(photos from the Yunnan province of China, more here)

Still in China. Still trying to get a handle on it. Spent the past week in the Yunnan province near the Tibetan border. Climbed some mountains, wandered in the plateaus, got lost in fields, stumbled into an exclusive resort, met some nice fellow travelers, froze my ass off a bit, and wore myself the hell out. Here's another rundown picking up in Beijing through part of the last week:

- Parts of Beijing look like photos I saw of Beirut after Israel got done with it, completely devastated blocks that used to be neighborhoods. This is due to the demolition of many of the older neighborhoods to make room for ugly high-rises for the Olympics.
- Names of some of the rides at the Beijing amusement park:
* Superspeed Cool-Cool Bear
* Terrifying Waves
* Magic Holy Bird Frisbee
* Sea Panic
* Surprising House
* DJ Crazy Tour
- Dried Kiwi are really good.
- There is no hesitation for people to drive cars, motorcycles, or bicycles up on the sidewalk, so often pedestrians end up having to walk in the (usually large) bike lanes. A bit backwards, but very Chinese.
- I rented a bicycle for a day to reach part of Beijing far from the subway, it was a traditional Chinese cruiser, weighed probably 80 lbs, and had half a front brake. Hence my observation about pedestrians in the bike lane, kept the ride real interesting.
- Being a shy solo backpacker kinda sucks.
- There was a cafeteria-type place near where I stayed in Beijing. A full plate of whatever you wanted was 5 RMB (about 75 cents). It was really good, and one of the few places to get a lot of vegetables (man cannot live on meat sticks alone, even though my mom tried when she was here).
- The beers here are huge, and really really cheap.
- My last day in Beijing there were very strong winds blowing dust and debris all around the city. Hence you would see guys riding bikes with safety goggles and women with silk headscarves that had a light mesh section to fit over the face.
- Overnight trains have 2 classes, hard or soft sleepers. The soft are more expensive, so when I ended up having no option of a cheaper hard sleeper, I was curious what the difference would be. The soft seemed almost identical to the hard sleeper except there were only four people rather than six in the cabin, and they piped in elevator music. . . all damn night.
- If there is ever a need for a consultant on the least efficient way to do something, China seems to be training to be the top authority.
- I came across a bicycle-powered cotton candy machine in Yunnan. The guy running it stood next to it over the tin bowl on one foot while he pedaled with the other. The pedaling spun the machine while a propane torch attached to the frame heated the bottom of the dish and he swirled a stick around inside to catch the sugar fuzz. Pretty damn ingenious.
- Guys in China seem to like to wear suits, even if they are digging a hole in the street.
- While I was wandering around I came across a school yard where about thirty kids were playing soccer. I stopped to watch and was immediately mobbed, each one wanting at least one chance to shake my hand for some reason. They kept saying something every time they did, and all I can guess is that they were making fun of me.
- How awkward can a date be when neither of you speak the same language?
- Bouncing along to Kriss Kross in a weird Chinese bar while a competing live Chinese "polka" act (band would be misleading) plays in the same room.
- Cool tiny three-wheeled neon green cars in Zongdian.
- While I was doing a couple day hike in an enormous gorge, we came across this little old woman. She thought we were the funniest thing she had seen and would not stop laughing, showing off her smile wrinkles and the two or three teeth she had left. A bit later she caught up to me again on the path and motioned for me to take her photo. When I did she stared straight into the camera and looked like she was going to kick my ass.
- Q: How do you find the path on a mountain in China? A: Follow the trash.
- I ventured to a local market in Lijiang. I found the "meat section" and watched them slaughtering and cleaning various animals as they were purchased from their cages. There was one really small cage with four scared scrawny dogs in it. They were still there at closing time.
- While at this market I was staring at some black ducks in a cage, a man standing next to me lifted up a rooster and slit it's throat. In it's death throes the rooster splattered blood (and chunks) across my face. The man didn't seem to notice.



Does anyone know who sings this cover?
[updated] Apparently this was performed by Michael Idov live in front of a small crowd that included Lou Reed and Laurie Anderson. Anderson had this to say: "That was the most depressing song I've ever heard."

• Michael Idov - I Kill Everything I Fuck

A place in myspace.


  1. Wow, that was fast. Thanks!

  2. thanks for such beautiful pics and info...i have been keeping up with your blog for years, do not have funds for travel, live vicarious through your travels and appreciate them so much...would love to know about the spirituality of china, can you write about that or take pics? a fan from the west side of america giving thanks for the work you do!

  3. i love the monkey picture.
    are you going to bring him home with you?

  4. Officially China is a nation on aethiests. Traditionally China was a nation of Buddhists. As the gap between the younger and older generation in this country sits as blatant as a huge glowing pink gorilla, the reality that the official stance and what the younger generation believes are very much the same becomes pretty clear. We did meet some Buddhists, but only on the far edges of China in the Yunnan province. Most younger people don't seem to give a second thought to religion, or the traditions of their past for that matter. The new booming financial success of the country coupled with a one-child birth restriction has created a unique young population, some fear will be a generation of materialistic spoiled brats.

    Oh, and of course there's that whole Falong Gong thing.

    The monkey cost 500RMB (less than $70), but was not for sale to foreigners (we asked). Bummer. My roommate would have LOVED me bringing home a monkey.

  5. They also borrow the more pagan elements of Western Christianity...e.g., Santa Claus is omnipresent in December. As for the orgination of their Christmas Day tradition in which strangers beat each other with inflatable cartoon mallets, that's hard to ascertain.

  6. This is what I think about china:


    and I always will...

  7. I like the list-style. When traveling all these bizarre cultural differences and observations add up and start to take up too much space in your brain until its too overwhelming and you have to get them out of your system. Some people jot notes or talk to someone, even if they don't understand English, but most people just take a nap. I'm glad you take notes.

  8. yeah -- totally agreed with blaise!