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CHINA - South/East (Chengdu, Kunming, Emei Shan, ...)

I have finally left the Himalayas behind. After sending my bicycle onwards to the New Zealand I had decided to leave Lhasa by a plane. Tickets out of season were discounted by 50% and so it was a good coincidence. For me it was a perfect way to say good bye to my mountain adventure and finally finish a half year of mountain exploration. The weather was on my side. Blue sky and amusing visibility were the mountains gift for my departure. I had all the Himalayas spread around like in the palm of my hand. Here I understood why they call the Tibet “Roof of the World”. To see all the mountains below is such a sensation, like seeing the ocean curved on the horizon. The only difference is that the horizon is disappearing in the endless snowy peaks. The perfect good bye.

Sichuan Opera, Chengdu
china-opera-performance-sichuanSichuan province is bordering Tibet and it has very old cultural background. It is mainly famous by its Tea. Sichuan means “four rivers” and yet many rivers are sparkling down the mountains through the province. Local cuisine is quite spicy, using lots of chilli and “Sichuan pepper”. The way of eating specific to this region is the Hot Pot. A big pot in the middle of the table, full of spicy broth and with the flame underneath. You cook the food of your choice by yourself in it. Climate is rather humid and it creates a grey overcast in the area. This is badly affecting the atmosphere of otherwise beautiful city, where the blue skies during the winter time are rare.

CHENGDU - I have landed in Chengdu, the city of Pandas, Sichuan Opera and also known as the “Tea Mecca”. Full with the Teahouses and excellent tea on every corner. No wonder I spent there, with some breaks, almost three weeks, being lazy, enjoying nice people, lots of tea and very good food. That’s what I call relax and recovery time after the mountains, especially after cycling in the Tibet.

Giant Pandas, Panda center - Chengdu
china-giant-panda-chengduPandas - (Famous Giant Panda) - Can be found in nearby Panda reservation. The Giant Pandas in its population of something like 1000 is one of the most known endangered specie in the world. They are living almost entirely in north and northwest of the Sichuan province and in a few centres around the globe. They are purely vegetarian (95%), eating several kinds of bamboo trees. From about 300 different variations across the China, they eat only 20 of them. Considering their size, they can consume an enormous amount of food a day. Something like 20kg. They spent around 15 hours a day eating and the rest they sleep. Almost symbol for laziness. They are solitary animal, getting together only in the time for reproduction. Very often they give a birth to a two cubs, but only one is to survive. With the care of the human in the centre, the numbers of cubs surviving increased a lot. It is unforgettable experience to watch their routine, way of eating and fooling around.

EMEI SHAN - mountain (3077 meters) - my most likely last proper mountain for a while ;)
One of the Middle Kingdom’s famous Buddhist mountains with many temples and monasteries.

Buddhist temple, Emei mountain

The Great Buddha, Lesham
china-lesham-great-buddha-statueLESHAM - The city of the Grand Buddha. It is 140 km south away from Chengdu. City itself is situated on the long peninsula created by a big river. Long promenade is lined with many small restaurants, where you can enjoy afternoon sun together with a great view on the river. It seems to be relaxed place, an easy hang out for a few days. I went there to see the Grand Buddha, which is the main attraction there. Though, I was not prepared to pay 130 Juan for it. It might be nice to walk in the park and then descend on the side of the Buddha, but I think the price is a bit overboard. Nevertheless, while walking through the city, we met a nice local guy - Peter - who had told us, how to see the Buddha just for two Juan. And it was exactly what I was looking for. Not only the price, but the location was just right for taking pictures. We took a ferry to a small island on the river, where the locals go for picnics. One of it ends faces the Grand Buddha across the river in 40 meters distance. So you get to see it very well.

"Yunnan province is situated in the Southern part of China and you can see influence of all the surrounding countries in it. It lies on the borders with Vietnam, Laos, Maymar (Burma) and Tibet. It is place of many variations - from Snowy Mountains in the North to tropical rainforests in the South. It is also famous by its ethnic minority mix. You can find almost 50% of China ethnic minorities here. And the weather is much nicer here then anywhere else, with a blue skies most of the year."

KUNMING - Yunan province, big modern city with great atmosphere and wonderful "Flover and Birds Market" - really original.

Dinner? - local speciality, Kunming

Contact Joggling, Huating Temple
china-temple-huating-mountain-kunming-contact-jugglingHUATING MOUNTAIN (Western Hills - Kunming) is visited by many locals but fortunately escaped the western tourist hit. Entry to the Huating mountain park is still free and you can visit its temples for a symbolical price of 5 Juan. Same price as the local people pay. I love this area very much. You can find there one of the most spectacular views on Kunming city situated on the other side of the lake and there is also a smaller stone forest in the on the top of the mountain and surrounding hills. You can simply wonder in between the rocks and enjoy anonymous spots with romantic views. Lots of people come there with friends, play games and have picnics. Great day out of the city. Easily reachable by a local bus or you can cycle there as I did. My best recommendations are to cycle in and then stay for a night in the local “villa hotel”, while exploring the surrounding. Out of season you can get generous discount.

Huating Temple, Western Mountains
china-kunming-temple-contact-jugglingA short history about Huating  Temple a very beautiful place: “Huating is named after the Huating Peak of Green Cock Mountain which belongs to the West Mountains near Kunming. The original location of the temple was the villa of a Dali nobleman of Song Dynasty 1453. In 1920, Master Xuyun, a very famous old Buddhist monk, who had been in Zhusheng Temple at Jizu Mountains, was invited by the Provincial Governor Tang Jiyao to take the position of Abbot of Huating Temple. Before the coming of Xuyun, the temple had been so poorly managed as to almost lie waste and was to be sold to some foreigners to open clubs, which had been approved by the local government. Xuyun was deeply disturbed and seriously worried about the future of the temple and he asked Governor Tang to prevent the illegal transaction in time. The main cultural relics kept in Huating Temple are 2 jade Buddha statues presented by Burman Buddhists, a gold-plating Buddha statue presented by Thai Buddhists, a copper statue of the Zhunti Buddhist with 3 eyes and 18 arms stored in the Abbot room, Buddhist Shrine of Master Xuyun, the steles cared with Lin Zexu’s (a famous poet and official of Qing Dynasty) and Guo Muoruo’s (a famous temporary writer and poet) poems.”

DALI - Beautiful city, place where the Daoism and TaiChi were born, ...

Unknown Soldier, Dali

JINGHONG - a capital of Xishuangbanna prefecture. It is situated on the Mekong river. Nice and relaxing place with cheap living and excellent food choices. It is easy to get around on foot or rent a bicycle for further explorations. The main change noticeable on the arrival is more humid, rather tropical weather and palm trees lining its streets. There are also two way language signs, both in Chinese and Dai. Dai language looks very curly, something like Thai. And indeed it is very similar to Lao and Northern Thai dialects. If you speak any Thai, it will help you to get around very well. Dai people belong to sect of Hinayana Buddhism and their temples are very different to those of Tibetan or even Chinese one. I spent my New Years Eve in Jinghong. After enjoying an excellent day out of the city and cycling alongside the Mekong river to Ganlanba. Later on I had lots of good food and drinks in one of the local Café Restaurants, celebrating with two German girls and two guys from Holland. There were a few other foreigners and some Chinese around too. Midnight brought cheering with a glass of a local beer and enjoying Chinese explosives. Later that night we all went on exploring the wonders of a Chinese disco. Fun night out.

Little puppies, Kunming

On the table - Billiard of the young age
china-mengla-jinghong-laos-crossing-borderGANLANBA - Small town around 25km from the Jinghong. It is quite an easy bike ride (2 - 3 hours) to this ethnical place lying on the Mekong river. Road itself is busy with traffic, which is a real downside of this spectacular ride. Otherwise you can just enjoy great views on the Mekong and surrounding hills. I really liked a Dai temple at the entrance of Ganglaba and wood carving workshop in its side. Some amusing peaces there covered with dust and spider webs turned this place into a fabulous photo composition. Ganglaba is also famous by its Xishuangbanna Dai Garden, where the “Water Splashing Carnival” is being held. Now as one of the major attractions, lots of nice and young girls (100 by the propaganda) are splashing and dancing every afternoon in the Garden Park. Other things to see in the garden are some peacocks, Buddhist Temple, Princess Well and many nice trees and flowers. You can also take a ferry across to explore other side of the river, small villages, ....

MENGLA - An uninteresting smaller city, but important crossing point on the way to Laos. From here you can get a local bus to Mohan and then cross on food to Laos or you can get on the so called “international bus”, which will take you all the way to Luang Nam Tha (in Laos) for 32 Juan. It is minibus, which goes once a day in both directions and makes the way much easier. Four hours later you depart to a relaxing cit of Luang Nam Tha. You can get Laos visas directly on the border.

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