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China

Cormorant Fishing on Erhai

sunny 68 °F
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After our tour of Dali, we took a boat ride on Erhai, which means Ear Sea (It's a very large lake shaped like an ear). They have regular tour boats with someone to help row (the guide does most of the work, although you're given a few oars for your team).

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This was our guide, a very nice woman from the Bai ethnicity. Their traditional work is fishing and farming in the area.

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And this guy was in the boat next to us--he had a lot of character. He kept yelling at the students. And then he would laugh.

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Our boat also had a 'steerer' who was dressed in the traditional Bai clothing. I think there's something about the long white strings from the hat that symbolize maidenhood. She also sang for us, and to my non-native ears, it sounded a lot like Beijing opera. So, you can see, I'm not a musical person.

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This area is famous for using cormorant birds to assist in the fishing. You may have seen it before on the Travel Channel or National Geographic. They use a small lasso hoop around the birds' necks when they send them out to catch the fish. They're able to grab ahold of fish that are bigger than their heads, but because of the tiny hoop around their neck, they can't swallow it. So they bring it back to the fisherman, drop it in his net and then he trades them a few minnows for the larger lake fish.

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Yun is convinced (and he made a pretty good argument) that the fish are previously caught (who knows what method), but the fisherman keeps a stack in his boat that he throws into the water right before he sends the birds out. Of course, this would make sense since the fish look like they're probably not moving of their own accord. The fisherman did a really good job of swinging the net around to kind of give the fish the look of movement.

After you arrive on the opposite shore, the guides take the fish (that you pay a few kuai for) and fry it up for you. It's a lake fish, so it may have been carp. It was pretty tasty and a really fun experience - definitely worth doing.

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There are also some farms behind the area where they cook the fish for you, so you can watch the farmers working while you eat. It was so beautiful and peaceful. Panorama of the lake:

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After that, we took a trip back towards Kunming, but we stopped at another lake (maybe just another side of Erhai?) and watched the real fishermen catch their fish. They were also selling them fresh off the boat, weighing them carefully in a scale that they carried with them on the boat. But this time, with no one to fry it up for us, we had to leave without tasting the yummy fresh fish.

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Posted by Blanchardlawn 16:52 Archived in China Tagged dali yunan Comments (1)

The Three Pagodas and Chongsheng Temple

Dali, China

70 °F
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Travelling through Dali was my favorite part of the trip through Yunan. Dali was historically the heart of the Buddhist area in southern China and still has a strong Buddhist community. The main site is the Three Pagodas, but before you get to them, you walk up through the newly rebuilt Chongsheng monasteries.

Here we are with our guide, who (I think) said he was half Han Chinese (the majority ethnic group in all of China) and half Bai, which is the main ethnic group that comes from Dali. He's the one holding the flag. The guy talking into the microphone is translating the Chinese info into Korean.

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All of the monasteries were destroyed by fire, earthquake, and war, but they were restored in the late 90s (finished in 2005). They did a pretty good job restoring the buildings and with the new paint, it's really beautiful, but it does feel like it's missing that 'historicalness' that the pagodas have. But the restoration is really thorough and the colors really draw you in.

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During the height of Buddhist influence, 9 kings abdicated in succession in order to become monks at the temple here. They were each represented by huge painted statues. Because the buildings are still active monasteries, we were asked not to take pictures, but some of the kings were pretty scary looking (wonder what kind of monks they became). Outside of the temples, there were these red and yellow flags. I was looking for some explanation, but the best I could find was that it was part of a 'wish tree' where people lift their wishes up. These ones were pre-printed and available for sale.

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The Three Pagodas were built sometime in the 800s and have survived fires, wars and earthquakes. In fact, the pagoda on the left leans pretty noticeably (but I also used a fisheye lens, so both towers look like they're leaning). Supposedly, they have little or no foundation which makes their survival even more extraordinary. During one Earthquake, one of the Pagodas developed a large crack, but then when the aftershocks hit, the crack healed and the pagoda remains today.

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Dali (and Yunan in general) is celebrated for it's farmland. These images (all but the first one were taken from the moving bus - sorry), really give you a feel for how the ride through Dali went. It was just one incredible landscape after another.

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Posted by Blanchardlawn 04:01 Archived in China Tagged temple three pagodas dali hdr chongsheng Comments (1)

Travelling Through Yunan

Jiuxiang Cave


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Right after the Stone Forest, we took a bus to the Jiuxiang Cave.

On the way, the scenery was beautiful and I got some nice images even though the weather was less than sunny and I was taking them out of a moving bus. I also got an interesting shot of some farmers walking alongside the highway. I have no idea where they were going because we were mostly in the farm country.

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It was a lot to see back-to-back, but as you can see, the views were incredible.

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Before you go into the cave, they let you paddle around in this gorge area that has been created by water running from the cave.

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They've really done a nice job with the lighting in the cave and it highlights some of the unique aspects. One of the best things about visiting parks in China is that they were almost all renovated in 2008 in preparation for the Olympics. But outside of the major cities, the tourism really drops off, so sites like these aren't overcrowded like they might be in the USA.

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Then when you exit the cave, you take an overhead cable car back up to the top of the cliff. Wow, the view. Again. Unless you don't like heights.

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Posted by Blanchardlawn 02:15 Archived in China Tagged caves kunming jiuxiang Comments (0)

Kunming Trip

Stone Forest

70 °F
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I'm finally getting to our trip to Kunming that we took at the beginning of the month. We traveled to Kunming with a group of 45 teens from the school. Kunming is in part of the Yunan province (much warmer and more temperate than the area we live). One of the must-see areas is the Stone Forest, a national park full of giant limestone formations (known as karst if you want to get technical). It reminded me of trips to national parks in the states. It's so amazing, that it's hard to appreciate while you're there. They taxi you from one scenic spot to another, but the whole area is really beautiful.

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Posted by Blanchardlawn 18:25 Archived in China Tagged stone forest kunming Comments (1)

Plant Store

40 °F

On Sunday we got a chance to go into the city to get plants. The kids are required to buy a small plant to take care of throughout the winter. It helps teach them responsibility and it also makes the winter a little more bearable to have some greenery inside.

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The plant store here is a warehouse divided into dozens of stalls selling all kinds of plant related things and the plants themselves. Some stalls have only orchids, some have succulents, some have pots and water pitchers. It's like the gardening section of Home Depot combined with a craft fair.

I just got a simple Sansevieria (or Snake Plant). In China it's called a Tiger's Tail or hǔwěilán 虎尾兰 or so Wikipedia tells me. Yun got a Bonsai kind of plant (no idea which kind of evergreen). Mine cost 15 kuai for the plant plus 35 for the pot. Yun's came potted and cost 160 bargained down from 180 (I'm a terrible bargainer, so any price break is better than nothing). Total, that's about $35. So now our apartment is looking much happier and our old Bougainvillea has some friends.

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Posted by Blanchardlawn 20:30 Archived in China Tagged stores Comments (0)

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