Saturday, 30 April 2016

Tasting Tea

Drinking tea is a ritual in China.  When I was freezing cold riding down from Shangrila at 3500m to the start  of Tiger Leaping Gorge at 2200m, and there was fresh snow on the mountains - BRRRRR, I stopped at a petrol station for respite.  The men in the office inivited me in, made a brew and happily shared many cups of tea with me.  (The cups are small and you either sip or gulp in one mouthful)

I spent considerable time in this tea shop in Shuhe (near Lijiang) tasting different blends, quality and types of tea.  I left with "the best" black tea leaves from Yunnan - of course. 

The shop assistant (in green) had non existent English and called in the girl from the shop across the way to come and chat with me and explain the teas.  A fun way to while away the time.

Friday, 29 April 2016

Tea Leaves

One of the pleasures of travelling in Yunnan was tea.  There were many tea shops and hence tea leaves in Lijiang.

Thursday, 28 April 2016

Naxi Women - A Matriachal Society

The Naxi, are one of the minority groups living in Yunnan region and Lijiang is  home to the majority of the 320,000 population.

As it is a cold climate, they wear  many layered, wool clothing.  

Women  traditionally wear  a long, unlined gown and a colorful, embroidered cape.  Under the gown the wear trousers,  or as in these photos they wear an apron over the trousers. 

Blue is a traditional colour and many women had blue hats and aprons.


 A black sheepskin cape is a distinctive feature of their costume.  It  has seven round designs embroidered on it to represent the stars. White and black are the main colors. White symbolizes the sky while black the earth. 

"Together, the sky, earth and stars that are sewn onto the Naxi woman's cape symbolize the industriousness of the Naxi women."

Traditionally the Naxi were a strictly matriarchal society with the women taking the dominant role in business and society. This tradition has been somewhat lost in mainstream Naxi culture today.

As a matriarchal society, the Naxi take a flexible approach to marriage and partnership. Women typically live separately from men, and take several partners. They also bear full responsibility for any children born, with little formal involvement of the father.

It is not just the children that are the responsibility of women. Property and valuable possession too belong to the women, and titles and positions of power pass through the female line.


Wednesday, 27 April 2016

Black Dragon Pool

Officially named as one of the best view points in China, Black Dragon Pool in Lijiang was a pleasant break from the hectic pace of the old town.  The gardens were beautiful - it would be gorgeous in autumn.  Lovely reflections in the lake, but unfortunately cloud covered the Jade Snows Dragon Mountains in the background.

The pool takes its name from an ancient legend. It’s said that once upon a time there were ten evil dragons that terrorised the land. One of the Eight Immortals of Chinese legends, jailed nine of the dragons in a tower, leaving only the youngest black dragon. The black dragon was forced to protect the land to keep its freedom, and still lives in the pool today.

The pool is divided into two parts by a white marble bridge, and despite the water being connected, the sides maintain different colours and the fish on either side refuse to swim to the opposite pool. Additionally, the pool has never dried up, even during the worst droughts.

Tuesday, 26 April 2016

Chairman Mao

I saw the Chairman on my last day in China .  This statue stands in a public square in Lijiang.

I liked the contrast of Mao, arm raised in a salute, standing in front of three huge cranes - symbols of modern China.

Few people mentioned the Cultural Revolution, those who did were apologetic. It seemed like a chapter of history they don't want to remember - many of course were not alive at the time.

Monday, 25 April 2016

Collecting Wood

As I struggled up the steep road near the end of my Tiger Leaping Gorge trek I saw this man head downhill with his chain saw at the back of his motor bike and then come back up again with his firewood loaded on.  A lovely location for this daily chore.

Much easier than putting in a back pack and walking up a hill (KEV!).

Sunday, 24 April 2016

Tiger Leaping Gorge scenery was beautiful BUT...

I walked towards, then through this waterfall on the Tiger Leaping Gorge trek.  
It was beautiful.  BUT the second photo shows the pipes and poles and powerlines that were behind me as I took the photo.

Tiger Leaping Gorge is definitely not a wilderness experience.  There were pipes along the trail in different places, including a huge white poly pipe in one place running down the slope to the river.  For the first half of the first day there was a constant pounding accompanying me from a quarry or mine on the slope on the other side of the gorge and at one stage I walked past the factory seen in the photo below.

 The lower walking track along the gorge is now a sealed high quality dual lane road. Tour de France quality switch back roads are being built to the villages I walked through so tourists can be delivered in minivans - they walk around, admire the view, take some photos and move on.

Saturday, 23 April 2016

It was a goat track

At times the track through Tiger Leaping Gorge felt like I was trekking along a goat track - and then there were goats! The view of Jade Snows Dragon Mountain was always spectacular.

Friday, 22 April 2016

Rooms With A View

 Thursday night last week I stayed at "Sean's Guesthouse" at the end of my walk through Tiger Leaping Gorge.  Great view from the room.

The night before I stayed at "Come Inn" half way along the walk with another great view of the snow capped Jade Dragon Snow Mountains.

Wednesday, 20 April 2016

Circling the Stupa

From Shangri La I cycled around a nearby lake  called Napa Hai (pond and wetlands in reality).  I stopped for a break at this stupa in a village to watch this elderly Tibetan lady perambulate around the stupa.

Songzanlin Monastery - A Tibetan Monastery in Yunnan

Songzanlin or Sumtsaling Monastery near Shangri La is a stunning complex of temples in a stunning location.

Tuesday, 19 April 2016

What does it say?

My first night in China was spent in Kunming, unexpectedly as my connecting flight to Shangri La was delayed until the morning.
So thanks to the airline, I ended up in hotel somewhere in Kunming and ventured out to find some food.  

All signs were in Chinese - WOW

Confused, but hungry I found great street side barbeques and woks.
Spicy veges on a stick and a beer - all was well - no common language needed.

Monday, 18 April 2016

Shangri La - Prayer Flags, Yaks and Buddhist Monasteries

For the Pii Mai break I traveled to Yunnan Province in southern China.

It was amazing.  I had a great time, lots of exercise, much cooler temperatures and adventure.
I started in Shangri La, where I spent a  day exploring  the Tibetan Buddhist Songzanlin Monastery.

Can you ever take too many prayer flag photos?  My question of the day and following days.  You decide over the next week as I share some of my Yunnan experiences.

Saturday, 16 April 2016

Baci and the chicken

A baci ceremony (traditional Laos Ritual) was another part of the Pii Mai celebrations at school last Friday.  The village chief performed the ceremony which features offerings of food and whisky.  Apparently a "cock" is the normal offering, but as our director is a female, we had a "hen".  Check out the presentation!! - Yes you can see the hen's head.

The ceremony ends with each of us blessing (or wishing each other well) fellow staff by tying a cotton thread around their wrist.  
My wrist is wrapped in a dozen or so multi colored threads - and accompanying wishes are in my heart.
We had a similar ceremony at the start of the academic year

Friday, 15 April 2016

Friday Flowers

Dok Khoun, Laos for golden shower trees - Cassia fistula.
Flowers from this tree were used to perfume the water we threw on the kids at Pii Mai and were used to decorate the walkways at school on Friday.
Khoun in Laos means bringing happiness and yellow is all about joy and happiness and the flower represents unconditional giving - a lovely thought at New Year.  
Sok Di Pii Mai to all

Thursday, 14 April 2016

Miss Pii Mai

I don't understand the concept or the need for Miss Pii Mai, but regardless it was a feature of the Pii Mai celebrations at school and will be a feature of the celebrations in Vientiane.Some of the grade 9 girls dressed in traditional Laos costume and looked very  beautiful.  They led the Pii Mai parade and were presented to the audience during the afternoon concert.  

The director's daughter, Cassie, who is in Grade 11, wore a crown of flowers which I think meant she might have been the Queen.  Here she is with her father Brian who also teachers at school and is looking very proud in his Pii Mai shirt and the Pii Mai
white stuff on his face

Wednesday, 13 April 2016

Hawaii comes to Laos

Pii Mai shirts are not quite a fashion item, but are must have items for the wardrobe at this time of year.  They really are Hawaiian shirts  with a  certain Laos flair - especially when seen on headless mannequins lining the footpath in front of shops.

Tuesday, 12 April 2016

Sand Castles by the Mekong

I will be away from Vientiane (in Yunnan Province, China) for Pii Mai.  There will be celebrations here all week, including these giant sand sculptures on the banks of the Mekong.  I was down there during the week and witnessed the construction phase.

Monday, 11 April 2016

Dunking the Librarian - all part of Pii Mai


The Dunking machine was popular at the Swim Gala on Friday and also at the staff Pii Mai party on Friday evening.  The Director and the Principals had to have a go, but I really liked this sequence of photos showing Philip the Librarian going in - he has that librarian pointing of the finger thing happening, just before Tracy the Chinese teacher,  throws the ball at the target and in he goes. 

Sunday, 10 April 2016

Pii Mai Water Fights

Pii Mai is the celebration of Laos New Year and cause for celebrations and water fights.
When else is OK for students to throw water on teacher and for teachers to throw water ballons at students.
On Friday afternoon the splashing began with us pouring perfumed water,( with floating flowers), over students in our advisory, as a blessing and then descended into chaos - but fun.

Domo from Grade 9 is having great joy at throwing his bowl of water over a group of teachers - but Dirk in the green shirt does look less than impressed.

Saturday, 9 April 2016

The News

The Vientiane Times is the local English language paper.  It usually has a political article on the front page and seems to only have pictures of men in suits.  This article about Timor and Laos co-operating caught my eye as I read it in a coffee shop yesterday.
It also has "witty" headlines - as the one below - but nothing compared to the great headlines in the NT Times.   There is also usually an article featuring the work of an NGO.

Friday, 8 April 2016

Its hot

The hot weather has arrived. It has been on 39 most days this week.  BUT if you look closely it says it FEELS like  46.  It is very hot.
And if you look across the bottom you can see that it stays HOT all NIGHT.  It is very hot.
Even when we go for our morning training ride at 6 am it is still hot.  Forecast is for 27 tomorrow morning, but it felt much warmer than that on Wednesday.

Thursday, 7 April 2016

On the scooter to school - Part 2

Another mother taking her children to school on a scooter.  Not sure this would be allowed either.

Wednesday, 6 April 2016

On the Scooter to school

Would this mother be allowed to take her son to school on a scooter if she was in Australia?  No helmets on either of them and definitely no safety seat!

Tuesday, 5 April 2016

Pruning the basil

Modern tools can be found in Laos.  This man was diligently using his whipper snipper on his  basil crop.

Monday, 4 April 2016

Sunday, 3 April 2016

Mekong Marigolds

Marigolds by the Mekong  from our morning bicycle discovery  ride.  In the front there is a field of basil, and I like the village wat in the background - A typical Laos scene.


Friday, 1 April 2016

PechaKucha Night

Just back from my first PechaKucha evening. Japanese for chit chat, PechaKucha is a social forum for exchange of ideas, through 20 images, shown for 20 seconds each. (There is actually a PechaKucha group in Albury/Wodonga - not that I knew about it!!)

It was an inspiring night with 9 interesting and amazing speakers.

I am off to explore openstreet maps, no more google maps for me, 

as presented by Matthias, a fellow Team Dai rider who has used his 8 months in Vientiane to map many of the unnamed and not on google maps or a physical map, locations and streets in Vientiane. (Previously working in the Galapagos Islands, he mapped significant areas there too)

I have mentioned Tessa Bunney's before, tonight she shared some stunning portraits from Icelandic puffin hunters to images of Laos hill tribe women used for an Oxfam campaign.

There was a Japanese lady explaining her passion for Laos culture and coffee and a young Laos women who had studied in Australia and has just opened a cafe here.

Jana, from Atlanta, a teacher in the elementary school at VIS shared her iphone photography that she shares on instagram #RealLaosProjects.

There was a theatre director, a Laos film maker, an independent publisher, and a poem with images from a restauranteur.

Overall an inspirational evening.