Recently I discovered (via a co-worker) that there are approximately 4 stages of ‘acclimatization’ to a foreign country. Before somewhere can feel like home you must first experience prolonged 1. Honeymoon 2. Hostility 3. Humor & 4. Home. I feel like most days I straddle the line between hostility and humor. Every so often I get tossed back into the euphoric honeymoon stage as well…just to keep me sane I think. For the past 10 days I experienced nothing short of extreme lust at first sight with the South, Western province of Yunnan. It was the honeymoon all over again. Yunnan successfully preserved all of my favorite things about China, while getting rid of the “it’s funny the first time but not every time” moments (like when my taxi driver in the morning decides not to drive me the correct way to work and makes me 15 extra minutes late)!
Back to Yunnan. I think it may have stolen my heart. It was so different from the rest of China…not that I am an expert but in the past year I’ve lived in Dalian and visited Beijing, Shanghi, Xi’an, Harbin, Hong Kong, Macau & Guilin. All different places that share semblances to the greater China whole. Yunnan however broke all the rules. From Kunming with it’s sleeping beauty mountains, forgotten French industrial chimneys, short skyline and the best damn wine and Italian food in arguably all of China. A unique capital would be an understatement. To Dali, a funky mountain top town akin to the hippie west coast of Victoria. Here I saw dreadlocked Chinese men burning incense, smoking pipes, smiling casually and wondering the ancient cobble stoned streets in quiet contemplation and reverence. We biked, horseback rode and hiked our way West towards prayer flag strewn temples and through adjoining villages where the locals tirelessly dried and collected dry rice stalks and we were tirelessly met with genuine smiles and warm hellos. Here is my theory: People who live in beautiful, clean places are just plain friendlier. If you can disprove this, do it. The presences of Tibet/Buddhism here make itself felt subtly but unmistakably: like a warm wind or cool mist.
Still…a China trip would not be a “China Trip” without the typical China necessities. To cover these we included…
Exhibit A: Juicy, our tour guide. She earned this nickname from her baby pink, velor tracksuit with its decorative j u i c y rhinestones curving over her backside
Exhibit B: Dinosaur Valley (yes I saw real dinosaur bones and only cried once!) This was so full of China cliché’s it was enjoyable
Exhibit C: “Special Fellin” Yes we (my 5 travel companions) bought matching purple shirts. Yes they said Special Fellin on the front. No we don’t really know what that means…Chinglish for feeling perhaps?
Exhibit D: Best for last! The ‘tree-people village’. Did you know that there live nomadic tribal people in the mountain forests between Myanmar and Western China? That they practice cannibalism, walk on fire and wear clothes spun from spiders silk? Probably not because (insert gasp) they don’t exist! This however did not stop the government from creating a ‘show village’ where this darker skin minority demonstrated various components from their tree-people culture
In short: visit China if not for other reasons then just for Yunnan province.