From “Circumcise” to “French hounds,” I present ten special moments from our recent trip to northern Yunnan, China.
1. The Meili Snowy Mountains.
One morning while staying outside of Deqin, we woke up to this:
After staring at the mountains while brushing our teeth and staring at the mountains over breakfast, we journeyed to a closer viewpoint and stared at the mountains some more:
Need I say more?
No, but I must share one interesting fact: none of the highest peaks in this range has been summited. Some teams attempted to climb these peaks in the late 1980s and 1990s. One team of 17 was completely wiped out by an avalanche and the other teams failed. This is fortunate for the local Tibetans who believe that setting foot on the highest peak, Kawagarbo, will cause an extremely important god, who dwells at the mountain, to depart. For the sake of safety and local spiritual beliefs, climbing attempts in the range have been banned since 2001. (via Wikipedia, here)
2. Lovable Translation Foibles.
There are many odd translations China, but this ticket to enter the Dongzhulin Monastery near Benzilan absolutely must be shared:
“Circumcise and Venerability: loud blatancy, romping and comments at will are NOT allowed.”
The more strange translations I encounter, the more I wonder if some twisted early China-hand wrote a Chinese-to-English dictionary rife with archaic word usage and sprinkled with blatant mistranslations (just to keep things fun!). If so, this dictionary, by all indications, continues to circulate widely in China.
3. Prayer flags.
Aren’t they much more lovely than the strangely similar, but completely different, plastic bunting that hung outside of every tire store in America during the 1980s?
4. Construction and Destruction.
North Yunnan is being crisscrossed with new roads. New roads on steep mountain edges. New roads on steep mountain edges with retaining methods that often fail. We drove around many, many roads half-covered with rocks and soil. This is but one example of a failed retention system:
5. The Way-Back Machine.
Water mills were dotted along many small, slopped roads. Stepping into one mill in-action, we witnessed a marvel of old-school, water-power.
Yeah, I know taking pictures of toilets in China has been passé since at least 1992, but I love this old-school squatter:
7. Fellow tourists.
Do not worry, I did manage to sneak in a few pictures of other tourists in, “I’m the king of the world!,” poses:
We saw lots of wild Snub-Nosed Monkeys near Tacheng, in the suitably named “Snub-Nosed Monkey National Park.”
9. French priest badasses.
In the village of Cizhong, which rests above to Mekong River, there sits a Catholic church built over 100 years ago by enterprising French priests. They chose the site as the next best thing to Tibet (which they could not enter at the time). More about the church can be read at Travel Cathay’s blog post, “A Catholic Church in Buddhist land.”
A side building of the church also includes a number of old photographs of the first enterprising priests. Rather interesting characters, who somehow brought massive dogs and French wine grapes to remote China:
10. Free Birth Control at the Airport.
Finally, if you need to stock up on prophylactics or birth control pills, please stop by this handy kiosk in the Shangri-La Airport.
If you want actual travel tips, perhaps you could buy a Lonely Planet (I didn’t, but thank you for getting me round India and Nepal in 1997!) or contact Songtsam (I did).
Also, for those waiting with bated breath: My child with a sensitive stomach was not carsick on Yunnan’s twisty roads. No, she kindly waited for the taxi ride home from the airport in Hong Kong to succumb.