Wednesday, August 31, 2011


Our guide Wu pushed us to leave the quaint  Naxi village of Yunshangping and head  up the mountain to Hanzai.  The road is gravel out of the village but is paved as we near Hanzai.  In the middle of nowhere, no town, no warning, we come to a huge modern restaurant that Wu tells us is the only one that serves travelerson  on this rural  mountain road.
I grabbed a quick picture of a man adjusting his feathers, just because he was so exotic looking. Haven’t a clue who, what, why; no one near by to ask.  A five star restaurant in a place like this?  Obviously government run.

Under a bridge over terraced falls, locals are bathing their yaks in the glacial waters. Vicki okays a one minute stop for a picture because there is no place to park the bus.
The cowboys were quite laid back, taking a break, with plenty of watchers besides the few of us who got out and grabbed a picture from above.

Lunch time is in full swing as we arrive in Hanzai.  Braiziers and  portable woks  reveal a fascinating variety of  foods we don’t recognize and would love to try. One can’t blame Vicki, or any tour guide for that matter, to ask us not to eat at vendors like this because then she has to deal with someone who gets sick on the tour.

 Some of the foods are recognizable, but the hot pots with boiling oil, spices and chilis scenting the air mixed with a bit of burning incense wafting by?  You know you aren’t in Kansas.
I’m such a foodie. Oh how I wanted to taste the hanarabi made by taking a piece of flat dough with rounds of what looks like salami wrapped  inside of it and then fried in a wok that measures three feet across.  And boiled peanuts. Ah…well, its a good thing Vicki made sure we were well fed. The sights and smells really are an unforgettable memory.

This young couple appeared to be getting ready to cook duck for their lunch on the sidewalk.

But, we are here to see and photograph the mountain, and we load into a gondola in Hanzai at 7,800 feet elevation that carries us to a flat, beautiful meadow at 10,000 feet.

We take the boardwalk about a half mile through the woods and run into exotically costumed Naxi people from the Mossel tribe and they are not shy about  picture taking.

Since it is lunch time, these people appear to be enjoying a picnic on the grass.

We arrive at the meadow and see 30 or more kiosks and soon learn why these Naxi people are readily photographed.

For what to us is a small fee you can have your picture taken with a costumed Naxi with the beautiful mountain in the background.  Chinese tourists line up for the pose but our group avoided the commercialism and simply enjoyed the atmosphere.

Riding the gondola back down was particularly enjoyable for the  beautiful view of the surrounding area.

I talked to my gondola mate and she couldn’t understand a word I said. She spoke to me and I couldn’t understand a word she said. We smiled and talked. She accented to a picture. As the gondola nears the bottom it slows for the photographers to take a picture with their polaroids. They quickly lay them out so that by the time you get unhitched you can see your picture and buy it. I thought I’d buy the picture for my friendly companion. She held up a hand and said, “No pay!”  She bought the picture for me, instead. I was grateful that I remembered how to say thank you in Chinese. She indicated that I should walk with her and she took me to meet her daughter. Annie, it turns out, spoke perfect English. She was on vacation from San Diego. What a delightful exchange.
When I got on the bus, everyone was talking about the Chinese sex manuals. Sex manuals?  It turned out I was the only one who hadn’t seen them. One of my tour mates pointed at a kiosk in the bus parking lot. The bus was running but Vicky wasn’t aboard yet. I got off the bus and bought one. Tedd told me at dinner that night that some of the workers on board the ship had surreptitiously tried to sell him those same carvings. He didn’t buy and I did. We laughed. I was curious and obviously so was everyone else or they wouldn‘t have been talking about them. I passed them around the bus for everyone to see. They are 2 inch square pieces of bone joined together in a circle like a bracelet, showing sexual positions.
I complained about the pit toilets at the tourist center?  Oh, these were much worse. Thank goodness I’m a camel and could choose to wait until we got back to Jiliang.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011


Our tour is stopped in the Naxi City of Jiliang which is now a major tourist attraction for one major reason, Joe Rock. This morning, we are introduced to city guide Wu the local expert who will escort us to Yunshangping, the village where Joe Rock lived for many years. He came to Yunshangping in 1926.

His house is similar to this one. Entrance through a courtyard surrounded by buildings on three sides.  It contains garden plants, and hay for the animals.

The animals are housed directly across from the personal residence.

The middle building upstairs is like a granary, where crops are stored. Beneath tools, and other needful items are stored. This is obviously the dwelling of an affluent family. Joe Rock’s house is now owned by a “Dandy” who keeps up the house and a small museum with some pictures of Joe Rock.  He has strict rules about pictures. You pay for each one and he dresses up and poses in them.  I took one picture of him at Joe Rock’s house.

Perhaps in his own way, he is a colorful man for this area, but, Joe Rock was a legend. An American anthropologist/botanist who traveled and studied extensively in Asia.  He was the first Westerner to meet the Naxi. They were not friendly to outsiders but Joe Rock brought and gave them medicine and gained their trust.  He was very fat and he hired Chinese men to carry him on a special chair like some royal Egyptian out of a Hollywood Movie. He wrote several books and lived in this village for many years while he examined, photographed and studied their pictographic language, and translated it into a written language. He preserved the culture of the old-timers before they died and the language became lost. He photographed their rituals and studied their culture extensively as well as local plants, medicinal practices, their music and dance;  their textiles and calligraphy. His character is interesting and so are the Naxi. It is worth a look at this website.  .

Yunshangping sits below the Eastern Himalayan Mountains with a view of the snow capped peaks in the distance. Wu tells us the Naxi in this village do not like to have their picture taken so we try to capture them surreptitiously.

Most of the houses are made from this beautiful volcanic rock and wood. We are walking the main thoroughfare of the village which isn’t very big, guessing that maybe 1000 people live here.

This Naxi man is leading a Chinese tourist on a horse.

The bright blue cap and garb is traditional Naxi clothing worn by everyone.

A Naxi grandma surrounded with her grandchildren enjoyed watching  tourists like Michal, befriending this pony.

We saw many of these small pony’s around town.

A mountain stream runs through the middle of town, their source of fresh water.

We noticed a couple men cooking on outdoor braziers. The dog is very obedient and the Naxi love their  pets according to Wu.

Children play in the streets which see very little vehicle traffic. People walk or ride horses.

Clothing, washed by hand, like cooking, done outside.

We hated to leave this peaceful village, but we pushed on higher up the mountain to Hanzai.

Monday, August 29, 2011


On our evening walk yesterday, a point of land that is normally deserted was alive with activity. We walked over to see what the encampment was about.

The land here is part of the Swinomish Indian Reservation. Thousand Trails leases from them and all fishing rights belong to the Swinomish.  When we got to the top of the point, the fishermen were gathering in a huge net.

We watched for about a half hour as the gathered net got smaller and the pile of floaters got larger. They periodically tossed crabs back into the water that were caught in the net.

These two men pounded a huge stake into the ground to affix the next net being spread out while the fish from the first net were unloaded into bins on the beach.

All hands worked swiftly to free the fish from the netting and toss them into bins.

The catch is pink salmon.

It they happen to net a king salmon, like this prize, they set it aside. Maybe for the harvest celebration party. The Swinomish own a fish company and all proceeds are shared. This point is not the only spot they net salmon. The catch was not big this year according to one local observer.

This is a once a year event and we were glad we just happened to catch it.

The bin was loaded on a truck to be processed. From the number of bins, the work must have gone on all day. Then surprise, when we began our walk back, the tide had come in and we had to slog through water to get back to the park.
I will resume my China blog tomorrow.

Sunday, August 28, 2011


Correction. I’m working from my hand written journal from 2006, often writing during lunch or on the bus, or catching up at the end of the day. I identified a stop at a tourist center with pit toilets as the “new”  Wuhan City. It was not.
Our visit to the farmer was from the long bus ride  on the way to this 350,000 year old  Wuhan City.   More than eight million people live in Wuhan, about  the population of our state of Delaware. We see western imports,  Mc Donalds, KFC, Michelin Tires. People are more affluent, they drive Fords. This is considered one of the furnace cities, one of the hottest cities in China and very humid as well.  Vicki tells us there is corruption here, the roads have very poor quality cement.  People sell knockoff designer goods even though they face big fines. We spend the night here and catch the Wuhan History Museum and a dinner show.
In 1978, an ancient tomb was found here from 430 BC. The remains of the Marquis Teng.

Huge timbers from the tomb were still in incredibly good shape. Inside with the Marquis was the remains of 13 concubines and an array of musical instruments, zithers, bells with two tones, bronze utensils, flutes, drums and whistles.

The bells are set up to play in a structure.

The evening show featured a concert on a replica of those bells on which they could play Ode to Joy by Beethoven. Pretty sophisticated bells.
In the morning we get to the airport and find out we are overweight. Vicky bribes the officials and they let us on. She warns us that we will pass through one airport on this trip where bribery won’t work.  I report my damaged suitcase and the officials there will not fill out the form because when the y asked the color of my suitcase I told them beige plaid. They do not have the color beige nor plaid on their form.
The long flight to Jiliang  (lee-john) through several time zones puts us in the city at 10 pm.  The hotel held the buffet dinner for us. We taste fried milk and black rice, a wonderful sweet desert.

Our hotel is right in the middle of “Old Town”  a UNESCO site.  Hotel windows have no glass, the beds are hard wood with light padding and warm woolen covers.   You can hear people in the next room talking in a normal tone of voice. We are tired and sleep soundly in the fresh mountain air.  The next morning we wake up to this view of the town across the moat. Lijiang  is only 250 miles from the Tibetan border and is populated by the minoirty Naxi, (Nah-shee)  people.

After breakfast we visit the Naxi Dongba Museum. The people here are known for their textiles. Their language was originally pictorial and an English Anthropologist saved their language from extinction.  The Naxi people are known for their ability to stick their hands in the fire and in boiling oil. (Not a demonstration we witnessed.)  Apparently, an ability similar to fire walkers.

A tattooed Naxi woman weaving, a picture  from a picture in the museum.  We enjoy the history but prefer to get out and look around town.

This young vendor is making dough figures and stamps for sealing letters with wax.

Michal and I find a talented calligrapher and Vicky instructs him what she wants written on her piece of art. We will stay in Lijiang for a week and travel to nearby Naxi villages.

Saturday, August 27, 2011


I’m glancing back in time (before I became a blogger) to review my China trip in 2006, if you are new to this blog. We are lucky to have a very frank, honest guide in Vicki Zhuang (chung). I forgot to mention in yesterday’s blog that before we left the ship, she warned us that the envelopes left in our room for the “non mandatory” tip should not be used. Instead she gave us all the envelopes we wanted and instructed us to deliver the tips directly to the workers we want to reward, or not, as we see fit. She explained that the well paid managers take a percentage of the tip money for themselves and the workers get the rest. When Michal and I directly tipped our table workers, one of them broke down and cried, he was so unbelieving and grateful. So, folks, when you buy Chinese goods, remember how exploited the workers in this country are. And, if you go with a tour group, remember to tip directly.

We are traveling across Szechuan Province. From the bus we spot this fancy car with a wedding party.

Followed by the rest of the revelers in an open vehicle like a bus with a roof. City people are more affluent but Vicki tells us this is a poor province and reminds us that it is from this province that spicy Chinese food originated.

We see vast farmlands, rice paddies, people working the fields with water buffalo wearing the typical straw Chinese sun hat and black pajama like pants or more modern blue jeans. We see goats, chickens, dogs, geese and sometimes a single tethered cow. Clusters of villages with wooden or cement buildings, and a  few motorized tractors fly by. Vicki tells us that at one time this area of China supplied all of their food.  Among our group, we talk  about our visit to a city family in the Hutongs and wonder what it would be like to visit an unpaid family?  I’m elected to ask.  Much to our surprise, she instructs the driver to pull over in the next village we come to.

You can see the bus parked on the road in the background. Vicki stops at this building on the right which is like the community center for this village,  and asks if it would be all right for us to visit a local family. The building contains a small store, a barbershop and a meeting room.

We tried not to be too intrusive. I got a quick shot of a man getting his haircut.

I nee-howed  and waved at the men in the meeting room playing majong.

The houses on the street looked like this, close together, mostly one story. Their front yards are food gardens. We noticed spinach, chard, radishes, beans, cucumbers, cabbages, peppers and pumpkins.

However, the main crop of this area is cotton that we could see being raked on cement slabs in front of every house. Michal and I chose a small house next to this building and Vicki went to talk with the owner.  She consented to let we “big noses” visit her house.

She keeps a pig in her front yard which was in a very clean pen with no major odor. The pig is fed a fast growing water weed grown on a pond adjacent to the community building.

The rooms were very small and dark. The only picture I could take was out the back door where her storage room full of bagged cotton was stacked. One  bed took up the whole of one room from wall to wall. She cooks on a huge wok about two feet in circumference that sits on a cement column where you can see a gas fired burner. Implements hang from the wall.

Her house was neat and clean though she kept apologizing about how unkempt her house was, Vicki told us.

She allowed herself to be photographed with Michal and I.  She has two grown sons, both have graduated from university. One son works on the Three Gorges Dam building a silt collector. The other is an architect and works in Beijing. It occurred to me that nowhere in the United States would a tourist bus pull up to your house and even remotely expect anyone to allow a busload of people to tromp through your house. We tried to pay her and she refused the money, but Vicki insisted she take it.

As we walked back to the bus, I wanted to stop and take a peek into the store. This handsome gentleman was just coming out and I asked him, (indicated) I’d like to take his picture. Then I showed him his picture on the digital screen. The fellow on the right,  watching, quickly took my picture with his cell phone and showed it to me. I felt like such an idiot. At that time I didn’t even own a cell phone.