Eight flights later, I’m back home in California. NorCal weather never felt so good before. I’d like to think that my Mandarin and Taiwanese have improved, especially with so many late nights spent in four different hotels watching brain-rotting amounts of channel [V]—but I don’t think I ever said much more than “how much” and “thank you” either.
To clarify, I did not go to Beijing for any of the Olympic action or any other major city to check out any monstrous architectural feats in the making; I went to Kunming, Dali, and Lijiang in Yunnan, a Chinese province near Tibet and Myanmar with 94% mountainous terrain and 52 out of 56 of the indigenous tribes in China. The scenic places I hiked and stone-paved old towns I rode through in horse-drawn carriages were nothing less than breathtaking. I imagined I was a trader traveling along the Southern Silk Road stopping at Dali for a few nights to absorb in the harmonious clash of cultures and people, before I passed on my goods to another horseman who knew how to cross the rockier, higher-altitude terrain up ahead.
Okay, so I wasn’t a trader bringing silk and tea to Indians in exchange for textiles and spices — I slightly-shamefully played the role of the tourist with my bulky SLR strapped around my neck, my safety pouch tucked under my clothes, and my wad of maps clutched tightly in my hands. So much for being brown-eyed and yellow-skinned. I couldn’t use any of the bargaining tactics my Taiwanese relatives taught me so well.
Upon arrival in Kunming (and China for the first time ever), I was struck with mind-numbing fear because the taxis lined up in front of the airport all had “prisoner guards” in the passenger seats and all the buildings were fenced off with barbed wire. I almost wanted to backtrack and fly back to Hong Kong or Taipei. Much to my relief though, we stayed at the best hotels in town and within the second day, we left the city for the hidden treasures tucked behind the rolling jade mountains (by treasures I mean caves filled with stalagmites and waterfalls and such). Without much further ado, I’ll stop talking and let my pictures speak for themselves.