For a little getaway, our waiban took ten of us foreign types on an overnight trip to Zixishan (I think I have that right, but I wasn't really paying attention) mountain. This involved a three-hour drive north from Kunming on the highway, then up a little road to a little hotel at the top of the mountain.
This is in Yi country, the Yi being one of those famous Yunnan minority peoples. After we got there we found a Yi guide who took us to a little camellia nursery, and after that on a long hike through the forest to a small but pretty waterfall. Since the concept of sensible shoes doesn't seem to have made its way to Kunming (or has found its way out, more likely) we had some members of the party hiking in high heels. Heh heh.
The woodlands were beautiful. This was my first time outside Kunming and I was delighted to be out in a more remote area. The mountain air was cool and clean, the woods were fresh, and I was happy. In most of the area the trees seem to be quick-growing yellow pines that had been planted in relatively recent memory. Janet Jamieson made an only half-joking comment that they had probably had to replace the trees that had been cut down in the Great Leap Forward, when much of China was deforested to fuel backyard steel smelters in a Mao-led effort to jump-start China's industrial emergence. You can read about it on your own, but it was a pretty abysmal failure that led to the starvation of a whole lot of folks.
We were the only guests at this lonely hotel (it's not really tourist season at this point), and more than one of us described the feeling by making a comparison to The Shining. True to form, we had a short-circuit in our room during the night and three of the rooms lost power for the duration. So much for the electric blankets! There was no hot water except in the thermoses (hooray for the Chinese thermos!), and all-in-all it was a pretty interesting hotel stay for a westerner. :-) Janet saved the day by bringing enough instant coffee for all!
In the evening, after dinner, our guide showed up and invited us down the road where the locals were having a bonfire party. Some of us trudged down the hill and partook in some Yi dancing and singing around the bonfire. Now I can add a couple of Yi dances to my store of knowledge. Unfortunately, there was no way to get any photos out there! Sorry.
On the way home the next day we stopped in Chuxiong city to go to a very nice natural history museum, which contained a whole lot of Yi artifacts and clothing. It was a gray day, and you can see a couple of photos I took of Chuxiong from the top floor of the museum.
The most interesting part of the trip for me wasn't really where we went, but rather the places we passed on the way there and back. So many rural villages, beautiful terraced farms in the mountains and valleys -- and I could stop and see none of them, and only was able to get a few meager pictures from the bus window which absolutely do no justice to the countryside. Well, next time.
|Here's a small village along the road to Zixishan. There were a vast number of these small villages, and this photo does not do justice to how beautiful they are. Hurtling along a Chinese highway, veering around trucks and other cars, does not make better the already difficult job of picture-taking from a car window.|
|Another poor excuse for a village photo.|
|Here's the waterfall we hiked in to see. As you can probably sense, it was a pretty nice location. Ummm... I just realized there's no sense of scale here. It's bigger than it looks in this photo, probably about 15 feet from top to bottom.|
|Anyone need to go before we get back in the car?|
|This is local legend Baotou ("Wrapped Head"), the offspring of a maiden and a dragon, who in this pose is, I believe, shooting his arrow into the emperor's palace. He was something of a troublemaker.|
|Oh, didn't I mention the monkeys? We are in monkey country! We didn't see any out in the woods, but there's a monkey cage out here in the middle of nowhere... and as you can see, it seems to be rather porous. In fact, many of the monkeys ran into the cage to hide from us when we showed up. These, as you can see, aren't exactly the shy and retiring type.|
|Cage? What cage? Where?|
|Then we dug out our crackers and had a REAL good time watching the monkeys run around. Monkeys like crackers. This guy's heading back up the tree after a cracker reconnaissance mission.|
|Here's a snap from the museum. There's mountains and stuff back in the clouds and fog, really. Of course it got nice and sunny soon after we left.|
|The creeping tide of modernity... can suburbs be far off? Actually, I think we have 'em in Kunming already.|