Flying high to Lijiang’s Glitterball

China is such a surprise. The people are so friendly. The place is clean with little or no litter. The infrastructure is excellent with wide roads and huge airports. Buildings and stores are the same as back home with the streets full of people of all ages wearing similar clothes and labels and designs as those in the streets of Oxford or London.

Now I have returned to Kunming, by way of the Jinping Mountain’s huge Smiling Buddha.

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It is a short flight to Lijiang, up in the mountains at 2500 metres. Firstly I travel out of town to visit Puji village and its 300+ year monastery.

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I move on to Yuhu village, set at the foot of Dragon Snow Mountain, where I have lunch in a small village eatery.

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Then it is back to enjoy the lights and glitter of Lijiang. The old town is wonderfully charming with narrow cobbled streets bridging canals, streams and gullies which flow in all directions. In the squares the locals, young & old, gather throughout the day, every day, to dance together; a cross between line dancing and slow, Greek wedding moves. A brilliant sight to see so much fun and togetherness and smiling faces.

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At night the glitter is even more sparkly making the old town feel quite magical.

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You’ll never guess what these lovely ladies are selling from their small counter – raw fish on sticks to eat as a snack as you walk through the evening crowds with your arm around your girl’s shoulder. The raw fish slightly spoils the moment.

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Double dose from the fire festival

After the welcoming ceremony the crowds squeeze their way up the narrow main street to have the communal lunch and then gather around the village square. Boy, do these Chinese have some kit – huge lenses, I phones, selfie sticks all focused on the, now hammered, painted lads who do a circuit, light a fire, sacrifice a chicken ( yes, truly) and proceed to the main hillside where the thousands gather to watch the dancing and enjoy all the fun of the fair

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The Fire Sacrifice Festival in Hongwa Village of the Yi People

This annual festival celebrates the first making of fire on which the tribes existence depends – for warmth, for cooking around for protection against wild animals. Up tho 30,000 people descend on this small village. After a welcoming ceremony there is a communal lunch, followed by a reenactment of the discovery of the fire when the local lads get painted up, and pretty tanked up, and parade semi naked through the village. The afternoon is spent watching a dancing competition between the girls and grannies representing neighbouring villages to win the covered’best in show’ prize.

I’ll let my images tell the story of the day, starting with breakfast in the early hours in the town of Mile.

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More to come soon.

 

 

The start of my China adventures

This is my first trip for a while and my first visit to China. I am really excited. I have lots of preconceptions about China, mostly formed in my youth, so I am really intrigued to see what it is like. I have come to Yunnan province in the south of China next to the border with Vietnam. 27 different ethnic groups live around here and many celebrate festivals at different times of year for one reason or another.

I fly into Kunming, the largest city in Yunnan. 6 million people live here. It is similar to many in China and South East Asia. Concrete slabs of tall, imposing, multi-storey buildings house shops, apartments, shopping centres, department stores & businesses. No surprise there then.

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The main surprise is the traffic on the streets. It is so quiet. The hundreds of scooters are electric and creep up on you quietly; most of the buses are electric so no noise there; and most of the cars are electric too, and so no sound from them. It all makes for busy streets that are silent – surreal and no exhaust fumes. Oh, the white sections of pedestrian crossings are purely ornamental. Traffic ignore any group of pedestrians trying to cross, who like owls turn heads 360° in an attempt to spot the speedy approach of packs of silent predators.

These living concrete blocks hide the heart of the city. It all feels very western with wide tree-lined, KFC next to McDonalds, Audi’s & Range Rovers alongside double decker buses, locals in jeans & smart coats. Open spaces provide room for morning exercise and recreation.

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The Bamboo Temple nestles in the damp mist amongst the woods and mountains that overlook the city giving the land and the people a spiritual & cultural framework. It really is ancient & modern living side by side, each giving reason for the others’ existence & identity.

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