two years old and has studied ever since (he is now 14 years old). He had just finished class and was walking around the temple. I noticed my friends has continued walking forward, so I smiled, thanked him, and told him to stay warm.

I found the group standing in front of the tower monastery. We all slowly walked in, in awe of the tall walls, the beautiful statues, and paintings that lined the walls. We all split apart and walked through the maze of hallways. I went into a center room on the second story and looked into the room of monks (a room we were not allowed into).


Playing Cards and Chatting with Each Other

We somehow found each other at the top of the temple on the balcony looking out onto Zhongdian and the mountains. A lone monk was looking off into the distance when I came up. When talking to the professor the other night, he said that in this culture, spiritual leaders believe that ravens communicate to them. I noticed that there were many ravens flying in front of the temple…maybe he was watching or listening to them?


Older Monk

We stayed up there for a while until we realized we had to get back to catch the bus. We walked through the maze of hallways and found ourselves back outside in the brisk weather. We walked to the front gate and took bus three back to the ancient town. Molly, Jason and I said goodbye to the Germans, while the three of us both planned to travel back to Lijiang together. We grabbed dinner and then went on our way to Lijiang.

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Exploring Yunnan: Hiking Tiger Leaping Gorge Day #3

Tiger Leaping Gorge => Shangri-la (Zhongdian)

After a couple hundred of years, the Monkey King began to get antsy about his position in life and the prospect of death. He shared his worries with his monkey brothers and sisters who suddenly became aware of the dreary fact. A wiser monkey spoke up and said that those who follow the Way (Buddhism) can become immortal and avoid the eternal wheel of death and reincarnation. The Monkey King was enthralled by the wise monkey’s explanation and decided to go on a journey to find an immortal. He set off the next day. For decades, he sailed across seas and hiked continents until he found a human woodsman that pointed him to a temple that hosted an immortal. When he approached the gate, the immortal was expecting him…

Dragon Clouds–Morning at Halfway Before the Hike

We woke up to find a stream of thin clouds hovering across the gorge. Molly mentioned that the stream of clouds looked like a head and body of a dragon. Later, when I was watching them float by, I actually saw the dragon too. We got breakfast with the group and then set off to finish the hike. The hike was pretty easy accept for trekking through a waterfall and a heavy stream of water.


Crossing the Waterfall


Taking a Break with the Gang

The Chinese family’s little girl, Cece, was the most adorable thing ever. She also loved to draw. I asked if she could draw for me, so she drew a chibi character into my sketchbook. I will cherish it forever. We finally made it to Tina’s Guesthouse where we would take a bus to Shangri-la (Zhongdian). The family and couple were going to Lijiang, but the Korean, Jason, would join us to Shangri-la (Zhongdian). Before taking the bus, Jason, Molly, and I took a hike down to the bottom of the gorge to see the cascading rapids. We only had two hours to do the entire hike, so we ran down the steep canyon in 20 minutes and observed the river.


River Dividing the Gorge

We heaved our tired selves up the canyon and barely caught the bus to Shangri-la. We said goodbye to the family and the couple and then got on the bus. On the bus ride, we got to know four vunderful Germans who became immediate friends. The ride was incredibly scenic and within an hour we were surrounded my snow fields and white mountain peaks. I could feel the drop in temperature in the bus! After the 3-4 bus ride, we made it to Shangri-la in time to find a hostel and then get some dinner.


Shangri-La Ancient City

I found a small restaurant that sold Tibetan food (which was surprisingly hard to find) and then ordered for the group. I was the most familiar with Tibetan cuisine. Afterwards, I met with a fellow Fulbrighter’s previous mentor in a bar. We talked about his life, research, and my own research and ambitions. He was great to talk to. His life was fascinating! He lived with nomads for a couple weeks in Tibet when he was younger and decided from that point on that he wanted to study Chinese culture. I plan to visit Shangri-la once again before he goes back to University and to meet his little son.

I went back to the hostel and got ready for bed. We planned to wake up early the next day to go see the monastery and then buy tickets back to Lijiang.

[I apologize if it feels like I am speed telling my experiences…I will add more to the posts when I get back from Taiwan]

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Exploring Yunnan: Hiking Tiger Leaping Gorge Day #2

A monkey was born from a holy rock in a flowery mountain. He grew up with the other monkeys and beasts happily playing in the forests and streams. One day the monkeys wanted to see where the origin of the stream came from and followed the water till they reached a waterfall. The holy monkey howled whoever is courageous enough to jump into the waterfall, see the origin, and can come out alive will be the king of monkeys! The others agreed, so he jumped in and found a spiritual home of stone creation where the monkeys could all live happily. He jumped out to tell the others of his findings and declared himself the Monkey King.

Molly and I set off late in the morning and casually hiked to Halfway House. We heard it was a great place to stay and wanted to check it out. It was only a two-hour hike from our hostel, so we took our time and ran into some people on the way.


Rainy Morning in the Gorge


Clouds Over the Peaks

We got to know a Chinese couple, Chinese family, and a Korean. We both hiked to Halfway and decided to stay and hang out with each other. We all got a bunk room together. When I put all of my things away in the room, I walked to the bathroom and saw this:

IMG_0431“We Came, We Saw, We Shat with a View”

We joined the father of the family and the boyfriend of the couple down into the fields below Halfway House.


Halfway House from the Fields


Sunset Seen from the Fields

That night, we ate dinner with the group and then stayed up late drinking beer and baijiu. We played Chinese, Korean, and American drinking games and had a blast. I didn’t get drunk from the alcohol, but from the fun atmosphere.

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Exploring Yunnan: Hiking Tiger Leaping Gorge Day #1

Dali => Lijiang => Tiger Leaping Gorge (hutiaoxia)

We arrived in the Lijiang Bus Station at 9:00pm, bought tickets for the next morning to Tiger Leaping Gorge, and went to a hostel some foreigners had recommended to us that night. We met up with two French men who were also going to the gorge the next day. We made plans to meet in the morning and set out together. We stayed in the North Gate International Youth Hostel, which turned out to be a really cool place. It was an old-style Chinese mansion with three stories of staircases that led to different courtyards and balconies. We were at the most top room which had six bunk beds.

While I was in my bunk, I pulled out my kindle to read “Journey to the West.” I am reading the English version of the original tale, which means its long and repetitive, but relevant to my trip. In the “Journey to the West,” the monk and his gang of comrades reach the Kingdom of Women (which is now the nickname of Lugu Lake, my fieldwork site). I want to read the original epic to fully understand their adventure to the lake and their encounters…but that means reading the entire 1,000+ page book. So, in these posts about my travels, I might throw in what I learn about the Monkey King and his adventures.

We woke up the next morning to meet ze’ French guys, ate rice noodles for breakfast, and then before we knew it were on the bus to Tiger Leaping Gorge. We zigzagged along mountainous roads, stopped at toilet stops next to cliffs where we were in cement squat bathrooms a foot away from the edge, and bumped along uneven roads. We finally made it and immediately started our trek.

Let me begin to say that Tiger Leaping Gorge was my favorite part of our trip…the pictures will show you why:


Village in the Gorge

We hiked with our 10-15 pound bags along the trail for a total of 6.5 hours. We started out hiking with ze’ French dudes for the first two hours and then split ways afterwards because they hiked with a faster pace than Molly and I. The two of us decided we wanted to hike the trail for three days, instead of the common two-day hike, so we took our time and enjoyed the scenery. On the trail we passed many hostels and villages and would follow the fainted red arrows that told us the correct path to take.


Resting on Rock Formations

It was breath-taking looking at these peaks.


Taking a Break after 28 Bends

This was after Molly and I hiked the 28 Bends, the most difficult part of the trail. We were very, very exhausted, especially since we did not eat lunch beforehand. It was a great feeling to get to the top.


[Insert Angelic Music Here]

After the 28 Bends, it was pretty smooth sailing from then on. We reached the Tea Horse in the late afternoon and decided to rest. We ate like queens that night, since we didn’t eat anything besides rice noodles and granola bars the entire day.


View of Sunset from Tea Horse

We had a very insightful conversation with a ex-game developer that night. Molly and I reminisced about the good ole’ days of playing Dark Age of Camelot in our parent’s basement and leading raids when we were only 12 years old. It was great to talk to someone that understands the field and even knows the developers of DaoC! Also, talking about mmorpgs made me realize how much I miss videogames and computer games…I’ll have a lot of catching up to do when I am back in the states.

We slept well that night and decided to wake up late the next morning for the next day’s hike.

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Exploring Yunnan: Two Day Trip to Dali — Day #2

We woke up the next morning and ate breakfast at the Sleepy Fish Hostel with Erin and her friend and then bought a late afternoon bus ticket to Lijiang before setting off to Erhai Lake. Since we did not interact with many people this day, I will just have a photo gallery of our bike ride along the lake:




Talking in Green Fields


Taking a Break by the Lake


Taking a Break in the Fields

[I was testing out features on my new camera]

Afterwards we grabbed a quick bite to eat (vegetable hearts “cai xin,” dried meat, and smoked glutinous rice with sweet sauce) and then hopped on the bus to Lijiang. We only stayed in Lijiang for a night and then went directly to Tiger Leaping Gorge the next morning.

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