Friday, January 31, 2014

Day 157 – Three Pagodas

Today we went to see a place called “The Three Pagodas.”  Around 800 A.D. they built these three pagodas.  Then in 1451, an earthquake hit the area.  It did a lot of damage to other areas, but the three pagodas still stood.  However, one of the pagodas tilted to the north quite a bit.  After a while it righted itself some and while it still leans, its not as much.
The Three Pagodas.  Our guide was joking and told us there were actually six... when you count the ones that reflect in the water...

The place west of the pagodas had many Buddhist shrines.

The tallest of the Three Pagodas has sixteen stories.

This is the leaning pagoda.  It has ten stories

While we were there, the Buddhist monks had started their prayers, so we stayed and listened to the chants for a while and our guide explained that there are three main Buddhist sects, or divisions.  Each of the temples that have been built in the area west of the three pagodas is for the different sects of Buddhism to worship. 
The largest shrine where they were praying.

This is the Buddhist goddess of mercy.  She has five faces to see in each direction and many hands to give help.

A view of the lake in Dali from the shrines on the side of the mountain.

This Buddhist god lets you know if it is a place where the monks can get food, shelter and pray.  The sword laying in his arms in this position tells us that.  If the arm was holding the sword in the air, they could get food and pray, but not stay.  If the sword or mace were being pointed down,  a monk could only pray there.  There are also women monks in the Buddhist religion, a fact I didn't know.

Buddhism has many different gods and each one is one a different “level” of power and they have different purposes.  It was interesting to have our guide explain about the sitting Buddha with the huge belly that many of us know as the “Laughing Buddha” or “Happy Buddha” or “Smiling Buddha.”  The purpose of this Buddha god is to take your burdens into his big belly so that you don’t have to worry about them and you can live a happier life.  He has big ears so that he can hear your problems and take them on himself.  Just an interesting fact that we learned.
Laughing Buddha.

After we were done at the Three Pagodas, we went to a marble factory.  They also had jade there.  We walked around and looked at many beautiful pieces that had been carved.  Then we were taken to lunch Chinese style again, of course.
Lily, our Chinese friend from Ji'nan has been with us on this trip.  She bought this ethnic outfit today at the market.  She looks great! 
A marble table that was carved with a lotus blossom on it.  Wish you could see it better.

Carved lions.  Right after I got this picture, the people in the store told someone else that was about to take a picture that we couldn't take pictures there.  Oh well...

The afternoon was devoted to free time, so David and I used the time to get caught up on the computer and take naps.  David feels the start of a cold coming on, so we felt that the rest time would be to our best benefit.  Several of the tour group have come down very sick, so we hope we can avoid it, but who knows.

Dinner was on our own, so we walked to the Old Town area and looked for a restaurant.  We met up with the Pace’s, and they had planned to go with the Clarke’s, so we tagged along.  We found a restaurant that served “American” food, so we ordered hamburgers, pizza and “milk shakes.”  Shortly after we had placed our order, Steve and Sue Schauerhamer came along and the came and ate with us.

David and I did a little shopping after that and then we had planned to go to the grocery store and get some things for a lunch tomorrow since our flight leaves about 11 and the airport doesn’t have any restaurants, but by the time we got to where it was, it had closed for the night.  We found a little bakery and got some things and then headed back to the hotel.

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Day 156 – Dali by Bus, Happy Chinese New Year!

Our tour guide gave us the morning off so that we could have some free time.  Some people went shopping, some went back to Black Dragon Springs and some went back to Old Town Lijiang.  David and I stayed in the room where it was warm and caught up on computer things and had a video chat with Caleb’s and Seth’s families.  We did run out to the store for some snacks to take with us because we had to leave at noon and there would be no time for a lunch somewhere.

The bus ride to Dali was about 2 and a-half hours.  Some of the scenery reminded us of Utah.  We also saw a lot of farmland.  The road to Dali from Lijiang had several long tunnels to go through.  I think they thought it was easier to build a tunnel through the mountain than to find a way around it.
Fruit trees in bloom west of Lijiang. 

This valley reminded us of Utah, except for the style of houses.

Farming in the valley and the terraced hillside.

When we arrived in Dali, we first stopped at a cultural tourist place for the Bai people, a minority of China.  They have a custom of three different teas that they drink and after we heard about the customs of their architecture, we went into a theater and learned about the custom of their three teas, well… we were told what was going on ahead of time, so that is how we knew what was going on since it was all in Chinese.  The show also had a lot of different ethnic costumes in it.
Examples of how they do the tie-dye (batik) in this area.  Some of the designs were seemed very complicated.

David standing in the center courtyard of a five courtyard home complex.  The Bai people had two designs of houses.  One had three sides that were dwelling and a wall on the east side that shaded the house from the east sun and reflected the light when it faded in the west to give the home warmth.  The five courtyard design had four buildings facing each other and a courtyard in the middle and a courtyard in the four corners where the buildings met. 

The outside entrance to a five courtyard dwelling.  The designs were set up so that the phoenix (a mythical creature that protects the home), then the dragon below it (also a protector) and then the elephant was below that.  I think the elephant on the bottom was for peace and prosperity in the home.  Also, if the phoenix was on the top, you ask the woman of the home for permission.  If the dragon is on the top, you ask the man.

This is a basket that is hung over the doorway of a newlyweds bedroom.  The chopsticks were a symbol that they were to get busy and have children.  The mirror was to scare away demons (if the demons see themselves in the mirror they will see how ugly they are and run away).  The round basket was a symbol of family unity.

After the tea play, we went to the restaurant that we were to have dinner in.  We were about 15 minutes early, so we sat at the tables and waited.  While we were waiting, some in our group had made up a song and decided that we wanted to give Marvin, our tour guide, a little gift because he has to be away from his family at the time of Chinese New Year.  We decided to sing the song and give him the little bit of money that we had collected from the group at the time we were waiting. 
This is a replica of the silver tea service that was given to Bill Clinton when he visited Dali, China.

These two girls were the ones showing the tea set to us.  I loved all the costumes of the local ethnicities they represented.

Another ethnic costume in the tea play.

Two more of the ethnic costumes.

Chinese New Year is as big a deal here as Christmas is in Christian countries.  They usually give gifts of money that has been placed into red envelopes to their children.  That is why we wrapped the money we gave to Marvin a red wrapper and gave it to him.  It was all pretty funny for us, but I’m not sure what Marvin’s reaction was.  It was hard for me to read if he was pleased or confused or embarrassed.

After dinner we went to our hotel to check in and then we went to walk around in the old town of Dali that we are very close to.  We saw a few fireworks before we headed in for the night.  We are still hearing fireworks going off and we expect that we will hear a lot more all night long.  Happy Chinese New Year!!

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Day 155 – Black Dragon Springs, Naxi and Shihe Villages

 Our tour guide allowed us to sleep in today, so we didn’t have to be out to the bus until 9 a.m.  That was a needed extra few hours of sleep.  We first went to Black Dragon Springs and walked around and saw how beautiful it was.  There was a lot more to see than we had time to see. 

Some of the traditional costumes of the area.  For a fee you could put on the costume and have them take your picture.

Black Dragon Spring just bubbles up.

We loved the blue skies and the mountains.  We are at an elevation of 7300, so it was pretty cold this morning.  It warmed up nicely later on and we could shed all our layers.
 After the springs, we were driving to a place where a traditional Naxi (pronounced nah- shee) village is.  The Naxi are the ethnic people that have lived in the area for centuries.  It is not a tourist place that most non-Chinese get to see.  We walked the streets and saw how the people have lived for a long time.  The buildings were old and the ways they did things were pretty much the same as it was centuries ago.  They do have electricity and cars to make some tasks easier, but they still grow gardens and raise animals the same as they used to.  Their clothing is still pretty much the same also.

An adobe wall in the Naxi village.

This is the area of a traditional house that they make tofu.  Except for the electric wheat grinder, they do things the old way.

A cow in the village eating on dried cornstalks.  
After we walked around there for an hour, we went to another place called, “Shihe Village.”  It is mostly a tourist trap that they want the tour guides to take tourist to so that they will spend money.  We could either walk the streets to the top or we could ride in a horse (pony) cart.  If you rode in the cart, you didn’t have to look at all the shops, but if you walked you looked at all the shops.  We elected to walk and just ignored what was in the shops.  We did learn some interesting things about the village and the way the people used to and some still live there.
This is the Naxi symbol for eternal marriage.

One of the shops in the Shihe village.

A mannequin in traditional dress.

The cart rides.  The horses were about the size of a welsh pony.

This is a traditional well in the village.  The top or first pool is for the drinking water,  The second pool is for washing the clothes.  The third pool is for scouring, I assumed is meant washing the dishes.  After that the water goes to water the gardens.

We went to lunch and then they drove us to the old Lijiang Village area.   This area was hit by a devastating earthquake in 1996 and half of the old town was destroyed.  They keep the Old Town Area for tourist to see because some of the buildings date back to 800 years ago.  The rest of the town is new and modern because it was rebuilt after the earthquake.  They did have another big earthquake here in 2008, but that one didn’t do as much damage. 

This area again turned out to be a lot of shops and restaurants.  We first climbed the steps to the top of the area where we could take pictures and see where the old area was.  After that, we wandered the shops and since we didn’t find anything that interested our pocketbooks, we found a McDonald’s and had an ice cream cone.
These ladies were walking around it traditional dresses.

The guy in white is their employer and he runs a restaurant as well as several shops.  He invited us to take a picture with his ladies.  He was pretty funny.

This is the old village of Lijiang that we walked to the top of the hill to see and take pictures of.

We were then taken back to the hotel and had a couple of hours to rest before a very unappetizing Chinese New Year traditional dinner.  We ate some, but most of us didn’t care for the dried baked fish or the pig feet peanut dish, or the cabbage that was so spicy it left your mouth burning for several minutes after.
This woman was wearing traditional dress.  I thought the head dress looked hot.

Since we had time to kill after dinner, we got together with Wayne and Libby Clarke and played games until we all knew we were tired enough to go to bed.
This girl was posing in the costume of the Miao (sounds like "meow") people.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Day 154 – Reed Flute Cave

They wanted us to be on the bus at 8:30 a.m.  We were disappointed to find that David’s iPhone was not in his suitcase.  We are still looking for it.  I may have fallen deeper in the suitcase than we looked or it may have been put in a different red suitcase (some of those with red suitcases will check their luggage tonight and let us know it they find it), or it was stolen.  We are still hopeful of finding it.

We had a two-hour drive back to Guilin and then we went to the Reed Flute Cave.  They have put lots of lights in this cave and also named a lot of the formations with cute names and then show you how to look for the animal or what ever it is.  They show a 3-D movie in the cave that represents the formation of the cave.  It was name Reed Flute because of the acoustics that make the traditional Chinese reed flute sound really wonderful.

Inside the Reed Flute Cave.
This stalagmite might become a column someday...

The Crystal Lake.

This was the flower garden.
This was the last formations they showed and the guide sang a song to us.

The next stop was the local silk factory.  We were shown the process that silk goes through and then given the big schpeel on how wonderful this type of silk was and you could get it for only…   We looked as quickly as we could and then got out of there.  Lots of beautiful stuff but the price was more than I want to pay.
When they first get the silk cocoons, they soak them, put them in water and then stretch them our on this form.  The original cocoon is only about an inch long and a half inch in the middle, but it stretches a lot!
This was a bunch of the silks together.

They take the silk and pull it apart until it covers a 6 x 6 area.  They pull it gently and use many layers to make a silk comforter.

We got back on the bus for the hour ride to the airport.  After we got out tickets, we had lunch at one of the airport Chinese food restaurants.  The food was pretty good there.  Then we waited for our flight.  We flew from Guilin to Kunming where we had a four-hour wait for our next flight to Li Jiang.  Lots of time to sit and wait at the airport...

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