LIJIAN, CHINA

Dad,                                                                                                    August 26

China is turning out to be wonderful and fascinating, though it is

also turning out to be the most challenging country I’ve been to. Most

people don’t speak English. Not that I expected them to, but mandarin

is a difficult language to navigate. It’s not only that I don’t

understand what people are saying, but I’m butchering the language and

they have no idea what I’m saying either. the tone thing is turning

out to be a problem. At the same time, its a welcome challenge. It’s

only going to get more difficult the deeper into China I get.

Yesterday I took a bus from Dali to Lijiang, another old town with

stone pedestrian streets. Unlike Dali, an ancient walled city where

everything was set out in a nice grid, Lijiang is a maze of these

streets about 2 meters wide. It is very beautiful. Unfortunately, it’s

swamped with Chinese tourists. Most of the streets are lined with

trinket shops and restaurants. There are so many I don’t know how they

all stay in business. On the bus I met a Chinese man named Leo, or

that’s what he called himself. He is 26 and has been working for

Panasonic, but recently quit and is on vacation. He is from Tianjin,

near Beijing. He spoke great English and I had an amazing day with

him. It turns out his real name is Wang. He helped me with a little

Mandarin and guided me to a day of perhaps the best cuisine I’ve had

in these last two months.

He helped me get from the bus station to the old town, then helped me

find a hotel. We stayed at different hotels, I definitely got the

better deal. I walked in and the room was very nice, nicer than I am

used to staying. I asked how much and she said 80 yuan, around 12

dollars I think. I said no thank you and walked out. There must not be

much business because as soon as I turned around she said, ok 60. I

took the room.

After we checked in Wang and I went out to lunch. He picked a very

nice restaurants and ordered. Three dishes came out and all were

amazing. There was Over The Bridge Noodles, which is famous in Yunan,

as well as two pork and vegetable dishes. The pork was more like bacon

and it was very tasty. He also ordered a local famous beer. It was

very weak, pale, and tasteless. But I said it had a ‘clean’ flavor to

be polite. It was also more expensive than the other beers I’ve been

drinking, so I wasn’t a fan. It had a great name though. Directly

translated it is Wind Flower Snow Moon. When the bill came he refused

to let me pay. I was very insistent, but he had the upper hand on the

language and gave the waitress his money.

Afterwards we took a couple hours and walked around the city, not just

the old city, but the modern one surrounding it. He was a fast walker

and it was good exploring with him. For dinner, he took me to this

little local noodle restaurant tucked into this claustrophobic spot in

between two tourist trinket stores. He gave me a couple choices, and I

picked spicy, sticky noodle soup. Turned out to be a great choice. I

had it with pork. The noodles themselves were rice noodles and

wonderful. The stock was probably chicken stock, but very spicy and

red in color. Absolutely amazing. There was also a beautiful girl by

the door singing. She had a wonderful singing voice and I really

enjoyed hearing her throughout dinner. He asked the family running the

shop if they were from Sichuan, and they said yes. I asked how he knew

that and he said the menu clued him off. I’ve also spoken to some

people, and Sichuan is famous for the best and spiciest food in China.

This restaurant fit the bill. Also, Sichuan is famous for its

beautiful women. Can’t wait to get there.

After dinner we went to a nightclub/bar and had a few beers.

Apparently in China, you order 3-6 beers at a time and pay for them in

advance. The waitress brings them to your table and opens one for each

of you. It’s unusual to order one at a time. In fact, the first place

we went to didn’t allow you to order less than 12 beers at a time! This

nightclub was having some kind of show. There were men and women in

traditional Tibetan dress and they were singing and dancing. After the

singing show, there was a coyote ugly type show where a man and woman

bartender did juggling and mixing tricks with the liquor. There was

fire breathing and fire juggling and all that fun stuff. Wang turned

to the waitress and asked what they were celebrating. Last night was

apparently a double celebration. It was Chinese valentines day. Also,

it was the 50th anniversary of the ‘rescue’ of Tibet. No kidding. When

Wang told me this I couldn’t help but to laugh. I wasn’t laughing at

the Chinese audacity, as I told Wang, just the cultural differences

between our countries and how we each viewed the ‘rescue’ of Tibet

quite differently.

I was approached by 2 Hispanic looking guys who turned out to be from

the Bronx. They were brothers and were traveling with their parents.

Carlos was 19, and Javier was 21. Their mother was Bolivian, and their

father was Peruvian, though they were raised in Mexico. Interesting

guys. They left for a western owned bar recommended in the guide book

called Sexy Tractor. We told them we’d join them when we were done

with out beers. I’m glad we waited because after all the shows, they

opened the dance floor and I got the best entertainment of the night.

A bunch of middle aged, pot-bellied Chinese men trying to dance with

beautiful women who were obviously hired by the club. They were so

awkward dancing to techno and club music. And I thought white men were

bad at dancing. The best part, without a doubt, was when a techno

remix of ‘We Will Rock You’ came on and they all started to sing along

and dance to it. Oh boy, it was a mix of karaoke and bad dancing. I

was thoroughly entertained.

We left when it closed at midnight and got lost in the impossible maze

of streets. It was actually more pleasant and beautiful at night. All

the tourist shops and restaurants were closed. Each had a big, red,

Chinese door shut over the shops at night, so there was nothing

touristy about it anymore. It was pristine. It looked like how I

imagined ancient Chinese alleys looked.

My bus leaves for the Tiger Leaping Gorge in an hour or so. I’ll

probably write you from there. If not, I’ll write from Shangri-La.

That’s my next stop. After that, the road gets a little rougher, so I

don’t know about internet after that. Talk to you soon.

Love, Alan

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