Family Reunion In Yunnan

Trip Start Oct 20, 2010
Trip End Feb 07, 2011

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Lijiang vacation home

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Saturday, January 1, 2011

In anticipating the arrival of Ling Ling and Srin, DiDi and Liz for our family reunion in Lijiang after Christmas, Ray and I left Luang Namsa, Laos and crossed the border to Jihong, China on Dec. 22. We took our first "sleeper bus" from Jihong to Mengzi – two southern cities in Yunnan.   “Sleeper Bus” is a popular way for long distance travel in China.  Each person has a reclining bed to stretch out.  It would have been a very comfortable ride except our trip was through winding, rough mountain road.  We bounced around the whole night and felt like we were inside a washing machine. 
Yuanyang rice terrace is a world heritage site and its pictures have been on many photography books and National Geographic covers.   Since it is not too far from Mengzi we decided to hire a car to see it.  It took us about 2 hours but the higher we went into the mountain, the foggier it got.  By the time we arrived Xianje, the town near the terrace, the fog was so thick we couldn't see 10 feet in front of us.  We met Mr. Tong, a tour guide on the street who promised that he could show us the rice terrace even in this fog.   He took us in a rickety little van a few kilometers outside of Xinje and "Viola"! there is the first group of rice terrace.   With the white cloud floating in front of the mountain, the view of the water reflecting rice terrace was spectacular. Yuanyang terrace was created over a period of 2000 years by the minority Hani people.   Even without the help of nice weather, I couldn't’t help but snapping picture after picture.   Mr. Tung said that the best time to visit rice terrace is around Chinese New Year.  I would need to stay for 2-3 days to get the right angles and sun light to take the best pictures.  This is definitely a place worth coming back to.  

 We arrived at our Lijiang vacation home in the early morning hour of Dec. 24.  We had a few days to ourselves to get everything in order before the arrival of the rest of the family.  Ray and I had our Christmas dinner at a traditional Naxi (the major ethnic group in Lijiang) restaurant.  We had free range chicken hot pot and it tasted better than any of the turkey dinners I made for past Christmas.  
We took a train to Kunming – the capital of Yunnan to wait for DiDi and Liz.  Train traveling in China is reasonable, convenient and usually quite comfortable on “soft beds”.  Kunming is the “Flower Capital” of China and 1/3 of flowers in China were distributed through this center.  While waiting for DiDi and Liz, we visited the flower wholesale market.  Although the weather was near freezing and the market was not at its prime, the amount of flowers at shops at the market was still impressive.  We specially enjoyed the wedding cars that were decorated with fresh flowers.  The patterns are intricate and creative; the dragon car was a popular request.  What is unbelievable is the price - $60 per car.  In American weddings, a bridal bouquet would have cost more than that! 

DiDi and Liz arrived from Hong Kong to Kunming on 29th.  This was their first trip to China and Yunnan.  Everything – food, people, scenery and even bathroom - were new experiences.  My friend in Kunming took us out for a classic Yunnan dish called “Cross Bridge Rice Noodles”.  It was made of very, very hot chicken soup and thin sliced meat, fish and vegetables.  The foods are dropped into the hot soup and cooked instantly.  This was the design by a loving wife who wanted to be sure that the meal delivered to her husband who was busy studying at the studio would remain hot and tasty even though she had to carried the noodles for a long distance and crossed many bridges.  DiDi and Liz spent their first day in Lijiang wondering inside the Dayan Ancient town.  Dayan was the trading center of the ancient “Tea Horse Route”.  There are many shops selling silvery jewelry, batiks, and local arts and crafts.  Sometimes it is overwhelming and one could easily get lost in the maze of the alley ways.  HM treated everyone with a special “Thai Hair Washing” session where our hair was washed and treated while laying down comfortably on a bed.  This session also included a soothing 60 minutes whole body massage.  This type of service is part of the attraction of living or traveling in China.  Everybody was totally relaxed after it.

Ling Ling and Srin arrived on New Year’s Eve.   At dinner time, Ling Ling handed us our surprise Christmas present – an ultrasound picture of our first grandchild.  We finally will join the “grandparent” club in July.  We all toasted for this great news!  At our Lijang apartment Ray enjoyed his 2nd 70th birthday cake, this time with the family around him.  Lijiang probably has the best January weather in whole China– it is cool in the morning and evening but warms up nicely when the sun is out.  We took the bus (for 1 RMB or 15 cents) all over Lijiang and stopped at the Black Dragon Lake.  It was full of local people out with family walking around and dancing in the plaza.  We took a day tour to Jade Dragon Mountain.  It was snowing a lot on top of the mountain.  At 4500 meter high, it was also very cold and we lasted only a few minutes outside.  This was quite a different scene then the beautiful snow cap mountain Ray and I enjoyed last November.  We saw the “Jade Mountain Impression” show created by the famous Chinese movie direct Yimou Zhang.  This is an outdoor song and dance performance with a cast of 600 Yunnan ethnic people.  Different tribes showed off their horse riding, drinking and singing skills.  It was a lively show in spite of the cold weather.  This show has been running for 3 years – rain or shine (in our case, snow) – without missing a day. 

We all flew to Xian to visit the famous Terracotta Warrior.   Even though this was my 3rd visit to this museum, the live like clay solder, with all the details of his hair style, armor, weapon and the horse and carts still brings thrills to my body.  It was hard to imagine the sophistic workmanship existed 2000 years ago in China.  Xian was the capital of 13 feudal dynasties dated back 2500 years.  During the Tang dynasty, a young monk Xuanzang spent 14 years walking through desserts, high mountains and vast uninhabitable lands to reach India.  He brought back the Buddhist scriptures and spent the rest of his life translated these Buddhist text into Chinese. The Big Wild Goose Pagoda was built in the year of 652 to store the Buddhist sutras and celebrating Xuanzang’s accomplishment and it still stands at the center of Xian city today.  Another must see in Xian is the Shaanxi History Museum.  It is one of the first modern Chinese museums that housed over 370,000 precious relics which were unearthed in Shaanxi Province, including bronze wares, pottery figures, and mural paintings in Tang tombs.  It was a great exhibition but since museums in China do not have heat in winter so it was really cold inside.  I think we would enjoy Xian more if we had visited this city in the spring or fall but not winter. 

After Xian, Didi and Liz flew to Shanghai and spent two days at my brother’s luxury apartment before returning home.  Ling Ling, Srin returned to Lijiang with us and spent a few more wonderful days walking and getting to know the town.  In the original planning, Ling Ling and Srin had wanted to hike through the “Tiger Leaping Gorge” - a strenuous 2 day hike up and down the gorge.   Given the delicate condition Ling Ling is now, they settled with a nice, easy hike up the Elephant Mountain.  Tiger Leaping Gorge would have to wait until their next visit. Two weeks was really not enough to see a lot in China.  We just hoped this introduction of China and Chinese history will be enough to lure our children back to China soon.   
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Huaxia Cui on

Hi Hsiao-Mei,
Very glad to see you up data your TravelPod, I am enjoy your family reunion 's pictures a lot. so happy for follow your trip. I wish you and your family have nice spring!

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