Lugu Lake

After a bit in Lijiang I was all ready to move onto to Tiger Leaping Gorge. Ever since reading about the gorge 4 or so years ago I have been waiting to go. But Olivia had other plans. She informed me that Lugu Lake was a must visit in Yunnan and if you leave Yunnan without going here you are missing out.

“Hmmf but I’ve never heard of this , aren’t you ready to go to Tiger Leaping Gorge yet??”

“No we are going to Lugu Lake and by the way, it’s about a 7 or 8 hour bus ride via unpaved bumpy mountain roads”

“行” (or OK , was pretty much all I could muster)

And with that we were purchasing our tickets and getting ready to go. Lugu lake is only 200km (120mi) from Lijiang giving the hint that the roads indeed are foul.

Lugu Lake is a gorgeous alpine freshwater lake located snug in between mountains. It is situated at around 2600m (8900ft) above sea-level. The lake is surrounded by pine forests and is one of the deepest freshwater lakes in China (#2 actually). This lake is uncontaminated and retains all of its natural splendor. Small villages dot the shore along with beaches , coves, a marshland, along with several islands inhabiting the interior. Half of the lake lies in Yunnan province and the other is in Sichuan. Geologists say the lake was created from a fault way back in history and water was trapped therefor forming the lake . Legend says that the lake was created from the tears of a rather promiscuous goddess who accidentally caused one of her many male god suitors to stay through the night hence losing his immortality. Pearls were thrown into the water which today are the water azaleas which bloom in the lake. You can believe whichever one you want. The lake is primarily inhabitied by minority groups , the main one being the Mosuo people.

The Musuo people are an interesting study as they remain one of the few matriarchal societies in the world. They are sometimes known as the Amazons of the Orient.

From Wikipedia

“Azu marriage is the way of living of the Mosuo people, and Azu in the local Mosuo language means “intimate sweet heart”. It is a convenient arrangement in which the partners come and go as they like. Three types of Azu marriages have been mentioned namely, the “travelling marriage,” which is marriage without cohabitation; and the second type is the marriage with cohabitation that have developed into deep feelings after living under “travelling marriage” practice; they then live together and raise children as a family. The third type of marriage, which is linked to the history of Mongolian people occupying Lugu Lake who inculcated the practice of monogamous marriage among the Mosuo people, is called as “One on one marriage.” However, in all the three types of marriages, women have the rightful ownership of land, houses and full rights to the children born to them. The children carry their mother’s family name and pay greatest respect to their mothers who in turn enjoy high social status.”

To actually make it to Lugu Lake first one must take a 3-4 hour bus ride to Ninglang county and then switch over to shuttle van/cars run by enterprising locals. Apparently a new road was constructed saving a ton of time but was contracted out to bad companies using crappy materials and after a year or two of use has been pretty severely weathered and has huge cracks and potholes(craters) so now the bus drivers still use the unpaved dirt road. This made trying to read the book “Shangrila” quite difficult.

Upon arrival at the bus station we found a shuttle van which held 9 passengers and the driver. Great not only do we have  another 4 hour bumpy ride ahead of us but now we are super cramped in a dingy van too. Oh yea and one more thing , for a small part of the ride I have to lay in the far back trunk space and hide underneath clothes and various assorted packages. Wait , what?? That’s right! Admission into the pack area costs 80rmb for non-locals and while Olivia looks local with her suntan and brightly colored clothes I will never be able to pass myself of as a local. The blond hair , green-blue eyes, big nose , and white skin make sure of that.

Three bumpy hours later we stopped in the middle of the (road?) and it was time for me to hide in back. We rode for about 20 minutes and then a stop again. Mission accomplished! This little game of human smuggling brought much amusement to all the other passengers in the van and once we were through the ticket gate/checkpoint I thought it was kinda funny also. Never participated in human smuggling before , cool.

Now that I could see again I gazed out upon the pine forests and mountains , after a bit more driving we caught our first glimpse of the lake. Beautiful , absolutely beautiful. At some points along the “road” we could also see rustic log cabins set amongst crop fields. My first sighting of log cabins in China! Looked just like a picture of the classic log cabins the settlers and frontiersmen built-in the U.S.  As we got closer and started to descend towards the lake we drove on some very treacherous slopes. Mud mud mud, steep slopes, and no railings make for a scared me. There were some construction projects, some bridges were being built to eliminate some of the crazy sloping turns and farther on the road was being paved. At long last we hopped out of our shuttle van and walked down the down to the village of Lige where we would be staying at and the shuttle van continued on its journey on a different junction towards the other lakeside villages. This village was the largest and most developed for tourism but there weren’t that many people during this time. Most of the buildings (but not that many buildings in total) here were geared towards the tourist industry , all were inns , hostels, restaurants , or bars. We checked into the hostel and then took a night stroll. The lights from the restaurants and lights on the path played on the surface of the water as went around. The rustic setting , fresh clean mountain air , lack of crowds such as in Dali and Lijiang, all combined to leave me content (even after that bus ride!) As we wandered around we also noticed an abundance of outdoor grills where you order food and then cook it yourself on a grill laid above burning wood. Wow this is gonna be awesome! Also there are very few foreign visitors( I was one of two) , at least when we were there. I ,myself, was somewhat of a tourist attration.

The next day we decided to rent bicycles and go for a ride by the lake. This ended up turning into a day long 56km (36mi) loop around the lake. The arduous trip around Erhai lake hadn’t beaten us down enough , bring it on lakes! It was a pleasant ride on open road (a few other bicylists) that wound along the shore and passed through small villages , a slightly bigger town ( you can tell by the cobblestone road) and alongside “The Walking Marriage Bridge”. After passing the bridge we made a stop for some street food. Grilled duck eggs , fried praying mantises, and some amazing clams or oysters grilled in their own shells with spices and cilantro. One of the most amazing street food meals I have ever eaten. We were surrounded by the village children while eating this meal and they were so cute running around being all shy when I would look at them or try to snap a photo. It took around 5 hours total to ride around the lake and we returned pleasantly tired and in need of a huge meal. We went to a really cool place called Zhaxi house or something like that. The Zhaxi house is a restaurant (self grill) and inn that also serve a pretty decent homebrew called Musuo beer , a strong alcohol made from corn, and we ended up moving from the hostel to this place. Cooler environment and more amenities than the local hostel. So I recommend the Zhaxi house , if it’s not called that just look for an older guy and his handsome son in a cowboy hat and people outside self-grilling.

After a relaxing day we talked to the owner about making it back to Lijiang. He made a call and we were booked on one of the buses headed back to Lijiang the next morning. It was a pretty uneventful bus ride back to Lijiang but Olivs started to feel a little sick. Upon making it back to Lijiang she informed me a next day bus ride to Tiger Leaping Gorge was not possible. I set out to find myself some food and returned to Panba hostel to watch some DVD’s. I started watching Dexter with an older American guy and immediately fell in love (with the DVD not the guy!!!!). But then not too long afterwards I got a rumbling in my tummy that slowly built as the night went on. I set out to the bathroom later and immediately unleashed my entire stomach contents into the toilet. It was seriously bad , like the Niagara falls but then as soon as that part was taken care of , I felt a rumbling of another kind. Immediately following I had liquid gold out the other end. As soon as I felt that was over I stood up and immediately had to throw up again and then more liquid gold. This repeated in a hellish nightmare cycle for pretty the whole night and the hostel bathroom become my new 12 hour home. Hmm let’s think back to the culprit, oh yes those wonderfully delicious clams (or oysters) from the day before. Wow that was first time I’d gotten food poisoning from street food in my 1.5 year stay here. Ouch! The next day was spent resting (watching more Dexter) and then finally the day after it was time to set out for Qiaotou and Tiger Leaping Gorge!

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Rooftop BBQ and Bonfire!

Wow like a blast from the past! Glad I made it to this party. My main dawgs Max and Lila told me about a joint amigos birthday party located on a rooftop , equipped with a big grill, and with a dj spinning some tunes. Sounded pretty good so after my part day of work (240-420 thanks to morning classes cancelled to a childrens’ day festival!) I met up with Maxy , Lila , and Oblivs at one of my favorite hangouts. An awesome import food and beer convenient store with awesome prices and outdoor seating to people watch and soak up the nice weather. After a view import brews there we went in search of some meat and veggies to grill. Fortunately Tianzifang has an excellent wet market. I don’t often go and visit the wet markets since the giant French supermarket Carrefour is only 2 minutes walk from my house and the nearest wet market is a bit away. These markets are awesome! Every kind of vegetable and meat available , fresh and cheap! Live turtles , eels slithering around , fish , caged chickens , and some kitties (not for eating) sleeping on the vegetables. We decided not to bring the typical fares to the party. The more ordinary boring  chicken wings(absolutely delicious wings) were combined with some squid , shrimps with heads (chinese style) and frog legs. Frog legs 18 kuai for 500g , squid 24/500g , chicken 22/500g , and shrimp 28/500g. All meats were marinated in amazing sauces yyyeeeaaa. We also met up with some ears of corn. After loading up on goodies we had to make it out there. Ughhh all the way out by Hongqiao airport,  Shanghai Zoo metro line 10 western burbs. There is a big expat grouping out this way in the suburbs. Its out of the main city and one can find nice villas and a more relaxed pace. Cool area but too far out of the city for me to live. I don’t wanna take a super long metro ride everyday to get to work.

Anyways the party was really fun. Very easy to forget what country you are in. People speaking English with all kinds of accents , hanging with Brits , Aussies , Canucks , and more. The party was on a rented rooftop on top of a 6 story building. Christmas lights ringing the outside fence , a giant grill , sound system , jacuzzi , and a firepit! I’m glad memorial weekend went down with some grilling even though no one was celebrating memorial day haha. From the rooftop there was a great view of the city center sprouting up , I could find the towering blue Renaissance hotel building , and a few other landmarks I can recognize. It’s cool to see how all of a sudden the city center just pops up with its towering buildings and lights.

I loved there because I got to have a bunch of things I haven’t had since leaving the USA. Here is a list :

1. Grill !!

2. Seeing a constellation! (We found the little dipper , you can see so few stars in Shanghai its sad)

3. Campfire!

4. Mashed Potatoes!

5. Delicious Bratwurst!

6. Corn on the cobb!

Yeeess the food was amazing! I do say the meats we brought were the best. Pre-marinated , seasoned, and spicy all the way! Some of the other foods seemed kinda bland without sauces and seasonings. The frog legs were definitely my favorites. Other peeps weren’t as down as we were , some thought frog legs were weird to eat but others tried and enjoyed. I’ll eat those buggers everyday!

The campfire was also superb. Sitting and getting lost in a fire was always one of my favorite pastimes back home and it was great to bask in the warm glow of a fire. Although the location on a rooftop with a megalopolis looming on the horizon was a bit different from the typical woodsy spot enjoying the fire was the same as always. Our Chinese friend Oblivs had never sat around a fire before and she was just as enthralled as me. Said it was beautiful. We also introduced her to the art of recon missions to find fun things to burn , cardboard beer boxes are a wonderful thing to watch go up. We also cracked some pyro jokes as we entertained the thought of having the deck chairs go up in flame. (not actually done but oh so funny). Left the place at around 130 am or so and had a long 42 kuai taxi ride back to my pad. Awesome that this long taxi ride with the more expensive night fares still only ran $6.50 . Alrighty kids I’ll leave you with some photos. I hope you enjoy all the memorial day activities. Don’t take those grillings , woods , stars , or mashed potatoes for granted! Some of us don’t have those opportunities as often as we like. Oh yea and go try some grilled frog legs!

 

Burbs

Sometimes it feels so packed and crowded up here in the central city district of Jing’An. According to 2003 statistics 320,000 people jammed into 7.62 km2 or 2.9 square miles for those imperial unit inclined. That’s why I always welcome a day of suburb motorbike cruisin beer guzzlin out in the “boonies” of Shanghai. I use the quotation marks because well compared with my upbringing in the suburbs of Cleveland (Mentor , OH ohh yeaa) i wouldnt call it a suburb. The super tall buildings , the hustle and bustle , and the mass of foreigners , is lacking but hell to me its still not a suburb.
Started the day out with the normal Sunday work out in QiBao (七宝) and then went to the Shanghai South Railway Station to meet up with my good friend Pan. Hopped on the motorbike ( man i really love riding those things! bicycles are awesome and suit me just fine for now but the rush of riding a motorbike is great) and headed back to his house nearby Xinzhuang (莘庄)。 The suburbs are so much cheaper than the inner city , what i pay for my share of a two bedroom pad in Jing’An District is what he pays for his whole two bedroom apartment . Got to meet the wife and kids. His daughter immensely enjoyed my dreadlockage and called me a  狮子头 (lions head) to her mama. Watched a bizarre really trippy kids educational show sipping a brandy while the lil cutie sucked on a milkbox. Good shizzle. After we hopped on the bike and headed out randomly into the vastness that is the outskirts of Shanghai. On this trip we headed south kinda along the southern extent of Metro Line 1 and beyond to the Metro Line 5 extension. This is wwaaaayy out of Shanghai folks. 33km from my house or so. I love the trips out here. Drinking with Pan is fun. It involves motorbiking to a grocery store , purchasing brew , driving to a cool spot , and consuming said brew. 6 cans of Suntory for 15 kuai and a spot in the sun in the middle of a random housing complex that has definitely never had a foreigner inside , especially not a foreigner with dreads downing brew cans. We found such a place in Wujing Town , Shanghai (吴泾镇) Took down the first six pack and went off on the bike in search of a WC. Found said WC bought some cigs ( not for me) got laughs from the store owner as we talked to his little kid in Chinese and then off to a grocery store for another 6 pack. Had a person tell us to go in front of him in line. ( We are again rare ! instead of just the normal weirdos in central Shanghai). Then proceeded to sit outside the store leaning against the wall to finish another 6 pack. Whilst leaning against the store talking philosophy the store next door , which happened to be a bar , (heya to being able to read characters!) opened up and we took a look inside. We were the only ones save the bartender girl and the next door neighbors kids , who were content to watch tv. Enjoyed a Heineken (喜力) for 25kuai . (Damned nice prices , usually inner city is 40-50rmb). Talked to her in Chinese for a while and then it was back to Pan’s house. After is a bit hazy but eventually i guess i was taken to the nearest metro station , had a long ride back to Changshou Lu (长寿路)and then a further walk back home , a brief stop for some fried rice from the street vendors and a pass out on the couch.
Getting lazy about writing but want to make a few main points about the day and the burbs.
1. I love riding motorbikes in the burbs
2. The burbs are much chiller than the inner city
3. In the burbs being a Laowai is again much different. People go  whoooaaa! again.

A is where I live , B is around where I went