July 20, 2012
There is more to see in Wuhan City, but we leave late in the day for the airport. Our luggage is already overweight. Vicki bribes the officials but warns us that on one of the seven flights we take, she will not be able to bribe the officials. It is only a short flight to Jiliang, pronounced lee-John. My suit case arrived crushed. They didn’t want to fill out the papers for insurance because it was already packed deep in the bus and they couldn’t see it. She bullied them a bit. Then they had no blank on their form for the color beige or plaid. It was taking forever and the whole group was waiting. Finally, I told her it was too much hassle, forget it. She told me the two clerks are afraid they will lose their jobs if they make a mistake. Our plane was late and Vicki called ahead to the hotel and asked that they hold the buffet open so we could have dinner. At ten p.m. we are eating roast pork and black sweet rice at the Grand Hotel.
It was all so delicious but the hotel sits next to a moat, and from across the moat come sounds of revelry, singing, talking and laughter. Lights reflect in the water, from torches and candles on the tables. People are having such a good time we want to be there. (The picture above, across from our hotel, was taken in the morning when all the revelers are gone.) The windows in our hotel have no glass in them. The room walls are so thin you can hear people talking in a normal tone of voice. The beds are thinly padded and quite hard with fluffy woolen blankets. The stars are out, the fresh mountain air wafts through the room and we quickly give over to sleep.
In the morning, Michal and I (and everybody else on the tour) want to explore this unique city, but we are hustled off to the Naxi (nah-shee) Dongba Tribe Museum. Our expert in this area is Wu. He has funny American expressions, like “shake the leg”, “let’s get rollin”). It sounds so out of place and we laugh when he says stuff. Jiliang, we learn is 250 miles from the Tibetan border, where we can see the beautiful Eastern side of the Himalayan Mountains.
The museum is particularly interesting because the Naxi people only had a pictographic language. Their tribe in two areas only numbers about 60,000 people. As young people grew up and learned the official dialect, their language was dying out.
The museum had much of their colorful textiles and calligraphy which they are noted for.
In the Museum store, this Naxi Calligrapher draws an expression for Michal which she had framed and it now hangs on her wall. The Naxi people are said to be able to place their hands into fire and boiling oil without injury. We did not see a demonstration of this but expect it is similar to the fire walkers we all know about. The Naxi raise goats and llamas and their beautiful weavings are unique.
Wu takes us to the Naxi village of Yunshangping, where the Himalayas hang over this magical little town. People here cook on grills outside. We are here to see the museum of a colorful anthropologist/botanist by the name of Joe Rock, but Wu says we will see it after we explore the town.
Just about every woman wears the same blue garb, which is traditional to their society. Vicki tells us they have become used to getting their picture taken-for money. So we should attempt to take our pictures indirectly.
A fresh mountain stream flows through the town. The water in our hotel was delicious and comes from the same stream. We were warned early in the trip to never drink the water, always use bottled water. But, I forgot the very first day in China and so I just continued to drink the water and never had a problem. I also ate the lettuce and vegetables they tell you to avoid that are rinsed in the water. If we didn’t have first class hotels, I might not have taken the chance.
Naxi villagers are great horsemen.
This gent is leading a bunch of tourists through town to head up the mountain for a trail ride.
Cute kids everywhere.
This older woman stuck her hand out for money when I took her picture, but I was quite a distance from her.
Then I caught her later in the day taking care of a group of kids, watching the horses go by.
For the most part, they seemed to ignore the invasion of tourists in their town.
Wu tells us the Naxi love their horses and pets.
They are very social with each other and do most of their chores outside, like this woman washing her clothes. But, back to Joe Rock. Wu first takes us to a house that is similar to Joe Rock’s house. It shows the way those with means lived in the town.
The average house here is volcanic rock and wood.
A typical Naxi house looks like this. It has three buildings, a living quarters, where people are standing, to the right, a storage building in the center, where corn is hung to dry and food stuff is prepared for keeping. Food for animals is also kept in the middle building.
And the third building holds the livestock. Naxi people were not friendly to outsiders before Joe Rock came. He spoke Chinese and gave them medicine, and over time, gained their trust. He was very fat and hired Chinese men to carry him on a special chair like some royal Egyptian out of a Hollywood Movie. He had a battery operated Victrola so he could listen to opera, and his own canvas bath tub. Rock came here in the 1920′s and lived here until the Communists took over.
The Naxi have eagles and owls as their protective roof decorations.
We finally arrive at Joe Rock’s house where the living quarters holds the museum, which contains some pictures of Rock’s work. Wu tells us, the people here are the museum. Joe Rock’s 400 year old house is owned by a dandy who is so obnoxious he doesn’t like to come. Just to look into the court yard, we are required to take his picture and pay him before entering this very small exhibit.
He is all dressed up in his leather shoes and white coat. The reason to come at all is because Joe Rock was such an important figure. He wrote several books about the Naxi while he photographed and studied their pictographic language, translated it into a written language and therefore preserved the culture of the old-timers before they died and the language became lost. He photographed their rituals and studied their culture extensively. Rock supposedly said, after the big depression, “Depressions are for industrialized nations, we don’t have depressions, here.”
There are some interesting stories about Rock at the above website and many facts in the wikipedia link about him.
We said goodbye to this lovely village, me wishing I could have taken a horse back rid into the mountains.
June 25, 2012
With my first digital camera, I visited China in 2006 , when China was in the middle of changing from a Socialist/market economy to a capitalistic economy. As a child, I watched a neighbor dig a deep hole in his lawn. Every few minutes, he’d say, “Look at this? He’d hand me a penny he’d supposedly found, and tell me “We must be getting close to China.” He regaled me with fantastic stories about dragons and castles and magic, all happening on the other side of the earth. Simple things that fostered a dream.
We whizzed through Beijing with 300,000 vehicles in a city of 13 million people. Fifteen percent of families now own cars that intersperse with weird motor driven carts piled high with goods, and 8 million bikes, motor cycles carrying whole families and buses and pedestrians all mingling in a way that you are sure someone is going to get killed at any minute. I saw a man carrying a baby high above his head as he squeezed between two moving buses. You just have to turn your head away. We stop at Tiananman Square, so huge it defies the camera’s ability to capture it. A flag pole so tall the flag can be seen all over the city.
Just like us, Chinese tourists, something new for China, have their picture taken at their seat of government, much like us having our picture taken outside of the White House. Sixty per cent of the citizens of Beijing work for the government just like the greatest percent of people in D.C. are under some kind of government employ.
The grounds around the building are beautiful where once there was a forbidding wall around the buildings and the whole city. Chairman Mau tore down the old city walls and built what they call ring roads to replace the feudal walls of China’s cities.
This is “modern” China. We were very quickly dispelled of the notion that we would see Chinese men and women in black sack pants and shirts wearing straw hats. This is the infamous square that led to student deaths in 1989, forever giving China a black eye over their aggressive policies. We are mobbed by vendors selling post cards. Capitalism is grasped very quickly.
We move on to the Forbidden City which was built, or finished anyway, in 1420. Eleven Emperors have lived in this multiple complex of 980 buildings between 1419 to 1911. It has 9,999 half rooms in the palace. Nine is the supreme number. Nine gates, each gate measures nine x nine. Our guide tells us that the Last Emperor, the movie, is very accurate about what happened to their last Emperor.
This is one of 18 water pots around the square, (a multiple of nine). They represent the 18 provinces. All must be in harmony.
Soldiers still guard the palace and live here. Notice their boots and shoes lined up next to their “barracks”. The living quarters of the Emperor is approached by a series of stairs and nine gates to pass through. Each gate is a palace with marvelous gold, jade carvings, incredibly fancy decoration as part of the building, with real gold leaf. The rooms that store antiquities are not lighted, tall columnar rooms, no windows. Pictures don’t reflect the glorious treasures inside.
It seems as though every inch of the building is exquisitely decorated like this mantel above a doorway. The complex is a UNESCO site.
My traveling companion, Michal Houston and I posed before this Chinese guard lion. His left foot is crushing some small creature, I think.
His right foot is balanced on this ball. I’ve forgotten the significance of this stance, and its meaning, but it is the same wherever these lions are seen. And, the dog-like face of Chinese lions was rendered by artists who had never seen a lion. They only had a description of lions from explorers/travelers who passed through China. I always wondered about that. Now I know and so do you.
The roof of the palaces are protected, as you can see. It seems a bit strange to us that the superstitions of old are still, if not believed, at least respected and revered. Visiting China helps to understand many mysteries about the Chinese people’s beliefs that hang on.
This little boy knows nothing of the Ming Dynasty, 1420 to 1644 or the Ching Dynasty, 1644 to 1911, or the turbulent history of the gate he is crawling through. Notice you step over the deep thresh hold as you move from one gate , then palace, to the next.
Aren’t they gorgeous? They are depicted along the walk to the Palace of Tranquil Longevity.
We see so much, it is difficult to take it all in and remember it all. The Palaces all have beautiful names, like the Palace of Heavenly Purity, and so on.
March 6, 2012
After visiting the Slaughter Ranch, Jim wanted to visit the small town of Douglas for several reasons. First, because when he returned from Panama in 2004 with his friend Bud Kuball, they exited Mexico with their motor homes at this portal. Back in the United States after 343 days.
It was late in the day when we crossed into the town of Agua Prienta. It was closing down and not very exciting compared to the others I’ve visited, but I enjoyed the idea of a sixth border crossing, especially this one that had meaning to Jim. Each crossing has something unique.
In enjoyed the series of ten tile mosaic figures decorating the walls of the portal.
It was a brief stop and back to Douglas a town that never had a major fire and now has 335 buildings on the Historic Register.
One of the old grand hotels still in use is The Gadsden with its sweeping staircase, dark wood, marble columns and mirrored dining room.
We had lunch and wandered around admiring the hotel and later the town.
The beautiful ceiling and chandelier.
Huge stained glass windows.
It’s kind of fun to step back into yesteryear and think the Slaughters must have come here for dinners with friends.
Douglas also has four churches on one block, each taking a corner. This is supposedly the only place in the world where that happens. First there is the Episcopalian Church above.
The Baptist Church.
And the Methodist.
The Catholic Church of The Immaculate Conception dated 1907 is on the next block over and visible from the Presbyterian Church. One can conclude that Douglas is a very devout community.
We walked around the older part of town and saw some of the historic old buildings with their fancy facades and charm.
The VFW we visited a couple of days ago was haunted. Tombstone Cemetery had several wrongful deaths. Many people were hanged in this part of the country.
The Gadsden Hotel is haunted. Hmmm! We must be getting close to meeting a ghost.
January 11, 2010
We watched the workers dip iron molds into a vat of wax and stamp the cloth. Many beautiful patterns find their way onto table cloths, jackets, shirts, scarves, handbags and just about anything you can make with cloth. I might mention that these many stops in our travels are arranged to educate us and to provide a “Happy Room” stop since we don’t always have convenient roadside rests.
We wandered the village and watched them at work and leisure. Some men were making sticky rice in an outdoor tub, a very muscular task. In front of another thatched hut, men were butchering what looked like a wild pig. Children run around with the chickens, dogs and cats and play happily as all children do. They are probably unaware that they are poor since their village is quite remote. Fruits and foodstuffs dry on the rooves, they have little gardens between huts and clothing hangs on the lines. Old men watch the village activities from their hammock or chair.
A simple life style, but it wasn’t always so. We are close to the Golden Triangle. Many of the hill tribes were induced by drug lords to grow opium. Not that they benefited much from the trade. The government established programs for them to benefit from legal crops and tourism, a safer alternative. The women danced for us with their children on their backs. Some of the mothers appeared to be 15 years old, children themselves.
The history of these various peoples was explained to us in detail. The Lishu, we will meet later at the Elephant Camp.
Our hotel today is a couple kilometers from an Opium Museum as we are at a beautiful hotel in the Golden Triangle.