Saturday, 29 November 2008

pink, fluffy nightmares of the soul

I set off to find transport to get to the border of China. Being a person who does not plan things too much that involved a little bit of walking aimlessly around, following conflicting directions from locals as to where a bus station might be. Eventually I find a place where a few vans were waiting to go out to the border, Boten. I pay for a seat in one of them and wait around for something to happen. There whilst waiting for something to happen I notice a young Chinese woman for some reason she caught my eye....... no, I was not particularly attracted to her just something about her that I found interesting that I could not pin point but it kept me watching, like a movie that you cannot decided if it is good or bad but you want to keep watching to see what the end will be like. I did not see the end to this movie past or present and I saw no conclusion to my interest here and now, so I forced myself to change the channel and watch something else instead, like crisp packets blowing in the wind, a dog pissing up the tyre of a car, a man kicking a dog!

I take a look at my watch again, just a few minutes advanced from the last time I looked; Ok then I carry on Chinese girl watching.....

So it was her who finally broke the ice and leant over my shoulder to look at the photos I was flicking through on my camera, she had sat down behind me on the same ride. She said something and I jumped slightly not expecting my personal space to be invaded from behind like that and that`s how we met, so we chatted and quickly caught up on who what where and why, it was an instantly open and comfortable encounter, she was a writer, of love stories apparently and she had been travelling around Laos and was now returning back to China with no major plan for a month or so and we seem to be travelling pretty much in the same direction, sounds like a good love story in the making I entertained to myself, but for now just happy for the encounter, again it was good timing not having been to China before I thought it could be nice to have local guidance for a few days until I get the feel of the place, and she appeared in the form of Watsumei. A bubbly, crazy, chatty, Chinese travelling buddy, and she was a real help with the language barrier for sure and a wealth of local information, sometimes its like something decides for me at times: OK now you need a translator and guide for this bit, and it invents a situation for me!

We travelled together for a few days and all was very interesting until one day she decided to buy a bright pink baby chicken, only one dollar she said.........hmmmmm OK ten out of ten for cuteness and weirdness but this thing became a nightmare, it just would not stop chirping, such a small thing how can it make such an annoying, ear piercing, relentless noise like that.

We decided to go window shopping to pass some time whilst we waited for our bus. It came with us chirping relentlessly; we sat and tried to relax and watch the scenery, it came with us and continued to chirp; we ate lunch it came with us, I put it in my hat, still it kept chirping and chirping and chirping. I tried to feed it, water it, stroke it, talk to it, begged it, and prayed to it to please stop chirping!

I put back into my bag and closed the top, chirp, chirp, chirp.....hang on why am I getting all the sibling grief here? OK normally when I meet a girl I get to carry bags and maybe have to put up with a bit of boring shopping, shoes, handbags, but now its chicken rearing!

I decided I would have to beak the news to her.

"Watsumie, know, you can`t keep it, you know, it`s lovely, pink and cute and fluffy and everything but it will drive us, no! it will drive me insane"

Her eyes looked at mine knowingly, something had to be done.

That evening back at the guest house it had been chirping itself into a small fluffy frenzy, Jesus what to do with this thing? I scooped it up in my hands and quickly ran round to the room next to us and introduce myself to two European girls.

" Hi girls. Look what I have its the ideal travelling accessory, cute and pink isn`t it ?

Look you know we are in a hurry and need someone we can trust to take care of this special pink its yours take it. thank you, goodnight......

Woooosh……I was out of there hoping it would appeal to their fluffy, pink compartment of their brains.......but, oh no, two minutes later, knock way, chirp, chirp, chirp, chirp.....arrrrgh this is like some twisted, tweety pie Halloween night special, it was back....... this thing is going to send me over the edge......I thought about it for a moment, but then I realised I had no more sleeping pills left!

Finally Watsumei took on her part of the parental role and took it to the guest house owner as she noticed they had kids so either it will get hugged to death or annoy them so much it will end up in some Chinese won ton soup.

Crazy Chinese girl, dazed, pink feathers of the mind as I float upon impossible impassible roads to Lhasa.

I meditate upon the journey ahead, over a thousand kilometers of uncertainty. We go to Kunming tomorrow and meet up with some of Watsumeis friends, wondering if this will be a wise move as I might be seriously outnumbered and risk being drown in a sea of 1 dollar multicolored chirping frenzy of avian fledglings!

From now on the way ahead is going to get colder, and crazier maybe! but I got to go with this crazy Chinese roller coaster ride. This is what it was all about, the uncertainty, the adventure.

We book our tickets to Dali, 17 hour bus ride from here to the higher altitudes of the north west, then after there I plan to get to Shangri-La and check out the possibilities of getting a bus ride to Lhasa, but speaking to many people now they are all shaking their heads and telling me things that I don`t want to hear, for a foreigner travelling alone, no way. Its impossible they say, you have to sign up for a tour, join a group and pay silly money, no way not for me I go with the one bit of advice which was to just jump onto a bus and play dumb if anyone asks you any questions....yeah that`s more like my style, I'll just wing it! Just have to get as far as I can and see how the land lies when I get there, or I`ll just walk....

I stayed a total of 2 nights in Dali, leaving with memories of strange relations and stranger nights in dizzy Chinese bars.
It seems a very easy place here to get caught up into the night life, rich with Chinese culture, visual stimulation and everyone is so laid back, relaxed, happy, friendly, smiling, smiling, smiling and........ stoned......... all the time, its hard not to appear or feel a little uptight compared to these spaced out star children 60s flashbacks.
I have to admit I had my one night of weakness, feeling a little lonely after being blown out by Watsumei for reasons I never really got to the bottom of, just another movie I guess that I did not get to see the end of. In the end I presumed it to be some sort of post chicken depression, pah......! so I left her with her friends and I came across a bar where I had been in the previous night and met the owner, another, bubbly, chatty, smiley, crazy Chinese woman of colorful character, but more importantly she had no chickens!

I walked in to a empty bar that night where I saw she was sat alone, so I casually sat down at the same table, she looked up and instantly went into over animation mode, one of these people who just speak exactly what is happening in their mind without any filtering taking place. I like this and so consequentially we chatted, joked, laughed, and talked and also with her mother who then went off and cooked us all food. We ate, talked, laughed then out came the red wine...oh oh, that red devil, my brain tried to warn me but by this time my lower brain was not listening, he was too caught up with the atmosphere and feeling fully immersed in Chinese culture and fantasizing about a little Chinese romance. A little more wine maybe? An internal voice said, another spliff maybe? no, no, no, no......and no, I mean errr, I shouldn`t.

Now I have Satan on one shoulder and my guardian angel on the other, Have a joint, drink some wine, its just a bit of fun, go on what`s the harm?

The other angel tells me I will regret it tomorrow and that I will end up losing control, getting totally drunk and waking up with a bad head and most of my money missing along with important parts of my already limited memory!

I stopped and thought for a least a second about it all.

Hmmmmm morality, responsibility? arrrrrrrr it was too difficult to think right now, so I let my lower brain take me to Shangri-La......take me to Shangri-La la la laal alaaal alalaaa.

Another bottle of wine, another spliff...that guardian angel now a distant echo overpowered by the heady atmosphere, laughing and joking....that red faced devil now taking a full, front seat, fuel injected highway ride to hell......ha ha haaaaaa!Well hell is alright after all! I think to myself, at least it will be warm, the wine is good, this spliff is making me smile like a Chinese Cheshire cat and this Asian demoness looks harmless enough, we just having fun, she`s cute, funny, happy, good body .......hmmmmmmm its been a while you know, good body language going on, or is it just the red wine in my head?...... I cant tell, wooooh hey! I got to stop talking to myself now she might notice.

Ok dancing now flowing with the music in a completely empty bar deep inside China just the two of us, I watch her and realize she is completely hat stand crazy, Lucy in the sky gone with diamonds......and she`s gone, gone, gone..........I take a mental photograph and save it for later, just too weird at the moment to think about it all, then I select some more songs and turn the music up full, we both explore these vibrations our bodies dancing, testing each others space, she`s like some feline shadow, shifting from woman to cat, twisting, purrring, hmmmmmm.......Meeeeooow she says, and grabs my arm

"we go party now, you be my party buddy for tonight"

I follow her out into the street and enter another bar now feeling a little out of my comfort zone as I walk around a little dazed amongst the purple haze and slanted eyes, I suddenly find myself wanting to be somewhere else, maybe an internal warning bell or some other unfair instinct decided it was time to go. I quickly come round to my senses something tells me to abort, to get out.....I discretely left along with my remaining brain cells and left her there as a pleasant memory of laughing and dancing with someone I hardly new but the warmth will remain with me forever, very hard not to respond to such open people, it felt good and I survived another day.

The following day I moved on, eager to make progress northwards to arrive in Lijiang. Within its busy city lies the old part of town consisting of a maze of ancient buildings, mostly now souvenir shops, restaurants and rustic fairy tale guest houses, a real party for the eyes to feast upon being at its best at night illuminated, kaleidoscope of colors and movement, Chinese lanterns and attractive displays of fresh food, a real walk through fairy tale town, and yes lots of those damn Chinese bars.
I climbed up the nearest hill to get a better view of the surroundings and mapped it all in my mind. Tiger leaping Gorge was about 3 hours from here, I had heard about this and decided it would be a nice place to start walking where the Himalayan waters had cut a deep valley on its way down south. This was to be the first little walkabout 2 to 3 day hike, then after I was hoping to find some trails that I could follow to Shangri-La and on to Dequin or as far north as possible in hope to be able to get a bus ride to Lhasa. I am not the sort of person who likes to plan things out too much or research as it leads to disappointed when things don`t go to plan or you read things that might put you off from trying, so this time all I had was a large scale map of Asia and decided to start here, go there, then here and hopefully end up there, packing my rucksack with enough things to be completely independent, tent, cooker, dried food, some mountain equipment, maps and a head full of adventure.

There are tribal people here in this region called the Naxi people once a nomadic race living very similar to the red Indians of America, they were great caretakers of the planet with a wealth of natural knowledge that they lived in complete harmony with their surroundings, only taking what they needed, always replacing and keeping the balance in order. They have their own special language similar to hieroglyphics, pictorial representations of ideas and concepts for the description of daily life, over the centuries it had become more refined and eventually evolved into the Chinese characters used today, very interesting to learn some of these characters and to understand the pictorial roots, very beautiful and poetic descriptions. The Naxi only obtain daily necessities and try their best to keep the ecological balance, they consistently uphold a primitive Shangri-la-spirit (harmony between human and nature) I like to know about these sort of people, these so called savages as we once referred to, we have much to learn still from them, things that I am sure we all used to know long ago but since have got lost along the road of progress, our over complicated, plastic fantastic, wasteful, successful lifestyles keep us slaves not liberated as we thought they would

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