Since my last post, I have:
– Visited the Xishuangbanna Tropical Botanical Garden, walking through an actual tropical rain forest on the grounds
– Traveled by car along the Mekong River to visit Ganlanba, a picturesque Dai minority township 1 hour away from Jinghong
– Substituted the car for a motorcycle taxi (called a “tuk-tuk” in Thailand and “auto-rickshaw” in India) to take a joyride through Ganlanba’s banana plantations
– Managed, again, not to fall down.
I also made my way up to the northwest part of Yunnan province, to Dali, hometown of WildChina’s founder, Mei. Dali is well-known for its distinctive Three Pagodas and the Old Town, characterized by cobblestone streets, old houses and Ming dynasty city walls. Situated between Erhai Lake and Mt. Cangshan, Dali offers some lovely views, which I was able to take in via a boat trip and cable-car ride.
More significantly, Dali provides some great insight into local Chinese life. Like Xishuangbanna, Dali is designated as an autonomous prefecture due to the large ethnic minority population. In Dali, the Bai people are prevalent. Given that the Bai are a deeply religious group, temples of various sizes can be seen everywhere.
What struck me in particular during my visit was how varied the employment options are for the people of Dali–and how hard-working they seem. Most Bai engage in farming, which was clear from the numerous workers I saw in the rice paddy fields. But I saw more than just farmers.
Pictured above are three distinct examples: I saw a young woman in Old Town working in tourism (note the Converse shoes); a man in Shuanglang Village making 2,000 coal bricks a day; and elderly women in Zhoucheng Village engaging in the art of batik (in this case, a tie-dying process using indigo).
As we drove out of Dali today, I commented to my guide, Huang, that there were people working everywhere one looked–even on a Sunday. His reply? “The concept of not working on the weekend does not exist here.”