Newsflash: Due to the advanced surveillance and satellite images provided by the People's Republic of China, backpackingbadger's exact location has been pinpointed to the Tibetan town of Shangrila. Reports of high-altitude wheezing and an unprecedented increase in inner 'Chi' continue to perplex local authorities.
So life is good in sunny then rainy, scorching then freezing China. I've met some pretty 'interesting' characters during my three weeks here - this is just a taster:
- Dr Ho. Yes. He really is a doctor and his surname really is Ho. 87 years old complete with a wispy grey beard, a hint of megalomania and a host of famous clients including the lovely Michael Palin - no less. He gave me a bizarre powdered remedy following a 10 second consultation and sent me on my pretty way...
- Rita. Think Ugly Betty then make her Chinese, add worse clothes (yes - it really IS possible) and even brighter braces. An incredibly sweet Chinese student who, when my Chinese language skills were completely failing me, took me under her wing, put me up, showed me the sights and even made me a thank you card at the end. What an angel.
- Shifu - or 'The Master'. A bald-headed, wispy bearded (yes, there generally seems to be a wispy beard theme going on here in China), billowing yellow cloaked Buddhist monk who just happens to be a kung fu legend, megalomaniac and Buddhist supremo all rolled into one...
- Two apparently harmless Chinese women with zero English skills (sorry, I forget their names) who forced me to watch a 45 minute DVD in a park on the subject of 'The Church of the Mother God' before attempting to drag me off to get baptised...
Leaving sublime Northern Thailand behind (And, sadly, those sexy motorbikes), I nipped through Northern Laos and managed to persuade the Chinese Immigration authorities to let me back in to China. Yunnan is a beautiful province with an insane amount of ethnic and cultural diversity - stretching from the muggy climes of South East Asia right up to the wild terrain of the Tibetan Plateau.
On a complete and utter whim I ended up staying for a week in Wu Wei Si, a Buddhist Monastery and martial arts training ground high up on a mountainside overlooking Dali. Starting the day at 5.30 waking up to the pleasant and soothing sounds of chanting monks was followed by a not-so-pleasant run to the river to fetch a huge rock which we then carried back on our heads... I spent the week learning Tai Chi and am now a complete pro at mooooovvvvvviiiiiiiiinnnnnngggggggg veeeeeeeeeeerrrrrrrrrrrrrrryyyyyyyyyy sloooooooooooowwwwwlllllllllllllyyyyyyyyyyyyy.
Next stop was the beautiful Tiger Leaping Gorge, a three day trek tracing the Yangtze river as it carved a spectacularly rugged and dramatic gorge right through the middle of the Yunnan mountains. Miraculously we managed to avoid the rain which seemed to be stalking me through much of the province and celebrated our achievement with a hell of a lot of food and more-than-a-few hot plum wines. Yummy!
I'm now high up in the Tibetan town of Shangri La, complete with fluttering prayer flags, cowboy hats, yak butter tea (YUK!), chicken monasteries and incredibly cute old women with plaited hair and rosy red cheeks. Must go, I think I can hear Mongolia calling me...