Back from Yunnan.

If the number of photos we took is any indication (over 700) we loved visiting Yunnan (south-west China).

Shangrila in the north of Yunnan was once part of Tibet and the Tibetan influence is still strong: Beautifully colored temples/pagodas were dotted everywhere.DSC_1823

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The largest (and presumably heaviest) prayer wheel in China (above-leftt) is in Shangrila. We really enjoyed spending time here because it required a great deal of co-operation from numerous strangers to pull/push it around clockwise and it was a great deal of fun to be a part of it.

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Traveling comfortably on the local bus.

As with much of China, the march of modernism was evident with construction everywhere….

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Everyone seemed to be in the process of upgrading their already large homes to these massive houses (the people in the foreground will give you an idea of the scale). Apparently the old models – with too few windows – were too dark.

DSC_1777The craftsmanship involved in building these mansions is incredible… perhaps that’s why so few of them were actually completed (from lack of labour). I thought that this was a stark contrast to the  construction of many of the buildings of Shanghai which are kept together with layer upon layer of silicon (the repair ‘tool’ of excellence).

We’re going to blame the high altitude (3,200metres) for our struggle to climb stairs and ride bikes. The altitude was definitely the cause of us getting sunburned – we probably should have known better with the locals being so deeply tanned

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Yak yogurt, yak hotpot, yak cheese (above) and of course yaks!

On our way to our next destination – Yuhu Village just north of Lijiang – we visited Baishui with it’s unusual mineral terraces and the dramatic Tiger Leaping Gorge.

DSC_0013 The restaurant that we stopped at along the way was great: there was no menu and we were led to the kitchen to selected the ingredients that took our fancy and ….DSC_0060DSC_0062

….here is one of the dishes that we were served: courgette flower omelet….. delicious!

DSC_0145A friend in Shanghai had recommended a great B&B in Yuhu and we were not disappointed. It had been built (as was the whole village) in the local Naxi style – it was very cosy and familial…and the breakfast and dinners provided were delicious.

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Fried dumplings with local goat’s cheese and vegetable filling.

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The kids loved the horse riding around Yuhu and I loved walking in the mountains – despite getting a little lost.

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Lijiang itself was touristic but very pretty. Below some women are washing their vegetables in a community water source. It was divided into three basins: one for drinking, one for washing vegetables and one for washing clothes – all still being used today.

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Many restaurants served the local specialty, ‘Cross Bridge Noodles’ (a bowl of boiling stock into which numerous ingredients are added along with fresh rice noodles).

We then headed to Xizhou just north of Dali. We were actually fortunate to arrive as our bus driver was not the most serious professional I’ve ever encountered: after a small accident (which meant waiting an hour for the police to arrive to the scene and then after that, a visit to the traffic authorities – presumably to make a declaration. I say ‘presumably’ because there was no attempt at explanation.) he smoked cigarettes under the no-smoking sign, made numerous phone calls and even stopped to buy his favorite snack along the way. Despite all of his behavior the most surprising thing to me was the behavior of  the other travelers; rather than requesting explanations or shuffling in their seats, they were all busy sleeping, snacking or happily playing with their smart phones. Very zen.

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Local transport.

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Every gate-way framed a picturesque courtyard.

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Silk cocoons (and a cat!)

The market in town was fabulous, as was the one in neighboring Dali. A few of the common staples in Yunnan appeared to be potatoes, mushrooms and my new found love in the kitchen……

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… sichuan pepper. Below you can see it being dried on the side of the road (after sweeping it first as you can see in the background.)

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Here in the market place the delightful aroma is unmistakable.

Here the pepper is mixed with salt and other spices to accompany charcoal-.roasted pork beautifully

Here in a restaurant the pepper is mixed with salt and other spices to accompany charcoal-.roasted pork beautifully

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I liked the fresh green dates too.

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Oh, and like much of southern China, rice is an important crop.

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Fisherfolk in the lake beside which Dali and Xizhou are built.

Back to Shanghai – Despite it’s great size, China has only one time zone and so we really enjoyed having the sun rise and set later during our vacation.

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This week in steamy Shanghai.

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So this week has been spent showing Theo (Sebastien’s 17-year-old half-brother) around town . I took the occasion to visit a couple of things that I hadn’t visited yet (plus some unavoidable tourist sites) which included the Longhua Temple which is the largest Buddhist Monastery in Shanghai

 

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It was really quite beautiful. I also thought it would be fun to take the kids ice-skating (totally forgetting how difficult it actually is). Eventually though they had a great time and Blanche benefitted from her own private lesson when 3 teenaged girls took it upon themselves to instruct Blanche how to skate (clearly I was not up to the task).

IMG_4004I was also coerced into standing in a long queue in steamy heat to wait to visit the ChangFeng Aquarium. The kids loved it and I thought it was pretty good too. We also liked the huge park in which it was located….with it’s multitude of crickets singing loudly (the crickets suddenly started singing on the 5th of July precisely and can make conversation difficult!).

IMG_3969Shanghighs‘: We now have access to an out-door swimming pool downstairs from our apartment and the children have made use of it every afternoon. They have also finally made use of the toilet rolls I’d been collecting … to make pirates. Thank you Uncle Theo for your playfulness, politeness and patience .

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View from our new balcony.

The air quality this week was the best I’ve  seen since our arrival in Shanghai:IMG_3967

Shanglows‘: Without prior warning the Chinese population was informed that in the middle of the Summer vacation ‘A widespread flight delay is lasting 26 days in the below 12 airports during 20Jul-15Aug, 2014: Hongqiao, Pudong, Nanjing, Hangzhou, Hefei, Ji’nan, Wuxi, Ningbo, Qingdao, Lianyungang, Zhengzhou, Wuhan’. This is frustrating enough in itself, but the reason given could be considered frightening:.. ‘Due to military exercise’. We are supposed to be catching a flight from Hongqiao today for a trip to Yunnan (south-west China)….. we will see if and when we arrive…..

Shangunusuals‘: Rivaling the pyjama-in-the-street fashion, here is the common Summer-look of wearing T-shirts ‘half-mast’. Whilst I’m tempted, this style is reserved for young to middle-aged men only.

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