Noilly Prattle: China – Winter 2016 (Jade Dragon Mountain)

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

China – Winter 2016 (Jade Dragon Mountain)

玉龍雪山 Yùlóngxuě Shān

     WHAT an extraordinary day! It was an experience to take your breath away—literally—and to blow you away—almost literally. We took a day trip on an unvelievably beautiful sunny day to Yùlóngxuě Shān in the eastern foothills of the Himalaya Mountains with Nongbu, a mixed Tibetan and ethnic Naxi guide who seemed to be a human embodiment of the mountains. He sang, chanted, danced and shouted with the pure joy of existence in those seemingly enchanted hills. It was mesmerizing and contagious . . . or maybe it was due to inhaling pure oxygen from time to time. . . or, maybe, negative ions? Who knows, who cares, it was just a pure high!

nomad houses in shadow of Jade Dragon
        Nongbu picked us up at the hotel and we walked to the van and met the driver and Bianca, a young Australian woman who was on the tour with us. It was too windy for the high cable car that goes up to glacier country, so we settled for a cable car to a less aggressive place called Yak Meadow. After going through the ticketing formalities we boarded a bus for the 45-minute ride up to the cable car station to Yak Meadow. The road was tortuous, narrow, bumpy and winding through nomad villages with endless switchbacks, but we finally arrived at the cable car which took about 20 minutes or so before reaching Yak Meadow.

Yak Meadow and Jade Dragon Snow Mountain

Bianca in the Lamaist temple
Nongba - high on the mountain
        The rest was walking the long climb up to the top of the meadow where yaks graze in the summer months when the grass is green. Along the way we came to a Lamaist temple rather picturesquely located in the shadow of Jade Dragon Mountain, a splash of color in an otherwise ochre and gray white landscape. The trek up the meadow was somewhat taxing due to thinner air at 3,700 meters altitude, high winds that sometimes threatened to blow you over and a pretty challenging slope for someone in his 70s. Nongbu was just bounding along as if he were on a Sunday stroll, capering around, singing, yelling and spreading his arms in ecstatic transport, while Road Buddy and I trudged along taking occasional sniffs of oxygen. Bianca, meanwhile had gone way ahead and was already at the summit of the meadow. Finally, however, we all managed the climb and arrived at the top practically face to face with the massif of the Jade Dragon. It was pure exhilaration.

sniffing oxygen

on top of the world

 the remains of a great lunch
"Our Wedding" photos-
not necessarily on the same day
        The walk down was much easier and we were soon back on the cable car for the ride down and the bus back to the ticket terminal where we were met again by Nangbu's driver. After a brief stop at a series of natural turquoise lakes (due to limestone in the water) we headed for the Naxi town of Baisha for a delicious meal at a local Naxi restaurant. We were all ravenous and ate every dish in site.

the town of Baisha

Dr. Hu
        Before returning to our hotel we stopped off at a couple other places in Baisha. One was a Chinese medicine clinic run by a Dr. Hu, who is apparently quite famous (judging by some newspaper clippings framed around the clinic. Dr Hu is a bright and vivacious 94 year old man who speaks a kind of “English” and regaled me with a couple of tales of some of his successes of the past. He is still a consulting physician and had patients waiting so we left and headed for a shop that does embroidery.

the artist
portrait of a Naxi woman
        But what embroidery. The work here looks like photographs and paintings, unbelievable detail and coloring. A woman was patiently working on a portrait of a young Naxi woman in traditional costume. The detail was astounding and the subtle blend of threads phenomenal. (I'm running out of superlatives.) The woman is an artist. I took a couple of photos (with permission) of her work (which has taken almost a year to execute and will be finished in a few more days) and asked the price--9000¥ a steal at $1385. Alas, a little rich for my blood.

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