Monday, April 2, 2007

Vietnot Part 3: To market, to market, to Temple

Two pieces of business before I continue narrating my Banna adventures.

1) Ha! I finally got on blogspot again! I've been able to see blogs (China miraculously unblocked them, which means I have again been following the adventures of my abroad-ing friends) but the site from which one signs into blogspot has been horribly slow for the past week and hasn't allowed me access.

2) I would like to note that this weekend will live in infamy as one in which I bought 7 seasons of "Buffy the Vampire Slayer," 5 seasons of "Scrubs," 3 seasons of "Grey's Anatomy," 6 seasons of "Gilmore Girls," plus about 7 or 8 movies, all on DVD, for Y135 (about $15.) I love China.

So: More vietnot.

When we left off, Diana was throwing up wild river eel and I had never been so happy to take a shower and wash 15 miles of countryside dirt and grime off me. After she finished being sick, Diana felt much better and we caught a microbus back to Jinghong, just in time to watch the sunset over the Mekong as we wound our way through the twisting jungle-choked road. That night was a quiet one-- I took Diana and two of her tripmates who were also in Banna to the Mekong Cafe to visit Alex and Zoe (my Bulang friend, if you remember.) We were so exhausted from our trip that we passed out early, which was good because we got up at 6 AM to take an early bus to Menghun, a little town about 2 hours outside Jinghong where there is a notoriously good market.

The ride to Menghun was gorgeous, all terraced mountains and rivers running through valleys, hazy but filtered with sunlight. I was so tired that I fell asleep for part of the ride, but luckily it was the ugly part. The market at Menghun was a little disappointing, to be honest, not as bustling or as "authentic" feeling as the one we went to in Lunan. But still, Menghun's market is famous for the variety of minority peoples it attracts from the surrounding hills, and we did see our share of interesting and diverse costumes. Diana and I both bought strips of hand-embroidered ribbon to use as headbands as sashes, really beautiful and colorful. As soon as we stepped into the street, though, we were accosted by Aini women selling bags, jewelry, and hats. After a hard sell for 15 minutes, we finally gave in-- the bags were beautiful, if overpriced, and we hardly needed the money (which, really... $5 isn't that much) as much as the Aini grandmother-type that was harassing us. Diana only ahd a Y100 on her, and so the Aini woman grabbed her arm and promptly frog-marched her around town to find someone who had enough money to make change.

After we had finished exploring the market, Diana and I decided to try and find the gorgeous Burmese temple we had spotted up in the hills on the way into town. We started asking everyone where the "da miao" (big temple) was and they gave us directions. After wandering and correcting our path for about half an hour we found our way up a small mountain to find the temple huge, painted in gold leaf, and deserted. It was amazing, with views of the whole valley and not a soul to be seen, not even monks, who were lunching outside the gates. The whole thing felt very special because we had simply decided we wanted to find the temple, high and remote-looking in the mountains and then we did. Desire, action, results. It was very empowering.

As we walked down the mountain with Lee, who was also in town for the Menghun market, we were hailed by some Dai people who, as it turned out, were celebrating at a wedding reception. They invited us in, feeding us sweet sticky rice with peanuts and other less appetizing delicacies like raw cow stomach (...pass.) The men all showed us their tattoos, all self-made-- some of Buddhist symbols, temples, or just cool designs. They got Lee drunk on beer, try as he might to refrain, and we met the bride and groom. It was an exciting affair.

Alas-- I have to go to class now. When we return: The Southwest Chinese Amazing Race and the night I spent sleeping in a treehouse in the middle of the Chinese jungle.

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