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The Tulou of Fujian Province: Life in the Round

Sitting incongruously amongst nearby apartment blocks in Yongding County, Fujian Province, these ancient houses sit squatly on the landscape like a cluster of recently landed earthen UFOs. There are more than 30,000 tulou土楼 or rammed earth houses in Fujian and neighbouring southern Jiangxi Province, completely unique to this corner of China, and to the Hakka and Minnan people who built them hundreds of years ago when they settled in the region.
It’s an extraordinary feat that so many still survive (the oldest dates to 1371), thanks in no small part to recent UNESCO World Heritage status and the tulou‘s increasing popularity as an architectural tourist destination.
Tulou are extraordinarily impressive inside and out, designed for communal living for up to 400 families at a time, and for defence against armed bandits who were rife in the area for several hundred years.
From the outside tulou have all the features of a fortress – walls thick enough to withstand attack from guns and even cannons, sloped slightly inwards to protect against earthquakes, the only exterior windows too high to climb and too small to enter but perfect for lookouts and for gun stockades. An imposing gateway cut from a single block of granite marks each entrance, sealed by two massive wooden doors plated with iron and barricaded from within by horizontal crossbeams once closed.
But enter the tulou and you step into the heart of an entirely different world – a busy community of several hundred people, living in circular rows of individual apartments over four or five floors facing inwards onto a central courtyard with a small shrine. Each individual family owns a column of rooms, from the ground floor storage and cooking area to the sleeping apartments above, one on top of the other, like a slice of cake. Wealthy families might own several ‘slices’ side by side.
Nowadays the tulou have far fewer residents as young people leave to seek work in bigger cities. But one old resident told me the tulou come alive for the many festivals of the year when extended families return home to celebrate together in the communal way.
Built in 1912 by the family of a wealthy tobacco merchant, Zhencheng Lou in Hongkeng village is one of the most recently constructed tulou wth two concentric rings around a central shrine for ceremonies.
One of the smallest tulou in Fujian is Rusheng Lou with only 16 rooms, still inhabited by several families.

Communal well inside one tulou
“Tourists come in to the tulou, they look up and say ‘Wow it’s big, wow it looks great’ but they don’t understand the depth of tulou culture and history” said one elderly resident who has lived in the tulou all of his 72 years. He looks forward to Chinese New Year when all of his family return to the tulou to celebrate together.
Individual kitchens side by side on the ground floor

Family shrine
Square tulou and round tulou side by side. The Dragon waits for New Year celebrations.
Fujian Tulou 福建土楼
Yongding township, the largest town in Yongding County, makes a great base for visiting the nearby tulou, and has several hotels.
From Yongding you will need to hire a driver or join a tulou tour as the  tulou clustered in multiple small groups spread over a broad area.   We visited Chenqi Lou (in the village of Gaobei 高北) and Zhencheng Lou。  There are other clusters of tulou nearby at Hekeng, Tianluokeng and many more. The tourist trails are well signed but in Chinese only – look for the brown signs.    In addition to the tourist sites it is also possible to stop and visit any tulou you see along the way. Check with the local residents first before entering and always ask before going upstairs.

Merry Christmas from Me!

Merry Christmas everyone! Wishing you holidays filled with good food, fine friends and a spirit of adventure.
The Great China Roadtrip rolled back into Shanghai two days ago after 175 days, 28,000km, 24 provinces and more bowls of noodles than I care to mention. It’s so great to be home after so months on the road, and I even had time to find my annual Christmas ball – this one from Madame Mao’s Dowry in Shanghai is just full of proletariat cheer.
There are still three more posts from the road to share with you and I look forward to bringing you those in the coming weeks. Our road trip was made all the more amazing by the constant support of all of you sending messages and keeping us in touch with the world outside our campervan. 
Thank you to each and every one of you for joining us on the road – you were awesome travelling companions! 

Ten Must Try Foods in Guizhou and Guangxi

Now in the final leg of our six month sojourn around China eating all the way, we’re fairly whizzing through provinces at a cracking pace. Guizhou and Guangxi lie next to one another, the twin jade buckles side by side on China’s belt. 

Guizhou, to the west, is hilly and green, misty and damp, the landscape filled with limestone karst hills cut through with meandering rivers. In Guizhou the karst, geologically speaking, is younger, so the hills are smaller and the river valleys less deep.

In Guangxi, home to Guilin, Yangshuo (below) and the stunning Dragon’s Backbone Rice Terraces, the karst have had more time to erode and develop so are steeper, taller, and the rivers wider.

The foods though, share much in common. They use chili, but not too much. They like sour and salty flavours. Both provinces have clean rivers full of fish and snails used often in cooking, both have many ethnic minorities who have contributed to the diversity of foods and flavours.

Here are ten foods we tried (and loved – even the snails – especially the snails!). Some of Guilin and Yangshuo’s foods I’ve previously written about and haven’t repeated here – the famous pijiu yu or beer fish, and the barbecued river fish served from floating bamboo restaurants in the middle of the river. 

Enjoy!


1. Crispy Stuffed Tofu Balls   

From southern Guizhou, these street food snacks are salty, crispy and oily – a perfect foil to Guizhou’s damp and foggy climate. Tiny balls of seasoned pork mince with scallions are stuffed inside a soft coat of tofu then deep fried.

An alternate variety uses small triangular blocks of tofu, the centre carefully stuffed and then pan-fried until the outside browns and crisps. Very, very satisfying.

Where to find them: Southern Guizhou in streets and markets


2. Stuffed River Snails 
To be honest, I only ordered these snails because they’re a local Li River specialty, expecting to taste one and leave the rest, chalking the whole thing up to experience. Well, there’s a reason these are a treasured local specialty – they taste incredible.

A true labour of love, the snails are first disgorged in clean water so the meat is free of grit. After a quick steaming the snails are removed from their shells and the meat chopped finely with the freshest mint, garlic, chili and a small amount of pork, then stuffed back into the shells before being steamed again.

The combination of fresh, strong mint and chili with the rich snail meat is a knockout.  

Where to find them: Guilin and Yangshuo. The Yulong River outside Yangshuo has several riverside restaurants using the freshest, cleanest snails and these were the best we tried.


3. Rice tofu 米豆腐

Made from a steamed rice flour paste cut into cubes, rice tofu mi doufu is a Guizhou specialty that looks like tofu but tastes incredibly comforting. It needs something robust and spicy to complement the smooth, soft texture: in one restaurant we were given a small earthenware dish packed with chopped cilantro, scallions, fire-hot fresh chilies and dried chili flakes in which to coat the cubes. 
Where to find it: throughout Guizhou
4. Sour Fish Soup 酸菜鱼
Cut through with the complex sour tang of pickled cabbage and pickled chilies, the unique and addictive flavour of Guizhou’s sour fish soup, suan cai yu, is fully developed at the table on a burner while the aromas fill you with hunger and anticipation. Local fresh river fish is used with sweet, clean flesh, but full of tiny fine bones so you need to eat it very slowly and carefully.
The taste is enhanced with the use of an unusual local spice,  mu jiao hua, shown here in a street market.
Where to find it: Throughout Guizhou. Every area has its own variation depending on available ingredients and the river fish used.
5. Zhe ergen 酸辣折耳根

And speaking of unusual ingredients, it’s difficult to pass through Guizhou, and Guangxi without eating this at least once. The root of a water plant, houttuynia, zhe ergen grows along the edges of rice paddies and ponds and has a pungent, slightly medicinal taste (some would say an unpleasant strong medicinal taste, dividing those who love it from those who loathe it) and a woody crunch whether cooked or raw.
Zhe ergen is used in a multitude of ways. Chopped into short lengths it is eaten with chili, mint and soy as a fresh, strong-flavoured salad, stir-fried with thin slices of Guizhou la rou or bacon its crunchy texture and unusual taste complement the rich smoky flavour and translucent fat of the la rou perfectly, or pickled and chopped finely to make a dressing for tofu, potatoes or other foods with simple flavours.

Where to find it: Zhe ergen is ubiquitus in Guizhou, but is also found in Sichuan (where it goes by the name of zhubigong 猪鼻拱 or pig’s snout,  because the leaves resemble the shape of a pig’s snout), Guangxi, Yunnan and Hubei (where it is called yuxingcao 鱼腥草 or fish-smelling herb because the leaves have a sight fish smell). 


6. Lover’s Tofu 恋爱豆腐果 

Thank goodness for my friend Frank Kassell, who posted about this dish yesterday in his Field Guide to Chinese Street Food Street, saving me hours of work to track down the correct name for this popular Guizhou street snack! 

Lover’s tofu, or lian ai doufu guo, is originally from Guiyang, Guizhou’s capital. Frank has the full story on the unusual name if you’re interested in its origins. 
Squares of soft tofu the size of the palm of your hand are grilled on a gently heated oiled griddle until the outside becomes a little golden and crispy (but only just) and the inside melts to the consistency of soft custard. The vendor places it on a small dish, tears open the centre of the square and fills it with a big spoonful of finely chopped zhe ergen (see above) mixed with chili and often garlic. It’s smooth, spicy, soft, crunchy and one of the most satisfying ways to eat tofu I’ve tried.

Where to find it: Street food stalls all over Guizhou
7. Guilin Rice Noodles 桂林米线 
Take one bowl of freshly cooked soft white rice noodles. Add a slurp of stock (but not too much), a handful of shiny fried peanuts, a spoonful of sharp and tangy pickled beans, a scatter of scallions, and wafer thin slices of cold roast pork. Mix. Eat.
Where to find it: Although this noodle dish originated in Guilin, it can be found all over Guangxi in small noodle houses and street stalls.
8. Guizhou La Rou 贵州腊肉

The first time I visited the beatiful Miao villages around Guizhou I flew back to Shanghai with 2kg of larou or home-smoked bacon wrapped in a black garbage bag sitting on my lap, the most precious of all souvenirs.

Pink and succulent, smoky and salty, la rou is elevated to a culinary art form in Guizhou by the local Miao people whose pigs are fat and happy and roam freely, and who cure and smoke the bacon in their homes.

Where to find it: All over Guizhou, the best la rou comes form the Miao villages around Kaili.


9. Lotus Seed Pudding 莲子糕
Drawn in by the ornate steaming copper pot with two curved dragons on either side for handles, I just simply had to try this Guilin street snack. I watched, fascinated, as the vendor took a small amount of white powder (from ground lotus seeds) and added hot water from the dragon pot. 
As he stirred the clear liquid became first milky then thick and smooth, the consistency of paste. to this he added golden green sultanas, black sesame seeds, crushed peanuts, and peanut powder. 
He told me to mix it in and eat it while it was still hot. The lotus seed ‘pudding’ itself had almost no flavour but the most extroardinary smooth and pleasant texture, with each mouthful a taste of peanuts and sweet raisins. Luscious. 

Where to find it: Guilin and Yangshuo. Watch out for the copper dragon pots on the street.


10.Shattering Malt Toffee 麦芽糖 
Mai ya tang, or malt toffee, is one of the most unusual street foods I’ve ever tasted.  Sold in long rods coated with tiny white puffed grains, on the first bite the whole thing shatters into tiny crystalline malty sugary shards. 

Eat Your Way Around China!




 

The Miao Guzang Festival – A Marathon of Feasting, Firecrackers and Pigs 苗寨鼓藏节:一场八个阶段的马拉松

Our visit to Guizhou Province, an extraordinarily beautiful part of China with steep green hills, silvery mists and winding rivers, just so happened to coincide with a really big deal –  the Guzang Festival, an ancestor commemoration that occurs once every thirteen years for the local Miao people.


Not that we knew it was a big deal at first. We had good information from the always-helpful Billy Zhang at Gateway to Guizhou that there was a Miao New Year Festival taking place in Leishan over several days, or a week (these things always being rather fluid and flexible), but we figured if we arrived in the middle of those dates we were bound to see something good.

Trying to pin down just when and where the festival began, and in which of Leishan’s surrounding villages events would be taking place, and what the nature of those events might be was much more difficult. Even the official Chinese programme Billy emailed me was too obscure to be helpful.

2012年11月26日至29日在丹江镇、西江镇、郎德镇、大塘乡、望丰乡等乡镇的相关苗寨举行斗牛、斗鸟、斗猪比赛等民间民俗活动。

The bullfight, fighting birds, bucket pig race held on November 26 to 29 at the Dan Town, West Town, Grande town, large Tangxiang, and Wang Feng, townships Miao Village folk folk activities.

But it did sound intriguing – a bucket pig race! Whatever could that be? 


Our plan was to just turn up and see what was happening. Well, not so much a plan as a loitering presence.

But then one of those lucky travelling things happened. On the way to Leishan we detoured to the pristine wilderness around Libo in southern Guizhou on the invitation of a young American blogger (Kaci and the World) living there, and spent our first night in Libo as guests of the generous hospitality and outstanding home cooking of her good friend and Chinese National Geographic photographer, Big Mountain. His real name.

Big Mountain is passionate about the many ethnic minorities in Guizhou, of which he is one, and has photographed all of them over many years. When we told him of our plans to visit the upcoming Miao New Year Festival he made enquiries and discovered it was, in fact, the very infrequent and incredibly important once-every-THIRTEEN-years Guzang Festival. Before we knew it our party of four without much idea of where we should go and what we should see had become a party of six with contacts and a plan

Big Mountain set about explaining the intricacies of the festival to us. Preparations begin three years ahead of time, involving a drum (gu) which needs to be buried (zang) and another drum needing to be woken up, the selection of an ox for sacrifice, and the use of ducks as vehicles to swim across the heavenly sea, returning with the woken spirits of the ancestors. 

It sounded terribly complicated and very, very interesting, but in the end came down to the essence of every good festival – a gathering of people, drinking, feasting, music and dancing, with a few uniquely Miao components thrown in, like the celestial ducks, some bullfighting, firecrackers and pig slaughter. It was going to be one hell of a party.

Here’s how the festival unfolded, from our perspective.


我们去了贵州省,那是中国一个风景特别秀丽的地方,有很多陡峭的青山,萦绕着银雾还有很多蜿蜒的河流。很巧的是我们还遇到了当地一件大事——鼓藏节,这是苗族当地一个祭祖的活动,每十三年进行一次。
我们一开始并不知道这是一个大型活动,我们从乐于助人的比利张在Gateway to Guizhou所发文章中得知好消息,在近几天或者一周(这些事情总是不固定,比较灵活)在乐山将会有一个苗族新年节日举行,但我们要计算出是否我们可以在这些日子期间到达,我们必须看看这些有意思的事情。试着确定节日在什么时候、在哪里开始,在乐山周围的哪些村落举行,获得这些信息本身就可能更加困难。甚至是比利发给我们的正式中文节目单也太模糊以至于没帮上什么忙。
十一月二十六到二十九日期间,在丹江镇、西江镇、郎德镇、大塘乡、望丰乡等苗族镇区将举行斗牛、斗鸟、斗猪比赛等民间民俗活动。

但这听起来确实很有趣——斗猪比赛!究竟会是什么样子?
我们打算去看看究竟会发生什么。
之后幸运的事情出现了,在去乐山的路上我们绕道走进贵州南部荔波附近的原始荒地,并受邀于一位住在那里的年轻美国博主。我们作为客人在荔波度过第一晚,受到她慷慨热情的款待,还品尝到她好友绝妙的居家烹饪厨艺,她的好友是一位中国国家地理摄影师,名叫大山。
大山对贵州的少数民族充满了热情,他已经为他们拍照很多年了。当我们告诉他我们将要参观即将到来的苗族新年时,他打听后发现原来这个节日是非产罕见和盛大的,十三年才举行一次的鼓藏节。在知道这件事以前,我们四人团队没有太多考虑过要去哪里,现在我们应该去看看这个节日,这成为六人团队的共识和计划。
大山着手向我们解释有关这个节日错综复杂的情况。人们提前三年就开始做准备,期间需要埋藏一个鼓,与此同时,另一个鼓会被唤醒,还要献祭一头公牛,鸭群被当作游过天海的交通工具,归来之时带着唤醒的祖先之灵。
这听起来非常复杂,而且特别有意思,但归根结底到最后都会回归到每个优良节日的实质——聚集的人群,饮酒享乐,音乐舞蹈,还有一些独特的苗族成分在其中,像神圣的鸭子,斗牛,爆竹还有斗猪。这将会是一个盛大的派对。
接下来我将从我自己的视角展开节日的叙述。

1. Pre-Festival Preparation: Ducks and Firecrackers 节日前的准备:鸭子和爆竹

One thing is certain when we arrive in Leishan – this Guzang celebration definitely involves ducks, lots of them, and unbelievable quantities of booze and firecrackers. This might be a potentially lethal combination, and doubtless will be, particularly for the ducks. 
Every single shop in Leishan has abandoned their usual wares in favour of floor-to-ceiling displays of firecrackers, ten-metre long dragons rolled into neat coils, or huge luridly coloured boxes – the kind where you light the taper at one corner and run away for ten minutes of full-throttle bedazzling. 
The liquor, mijiu or rice wine, is being sold on the footpath in plastic jerrycans, with the smallest size ten litres, and the average purchase twenty-five. At around 40% alcohol it’s clear, deadly stuff and is about as tasty as lighter fluid and just as flammable. 
Every motorbike coming out of town has two boxes of firecrackers on the back, counterbalanced with two jerry cans of strong liquor on either side, and a brace of ducks nestled at the driver’s feet. 
我们到达乐山的时候有件事可以确定——这个鼓藏节一定会有很多鸭子,还有多到难以置信的数量的酒和爆竹。这将是一个潜在的致命的结合,毫无疑问是特别为鸭子准备的。
乐山的每一个商店都放弃了他们日常的商品空间用来搁置爆竹,从地板到天花板,十米长龙整齐地绕成线圈,还有巨大的色彩斑斓的盒子——那种在盒子一角点燃导火线的礼花,每个烟花都可以饱满地绽放十分钟之久。烈酒、米酒或者黄酒,被盛放在塑料罐里在小径上售卖,最小的十公升,平均每人购买二十五公升。大约有百分之四十是纯酒精,显然是致命的玩意儿,像淡味饮品一样可口但却是易燃的。

 

25 litres of liquor…check, smallish box of fireworks…check. Now to load the basket of ducks……..

2. Feast Number One 一号盛宴

We arrive in the tiny village of Paiweng on foot, leaving the van parked at a point where it can’t drive any further on the narrow dirt track. The first sign of something afoot is the distant echoing crack of firecrackers, and a cloud of smoke above the next valley. 
As we round the last corner we see the village sitting in the folds of steep hills, with rows of dark wooden houses on stilts staggered up the hillside. A barrage of fireworks goes off in front of the house immediately to our left, deafening us and lighting the narrow zigzagging pathway we’re taking to the family home of a friend of Big Mountain, high on the hillside. The paths are busy with guests arriving – Miao women in their traditional dress of a black velvet tunic embroidered with pink roses, hair in a high bun decorated with a single pink rose.
Arriving at the house, the start of the festivities is marked by the lighting of a long red snake of firecrackers right next to the woodpile outside the kitchen door. It seems unnecessarily risky but clearly it’s been safely done thirteen years before. Or…not. I guess thirteen years is long enough to rebuild a whole village razed to the ground by fire, and forgive whoever lit the firecracker that did it.
Inside the kitchen, the grandmother of the house greets us as she guts fish for the feast. She motions for us to move into the big open room at the centre of the house, a high-ceilinged space with stairs at one end leading to the upper floor for sleeping, and an open verandah at the other, pefect for watching the neighbour’s fireworks display as cinders rain down on the roof.
We’re warmly welcomed by the rest of the family as they prepare for the feast. The oldest daughter’s husband carries in precariously leaning stacks of porcelain rice bowls, painted with small blue and pink flowers, and lays them out on the floor in long rows. 
He reappears with twenty five litres of mijiu, and taking a tin teapot, decants from the drum and begins to pour a bowl of mijiu for each person, full to the brim. Out of politeness he includes both of our children, who, out of politeness and strong looks from us, decline.
The women and men come in from outside and take their seats as the food begins to arrive. The whole extended family is here – the grandmother, all of her daughters and their husbands and children, aunts and uncles, lined up on narrow wooden settles around the room’s perimeter. 
We eat – first, a steaming wok full of blood congee, a type of rice soup, rich and tasty. It seems impolite, as guests, to ask where the blood has come from. Balanced across the rim of the steaming wok a narrow wooden plank is laid, and on this rest three dishes, keeping warm – spicy duck, chopped into small pieces with a sharp cleaver, fried fish, and pickled sour bamboo shoots. 
The fish has grown in the nearby rice terraces through the summer along with the rice. Come harvest the water is drained out of the terraces and the fish can be easily caught. 
Another bowl of braised duck arrives, and suddenly the symbolic duck swimming across the celestial lake and bringing back the spirits of the ancestors is sitting in a bowl in front of me. I guess their role was not purely metaphorical after all.
No sooner have we started eating than the husband of the oldest daughter lifts his bowl of mijiu in a toast. We follow suit. 
‘He jiu!’ he commands, literally ‘Drink alcohol!’ It rhymes with Sergio when he says it.
We all take a sip of the burning liquor and resume eating.
A few minutes later one of the other daughter’s husbands raises his rice wine in a toast. ‘He jiu!’ he says. ‘He jiu!’ we all reply, and take another, bigger sip.
I reach for a piece of the sweet rice terrace fish, and just as I’m about to wrestle it free with my chopsticks I see another toast about to take place. 
‘He jiu!’ comes the call. 
‘He jiu!’ we all respond. 
This time though, the command is followed by ‘He gan!’ ‘Drink dry!’ and around me old men and young women alike down their rice wine, followed by that puckered face caused by skulling hard liquor. They tip their bowls sideways to prove they’re empty.
Everyone is rosy cheeked and happy. The teapot comes back out and refills our bowls, and another round of firecrackers go off. 
‘He jiu!’
我们徒步走到排翁小村庄,将车停在再也没法往进开的一条狭窄的土路上。准备工作发生的首个迹象就是远处爆竹的回声,以及在旁边山谷上方腾起的烟雾。
当我们到最后一个拐角处的时候,我们看见村庄坐落在陡峻山坡的重叠之中,在我们左侧是一排排的像在山坡上踩着高跷的深色木房。一串爆竹在我们左侧的房子前面噼里啪啦响了起来,快要震聋我们了,也照亮了我们去大山的一个朋友家的一条之字形的小路,就在那个高高的山坡上。路上拥挤着到访的客人——身绣着粉色玫瑰的黑色天鹅绒束腰外衣苗族妇女,头发高高束成一个小圆包,上面插着一支粉色的玫瑰。
到达房子的时候,在厨房外的柴堆旁点燃一串鞭炮标志着节日正式开始了。看起来没必要冒险但是显然十三年前这么做也是安全的。又或者并非如此。十三年的时间足够长将原来的村落用一场大火夷为平地并且再建一个新的村落,与此同时也原谅了那个点燃鞭炮的人。
在厨房里面,房子的主人一个老奶奶问候了我们,她正在准备晚宴,清洗着鱼的内脏。她提议我们去房子的中心,一个大的开放的房间,那里的天花板很高,在房间的一头有楼梯通往上层睡觉的地方,而另一头则是一个开放的走廊,非常适合观看邻居家的爆竹,尤其是当烟花落到房顶的时候。
当房子的其他家人准备晚宴的时候我们受到热情的欢迎。大女儿的丈夫以一个不怎么安全的姿势倚靠在瓷制饭碗堆旁,这些碗的上面画着蓝色和粉色的小花,一排排被摆放在地上。他在出现的时候拿着二十五公升的米酒,带着一个锡制茶壶,从桶里倒出米酒,又为每一个人倒入碗中。出于礼貌他也要给我们的孩子们倒了,但我们委婉拒绝了。
女人和男人们从外面走进来,当食物上来的时候他们也坐了下来。整个家庭都在这儿了——奶奶,女儿们和她们的丈夫孩子还有叔叔阿姨们都依次落座于房间周围窄窄的木椅上。
我们开始用餐——首先,一锅腾着热气的血糯米粥,是一种稻米做的粥,浓稠而美味。作为客人询问这血是从哪里来的看起来很不礼貌。在冒着热气的锅上平放着一个窄窄的木板,上面放着三盘菜,这样可以保持这些菜是热着的——用锋利的菜刀切成丁儿的辣鸭、炸鱼还有腌制的酸竹笋。
另一碗炖熟的鸭子端上来了,游过天湖并带回祖先之灵的具有象征意义的鸭子突然间就这样出现在我面前的这个碗里。我猜它们的角色毕竟不是纯粹具有比喻性的。
大女儿的丈夫举起他碗里的米酒干杯时我们就开始用餐。我们就跟着他们的样子做。
“喝酒!”他命令道,字面意思是“喝烧酒!”
我们都品了一小口烧酒,之后继续用餐。
几分钟后,其他女儿中的一个丈夫又举起米酒干杯。“喝酒!”他说。“喝酒!”我们都答道,之后又喝了一口,稍大一些。
我想拣一块甜糯米上放着的鱼,在我将用打架的筷子快要够到的时候我看见又要有人敬酒了。
“喝酒!”紧接着又是一声。
“喝酒!”我们都回答道。
尽管这一次,指令是“喝干!”“喝光了!”我身边的男人和女人都一饮而尽,紧接着便是烈性酒引发脸红胀了起来。他们将碗倒过来证明酒都喝干净了。
每个人都是面色红润而且非常快乐,茶壶被拿过来又斟满我们的碗,又一轮开始,像放鞭炮一样的感觉。
“喝酒!”

3. Feast Number Two 二号盛宴

At some point the ‘He jiu!!’ begins to reach a crescendo, with shorter and shorter intervals between toasts. Then just as everyone’s warming up the whole room stands and moves towards the door. We’re full to bursting with food and a little drunk.

‘What’s happening now?’ I ask Big Mountain. ‘Is dinner over?’
‘That was just the first dinner!’ Big Mountain tells us. ‘Now we go to her sister’s house up the hill for the next dinner!’
The what??
We arrive to find another long wooden house, its big central room filled with people lined up on each side and braziers warming more dishes of food in the centre.
Out come the towers of rice bowls, and out comes the tin teapot, this time poured by the daughter of the house. 
We greet the new family we haven’t yet met with a toast.
‘He jiu!’
And reacquaint ourselves with the family members from the first feast.
‘He jiu!’
And then everyone toasts us, as guests.
‘He jiu!’
The food is similar, a warming soup (this time bloodless), crispy-skinned duck, and shredded fish with a sour sauce.

The toasts continue for several rounds. Everyone makes the same puckered face when they have to ‘He gan!’ and drink the bowl dry.
Funny stories are told. 

‘He jiu!’

Serious stories are told.

‘He jiu!’

And then someone spots my bowl is empty, a sure sign I need to be shown true Miao hospitality by having a daughter of the house clamp a bowl of rice wine to my lips and hold it there until I drink all of it.
After that, details get a little hazy. I take a series of really, really dreadful fireworks shots while next to me Big Mountain takes National Geographic quality images despite being just as intoxicated. The mark of a true professional.

Fireworks, possibly shot from a ‘lying in the grass’ position. Not going in Nat Geo anytime soon.

Before midnight we take our leave, our hosts pressing upon us that we absolutely must be back at 4am for the most important part of the celebrations – the sacrifice of a pig.
Looking around me at the ongoing toasts being made for our departure I can see there is unlikely to be anything but snoring happening at 4am. I ask the grandmother of the house what time we should really return. ‘Eight at the earliest. More like nine or ten’ she says, with a wink.
在某一刻“喝酒!”开始渐增,敬酒之间的时间间隔越来越短。
“现在发生什么事了?”我问大山。“晚饭结束了?”
“那只是第一餐!”大山告诉我“现在我们去山上她姐姐的房子吃下一顿!”
什么??

我们最终到达的时候发现另一个长长的木头房子,房子中心的大房间的每一边都坐着人,火盆中央上方加热着更多的菜。接着出现垒成了塔的饭碗,还有锡制茶壶,这次是由房子中的女儿倒酒。
我们敬酒问候了我们之前没见过面的新的一家人。
“喝酒!”
离开第一顿晚宴之后重新认识这家成员。
“喝酒!”
然后每个人都将我们看作客人向我们敬酒。
“喝酒!”
食物是类似的,热乎乎的汤(这次没什么血色),脆皮鸭子还有撒了酸汁的切碎的鱼
敬酒仪式继续了几轮。当他们不得不“喝干!”的时候,每个人都有一样的红胀的脸,而且也确实将酒和干净了。 
期间还讲着有趣的故事。
“喝酒!”
接下来又说了一些严肃的故事。
“喝酒!”
然后有人质疑我的碗是否是空的,我需要给他们一个肯定的示意,房主家的女儿将盛着酒碗贴近我唇边,拿着它直到我喝干所有的酒,这就是苗族人的好客。
在那之后,细节逐渐变得模糊。我放了一连串真的致命的爆竹,而那个时候挨着我的大山居然照了如同国家地理品质般的照片,尽管当时是喝醉酒的状态。他果然是够专业。
在午夜之前我们离开了,主人执意要求我们清晨四点再过来参加庆祝仪式最重要的一个部分——献祭猪的仪式。
环顾周围是他们为我们的离开而持续不断地敬酒,我想除了凌晨四点的鼾声外应该不会有什么其他事情发生了。我问房子里的奶奶我们该什么时候过来。最早八点。九点或者十点也是可以的,她说着眨了下眼,

4. The Sacrifice 献祭
We return at eleven, fortified by a good nights’ sleep and strong coffee. Still, the ongoing firecrackers are a bit upsetting to the delicate equilibrium, as are the squeals of pigs meeting their end in every corner of the village. For some reason I had thought the village en masse might sacrifice a single pig, but apparently there is to be one pig for every family. Or in some cases, two.

While the butchering is happening, each one marked by fresh rounds of fireworks, I take the opportunity to wander around the village in daylight. It’s a beautiful place, full of life and colour.

But it’s hard to walk very far without coming across another pig. The task of killing, cleaning and butchering the pig falls to the men in the family, carried out on the path outside each home. 
I’m very proud of my two girls who take it all in their stride, proclaiming that ‘if you’re going to eat it, you have to be able to deal with it being killed’. How different from their squeamish attitudes before we came China, I think to myself.

我们十一点到达,以一个良好的睡眠和一杯浓咖啡振奋了一下精神。依旧是持续不断的爆竹声,对于心里的那种微妙的平衡感而言有点让人心烦,当村子每一个角落的猪看到自己生命的尽头之时,它们发出尖叫声。出于某种原因我以为全体村可能只是献祭一头猪,但显然是每家一头猪。或者在某种情形下会是两头。
当屠宰开始的时候,每一场屠宰仪式都会伴着新一轮的爆竹点燃。我抓住机会在白天游览了一下这村子。这是个美丽的地方,充满生机与色彩。
不绕过另一头猪很难走得远一些。宰杀、清洁还有屠宰的任务由家庭的男性来完成,这些都将在每家外面的小路上进行。
我很自豪我的两个姑娘都大步跨了过去,她们表明了“如果你要吃它,你必须面对它被杀的事实”,我暗自思量,这是多么不同于来中国之前她们那种神经质的态度啊。

5. Feast Number Three 三号盛宴

At midday we return to the house for what turns out to be the main feast, a meat and offal celebration of every part of the pig. Behind us haunches of meat hang from the wall, dripping small puddles of blood. 
The first course is laid out for everyone to taste – cold slices of cooked liver and marble-white pork fat with partially fermented sticky rice, sweet like apple cider. The pork fat has a clean sweet taste, and soft luscious texture I don’t expect to like as much as I do.
The room fills again with people, faces from the night before and an occasional new face. Out come the bowls and the tin teapot. I admire the fortitude of the Miao as they fill their bowls yet again with mijiu and the cry goes up once more to ‘He jiu!’, although with just a little less conviction today and noticeably smaller sips.
We huddle around the hot dishes as they arrive – a bowl of soup, flavoured with thick slices of pork and pieces of cooked blood, sliced fried intestines cooked in a rich and savoury sauce, chewy and incredibly tasty. My children eat them. And ask for more.
The room fills with steam, and more toasts, and some faces begin to sweat and look unwell with the onslaught of more rice liquor. But they soldier on, and at the appointed time we all rise and move on to….

正午时分我们返回到房子品尝最重要的筵席,包括猪肉和它每一个部分的内脏。我们身后墙上挂着猪的中腰部分,血滴在地面上形成一小滩。
第一道菜呈上来供每个人品尝——烹饪后的肝脏放凉后切片,大理石般白肉伴着部分发酵的糯米,甜甜的像苹果汁。白肉有一种甜甜的味道,我从未期许过的那种柔软甘美的肉质。
房间又一次挤满了人,有前一晚见过的面庞还有偶尔的新的面孔。碗和锡制茶壶又拿了出来,当苗族人再一次填满碗中的米酒,再一次喊着“喝酒”的时候我承认他们的坚韧,尽管今天少了一些确信,而且明显喝得也更少了些。
在菜上来的时候我们拥挤一团围在热菜周围——一碗热汤,用猪肉厚片和烹饪过的血块做的,切成薄片的内脏伴着浓重开胃的酱汁,耐嚼而且非常美味。我的孩子们吃完这些,还要求再来一些。房间里充满蒸汽,还有更多的干杯声,一些脸庞已经开始出汗,看来难以应付对于再多一些米酒的进攻。但他们还在坚持着,在我们约定好的时间全部举起酒杯一饮而尽

6. Feast Number Four 四号盛宴

Unable to believe we were all going to tuck into our fourth feast in less than twenty four hours we head back up the hill to the sister’s house. The atmosphere this time is a little more subdued, with all the family elders sitting together at one end of the room.
I am asked to take their portrait, a succession of four polaroids, one for each of them. The look on their faces is delightful as they see the pictures develop and colour.

Before long though, everyone has rosy faces and and has fortified themselves for the important and health-giving feature of this final feast – fresh pig’s blood, uncooked and congealed like jelly. No matter how well prepared or how adventurous, fresh blood is one thing I cannot bring myself to try, but everyone else takes a small bowl.
This seems to signal the end of the feast, although in fact, the guests are simply leaving to start another round of visiting and feasting in the neighbouring villages. As a parting gift, each family is given a whole pig’s leg or two to take home, carried over the shoulder hanging from a pole.
难以置信在二十四小时之内我们又将去品尝第四顿盛宴,我们朝着山上姐姐的房屋走去。此时周遭的气氛减弱了一些,家里所有年长的人坐在房间的一边。
我被要求为他们拍照,一连串四张拍立得,每人一张,当他们看到相片一点点显示变得有颜色的时候他们的表情都非常的开心。
不久之前,每个人的面颊都是绯红色,为了强健他们的身体,最后这餐是非常重要的,而且有益于他们的健康——新鲜猪血,没被烹饪过的,凝结成像果冻一样的东西。不论准备多么充分或者多么爱冒险,新鲜猪血是我唯一无法说服自己尝试的东西,但其他每个人都尝了一小碗。

这看起来像是筵席的尾声,事实上,客人们仅仅是离开去邻村开始另一轮的拜访,参加新的筵席。作为一部分的礼物,每个家庭都会受到一两头猪的腿,腿被挂在一个杆上,这样被人们扛在肩上

7. Bullfighting 斗牛

Much of the visiting and feasting now over, the fourth day of the Guzang Festival  brings a bullfighting tournament in Leishan’s stadium, packed to capacity with spectators. 
I’m not sure what to expect. This is bull versus bull, with no human intervention unless a bull is fatally wounded. I’m expecting it to be bloody and confronting on many levels.
Intead, what we see is quite comical as two sedate and lazy water buffalo bulls are led into the arena through separate doors, ambling slowly. Suddenly they see one another and fly into an intense territorial rage, charging the other bull and locking horns. The first three battles end when the weaker of the two bulls unlocks horns and runs away, and the fourth after horns have been locked long enough to declare a draw. No blood is seen at any time. 
现在拜访和筵席都结束了,鼓藏节的第四天实在乐山露天体育场举行一场斗牛比赛,这里会有很多的观众到场。
我不知道期待什么,这是一场公牛之间的对抗,除非一头牛受到致命伤否则没有人会中途干预。我想这一定非常血腥,而且会有不同级别的对抗。
事实上,我看到的相当滑稽,两只沉着慵懒的水牛通过分开的门被牵到场地,他们步态缓慢。突然它们看到彼此,气氛充满了控制领域的高度紧张的愤怒气息,它们欲控制对方,牛角纠缠在一起相斗。第三场比赛以较弱的一头水牛解开牛角逃走结束。第四场比赛,牛角长时间纠缠在一起相持,最后平局收场。整场比赛没有见过一滴血。


8. Recovery, with Singing, Dancing, and Possibly Pig Bucket Races 复活,唱歌,跳舞还有斗猪比赛

The last days of the festival are subdued by comparison. Firecrackers continue to go off sporadically and there are pigs’ legs aplenty being carted around over shouders or on the backs of motorbikes. 
The villagers of Paiweng try to entice us back on a promise of singing and dancing on the village basketball court – but we run out of time to return to see it.
It’s been an exhausting few days and I’m keen to eat nothing but vegetables for a while. 
So let’s see – I think I’ve covered everything – ducks, ancestors, firecrackers, rice liquor, bull fighting, pig sacrifices, feasting, and….oh wait! What about the pig bucket races? We never did get to see those.
相比较而言,最后几天节日的气氛减弱了。爆竹继续零星地放着,人们扛着大量的猪腿,在肩膀上或是摩托车的后座上。排翁的村民想让我们回去,他们说在村子里的篮球场地会有跳舞唱歌——但我们没有时间去看了。最近几天真是筋疲力尽,这一阵儿除了蔬菜我再也不想吃其他东西了。
所以让我想想——我想我已经概述了每件事情——鸭子、祖先、爆竹、米酒、斗牛、献祭,盛宴,和……哦,等等!还有斗猪呢?我们再也没机会看到那些。
那就期待着2025年的鼓藏节见吧。

Looking forward to seeing you all for Guzang 2025 then.

Reflecting the Heavens: The Rice Terraces of Yuanyang 映射天堂:元阳水稻梯田

This is a big call, but I’m going to say it – if you only see one other place in China besides the Great Wall, it should be here, the Yuanyang region of Yunnan. (My husband, reading over my shoulder as I type this, is harrumphing and disagreeing – “What about the Terracotta Warriors? The Lost Library of Dunhuang? All of Shanghai??)
He has a point – for a place that is five hours out of your way from either Kunming or the Xishuangbanna region, you need a solid commitment to go. But we wandered into the area with absolutely no plans to do more than a day trip and left five days later. It hooks you like that. 
I’m going to give you five good reasons you should consider going to all that bother.
这个称呼很大,但是我还是要这么说——在中国如果除了长城之外你要看的第二个地方就应该是这里了,云南的元阳地区。(在我打这些字的时候,我的丈夫越过我的肩膀看到,他表示不同意,哼着说——“那兵马俑呢?遗失的敦煌藏书库呢?还有上海呢?”)

他有一个观点——要是那个地方偏离我们的道路,离昆明或是西双版纳都需要5个小时的话,你需要一个一致的承诺约定才能去。但我们毫无计划地花了一天多的行程,迷路游荡来到这个地方并且在5天后才离开,我们像被钩住了一般。
我将给你应当考虑去这里的五个理由。

 
1. The Rice Terraces 梯田
An incredible feat of agricultural engineering over 1300 years old, Yuanyang’s rice terraces are just simply spectacular. If you thought the Great Wall was an impressive man-made structure imagine these terraces, folded in and out of deep mountain valleys, in some places more than three thousand layered terraces extend upwards from the valley floor like mirrored steps leading to the sky.
In winter and early spring before the rice sprouts and turns the terraces a vivid green, the water reflects the sky, clouds and stars in an ever-changing array of pale colours.
The terraces are reached via the small town of Xinjie, from which they can be viewed at various sites along a loop road. The viewing platforms afford great views without disrupting the terraces themselves or the work of the farmers.
一个难以置信的超过一千三百年历史的农业技术创举,元阳的水稻梯田就是如此的壮观。如果你认为长城印象深刻——将一个建筑物想象成这些梯田,在深深的山谷之间里里外外地折叠着,在从像镜像的阶梯延伸至天空那样,在一些地方,超过三千层梯田从谷底延伸向上。
在冬天和早春的时候,稻米发芽并转化成生机勃勃的绿色之前,在不断变化排列的纯净的云朵间水面倒映着天空,云朵和星辰。
通过一个叫新界的小镇可以到达梯田,沿着蜿蜒的小路在不同的点都可以看到它们。从观景台可以看到很棒的风景,丝毫不会破坏梯田本身或是农民作业。

2. Rice 米
Not just an attraction for tourists, Yuanyang is one giant living, breathing rice farm, worked by the thousands of local villagers for whom rice is their livelihood. Rice gets planted, tended, watered, the seedlings transplanted, watered more, and finally harvested in a long cycle from early spring through to late autumn.
Given that rice has been a staple food in China for several thousand years, and China is the world’s greatest producer and greatest consumer of rice it’s fascinating to see first hand just how it’s grown, using the same centuries-old methods. 
The rice terraces will appear quite different depending on the time of year you visit – busy with farmers planting seedlings in spring, green and lush in summer, golden brown in autumn and busy again with autumn harvesting, in late autumn through winter and early spring the terraces are still ponds of reflected water.
不仅对游客而言是一个景点,元阳本身就是一个巨大的,充满生机的稻米农场,上千的本地村民依赖稻米生活。从早春到晚秋,稻米在这里被种植、照料、浇水、移植秧苗,再浇水,最终经过一个很长的周期得以收获。
如果几千年来稻米是中国的主要粮食,中国就是世界上最大的稻米生产者和消费者。看到一手的稻米用几个世纪以来的古老方式种植是如此令人陶醉。
根据你一年中到访的时间不同,稻米梯田呈现的景象也很不同——在春天农民忙着撒种子,夏天则是一片繁茂的绿色,秋天是一片金黄色,而且此时又要忙着丰收了,在晚秋走向冬天的这段时间还有早春的时候,梯田仍就是反射天空景象的水塘。

3. The Hani People 哈尼族
One of China’s many ethnic minorities, in Yuanyang the Hani constitute just over 50% of the population and are originally of Tibetan origin. 
Smiling, open, friendly and relaxed, the Hani (and local Yi people, who constitute the second largest ethnic group in the area) are one of the best reasons to visit Yuanyang, seeing life is it is for these traditional farmers. Tourism is gradually increasing but still plays a distant second fiddle to the area’s main business – rice cultivation.
The men have mostly taken to wearing western-style clothing outside of festival occasions, but the Hani women and children of both sexes still wear traditional clothing – a heavily embroidered tunic fastened with large silver buttons made from old coins, and trousers with bands of embroidery below the knee. The women wear head dresses of various kinds depending on their area of origin (see below). 
在中国众多的少数民族中,云南的哈尼族构成了超过百分之五十的人口,而且他们是藏族的起源。
微笑、开放、友好又无拘无束,哈尼族(还有本地的彝族人,他们构成了这个区域的第二大少数民族)就是来造访元阳的最好的一个理由,看看生活本身就是这些传统农民们。旅游逐渐发展但相对于这个地区的主要产业——稻株栽培而言仍然是一个有一定距离的二流角色。
在节日之外的时候,男人们多数穿着西式的服装,但是哈尼族的妇女和孩童仍穿着传统服装——很厚的绣花束腰外衣,并用古硬币制作的大银扣来固定,裤子的膝盖以下都是一群刺绣。妇女们依据她们原区域的不同戴着不同款式的头饰。(如下) 

4. A Hani Long Table Feast 哈尼长街宴
Now I don’t want to get your hopes up but if you happen to be visiting Yuanyang in October, November or December you may be lucky enough to ctach one of the dozens of Long Table Feasts during those months. Each village holds their own at different times.
On our way to the area we stopped in Honghe, where every local we met invited us to attend the nearby annual Long Table Feast in the village of Jiayinxiang, an hour away – awfully kind of them seeing as it wasn’t actually their feast they were celebrating, a little like inviting complete strangers to your next door neighbour’s wedding without asking them first. 
We went anyway, because it sounded like the sort of wedding party you could, as complete strangers, crash without offending anyone, and we were right. 
现在我不想激起你的希望,但是如果你碰巧十月、十一月或是十二月来元阳,在这几个月里你肯定足够幸运能赶上几十场长街宴中的一场。在不同的时间每个村落都会举办他们自己的长街宴。
在我们来这个区域的路上,我们在红河停留下来,在这里每一个本地人都邀请我们参加附近一个叫佳音乡的一年一度的长桌宴。一个小时的路程——他们看起来不是真正的在庆祝他们的宴会,而是有点像邀请完全陌生的人来你隔壁邻居的婚礼,而且没有请示他们。我们离开了,因为这听起来的确像个婚礼派对,你作为陌生人,没有冒犯任何人而闯了进来,事实上,我们是对的。
村庄的入口用旗布装饰着,小路用冷衫树枝铺盖。因此当在上面行走的时候,你的脚会带起松木味道。夜更深的时候味道会更清晰,这是个多好的主意啊。当我们还在试着想出来究竟宴席在哪里举办的时候,一列队伍就出现了——本地人穿着节日盛装,跳着舞,敲着木棍,敲着鼓,挥舞着成熟的稻杆儿,还唱着歌、我们卷入了上百个狂欢者的队伍,跟着他们被带着走向街道里。

The entrance to the village was decked with bunting and the pathways laid with fir branches, so your feet stirred up a lovely pine scent as you walked. Later in the evening it would become clear what a very good idea this was.
While we were still trying to work out exactly where the feast was taking place a procession began – locals dressed in festival best, dancing, tapping sticks, banging drums, waving branches of ripened rice, and singing. We were caught up in the procession of hundreds of revellers that followed them and were carried off down the street.

Rounding a corner we suddenly saw just exactly how long the Long Table Feast was. On either side of the crowd-filled street were long rows of low wicker tables, twenty, thirty, forty, fifty end on end, and every one groaning with Hani festive foods – small crisp-fried fish, poached chicken, roast duck, boiled peanuts, rounds of corn, and lichen salads in small bowls. 
Everyone – bar very small children – was drinking white bowls of rice wine. Lots of them. The toasts started with a shout at one end of the street and spread in a Mexican wave to the other end as each table stood in rapid succession to toast the table next to them. The food had barely been touched and almost everyone was already red-cheeked and rolling drunk, telling funny stories, singing songs and toasting again and again as Mexican waves rolled up and down the street. 
It looked like terrific fun but the only problem for us was that every single seat was taken and non-local Chinese visitors to the feast all seemed to possess a pre-purchased ticket. Dang. We knew there’d be a catch and someone would figure out we weren’t invited.
We stopped two young Hani women to ask if in fact there were any remaining tickets to be had, and they promptly, in typical hospitable Hani fashion, took us back to their house and fed us there. Imagine calling your mother to say you were bringing a family of four to Christmas dinner, and you’d be there in five minutes? Christmas fireworks indeed.
But not in Hani households, where low tables were set up in the open ground floor room of their house, clustered with bowls of roast pork, pickled greens, wild herbs, roasted walnuts, fried fish, spicy duck and a fiery, intense dipping suace of fermented tofu and pickled chilies.
The toasting continued unabated, we all had a rollicking good time and eventually over the course of the evening met all the relations and neighbours and friends of relations, whose job seemed to be to go from house to house, eating a little and drinking a lot. 
Needless to say we slept that night in the campervan, parked outside the village. 
绕过一个拐角处我们突然看到这个长桌宴到底有多长。在人群的两边——两行柳条桌填满了街道,20304050连接着到最后。每一个上面都摆满了哈尼族节日的美食——小脆炸鱼、清蒸鸡、烤鸭、水煮花生、圆玉米(爆米花?)、小碗里的青苔沙拉。每个人——禁止非常小的孩子参加——都喝着白碗里的米酒。他们中的很多人。当每一桌的人紧接着和邻桌的人干杯时,由街尾处的干杯开始以一个墨西哥式的波浪蔓延到另一头。食物几乎没有动,几乎每个人脸都红了而且烂醉如泥,讲着有趣的故事,唱着歌,一次又一次干杯,一次又一次如同墨西哥波浪般在街巷里起伏。
这看起来非常有趣,但我们唯一的问题是每一个座位都有人占了,非本地的中国游客看起来之前都买过票了。我们知道一定会有人被捉住,有人会发现我们没有被邀请。我们拦住两个哈尼族妇女问她们事实上是否还有剩余的票,她们迅速地将我们带回她们的房子,并在那里招待我们,以哈尼族特有的好客方式。想象一下打电话告诉你妈妈在圣诞晚宴你将带一家四口参加的时候,五分钟内你还在那里么?事实上一定会是一场圣诞大争论。
但并不是在哈尼族的家庭里,在他们房间空旷的地上摆放着低矮的桌子,上面摆着很多碗,盛着烤猪肉、野菜、烤花生、炸鱼、辣鸭,红红的浓烈味道的腐乳还有腌辣椒。干杯继续着,丝毫没有减弱。我们度过一个愉快的时光,挨家挨户见过所有邻居和朋友,谁的工作看起来怎么样,吃一点喝一点之后最终在夜晚结束这个过程。不用说也知道,我们那晚睡在房车里,它就停在村子外。

5. Did I mention the rice terraces? 元阳梯田
There’s just no denying they are extraordinarily beautiful no matter what time of day. In the early morning clouds creep up from the valleys below and at night, the perfect stillness of the water reflects the silvery moon and the tiny diamonds of the stars, sprinkled across the sky and sprinkled again across the land in their reflections. It’s magical.
不论一天里的什么时候,毫无疑问他们都是格外的美丽。在清晨的时候,云从山谷下慢慢升上来,在夜晚睡眠完美静谧的水面映照出银白的月色和璀璨的星辰,它们布满天空,与此同时又布满大地。真是太奇妙了。

Yuanyang Hani Rice Terraces元阳梯田
Near Xinjie township, Yunnan Province
Open daily
Admission RMB 100 adults, children under 1.3m free of charge
Admission ticket covers all the rice terrace areas and is valid for the length of your stay
Accommodation is available in Xinjie (where you will need take a bus or hire a minivan from the main bus station to drive to, and then around the terraces) and also at small guesthouses in Shengcun and Pugaolao villages. In Pugaolao (see below), you are right at the top of the Duoyishu Terraces, one of the largest terraced areas, which means you can view subnrise and sunset from the comfort of your guesthouse balcony.
在云南省的新界镇区
白天开放
入场费成人100元一米三以下儿童免费
入场票包括所有的稻米梯田,有效时间就是你待在里面的时间

新界提供住宿的地方(你需要从主要公交站坐公车或是雇一辆小型货车过去,然后它们就在梯田周围),也就是生村和普高老村落的小型私人旅馆。在普高老村落(如下),你就站在多一树梯田的顶部,它是梯田中最大的一个,也就是说你可以在旅馆阳台前就欣赏到日出和日落

A Beginner’s Guide to Pu’er Tea

Think of walking through a forest in late autumn, a few hours after rain. The smell of wet leaves, moss and rich earth mingle as you scuff the gently decaying leaves.
This is how a good cup of pu’er tea should taste and smell – complex and earthy. Forest and stone, woodsmoke and lichen.
Having grown up on supermarket English tea with milk and sugar, Chinese teas were a brave new world for me. Mostly, they were a revelation – fresh and vibrant grassy green teas, and delicately floral oolongs. But I remained unconvinced about pu’er tea, thinking it tasted dank and musty – less like forest and more like wet basement and mouldy attic. I didn’t like it at all.
Pu’er is considered the pinnacle of tea-drinking for the Chinese, and often the most difficult for the rest of us to appreciate. Like wine, pu’er improves with age and develops more complex flavours. 
I hoped that by travelling along parts of the ancient Tea Horse Trail in southern Yunnan – the route by which tea travelled from its origins in Yunnan overland to Tibet, Mongolia and the rest of China – it would give me a new appreciation for the China’s finest tea. 
Completely unable to convince the rest of the family that visiting a tea workshop in the middle of nowhere followed by a climb up a mountain to a grove of ancient wild tea trees would be a fun way to spend the day, I went by myself on my own little tea trail, and learned a lot. 
The owner of the guest house in which we were staying (Yourantai) happened to be good friends with Chen Ying, a quiet Chinese woman my own age who had left a career in forestry conservation to run a tea workshop in a quiet, clean, remote part of Yunnan blessed with clean air and water and robust tea trees.
Starting in Jinghong near the Myanmar border, south of the ancient town of Pu’er for which the tea is named, I headed west and up into the hills past Menghai, visiting first the tea workshop, then tea terraces in the surrounding countryside, and lastly the mountain of Nanla, home to some of the oldest tea trees in Yunnan. 
Here’s what I learned (with still a great deal more to learn), thanks to my knowledgeable teachers that day.  
想到雨后几小时,漫步在深秋的林间。当你拖着脚轻轻走过那些腐烂的树叶时,你会闻到那些湿润的树叶,苔藓和肥沃的土壤混合的气息。正如一杯上好的普洱茶应该品尝起来的那样——复杂而又朴实。森林,岩石,林中的雾气还有那些青苔。在加牛奶和糖的英式茶超级市场中长大,中国茶对我而言是一个全新的世界,通常,他们会被这样诠释——清新活力的嫩绿色绿茶还有精致如花的乌龙。但关于普洱还是不能是我信服,想到它尝起来有种潮湿发霉的味道——不太像森林,更像是潮湿的地下室和发霉的阁楼。我一点都不喜欢。
我希望通过沿着在云南南部古时茶马古道的几个部分旅行——茶叶从云南原产地经由陆路被运到西藏、蒙古和中国其他地方的路线——可以让我对于中国最好的茶叶有一个全新的鉴赏。
对中国人而言普洱被认为是茶饮的尖峰极点,我们中其他人很难欣赏。像葡萄酒一样,普洱茶随着年限增长也会产生更多复杂的口味。
通过爬山去造访一个远古野生茶树的小树林,参观在一个无名之地的中部的茶叶作坊将会是度过愉快一天的好方式,但是我却完全不能说服家里的其他成员,所以我自行进行了一个茶叶的小追踪,并且学到了很多东西。
我们住的客栈(悠然台)的老板碰巧和陈颖是好朋友,她是一个和我年纪相仿的中国女人,离开了林业保护工作,在云南一个安静、干净、偏远的地方经营一家茶叶作坊,那里有清新的空气,水源还有强壮的茶树。
从靠近缅甸的景洪市出发,普洱即是在古镇的南边被命名的。我向西出发路过勐海县深入山丘,依次造访了茶叶作坊,附近乡下的梯田还有南拉山,一些云南最古老茶树的发源地。

下面这就是那天我了解到的一些东西 (还有很多东西要学习) 感谢知识渊博的老师们.

Chinese Tea: The Basics 中国茶: 基本要素

Chinese tea falls into three main groups based on the degree of oxidation (the effect of air on the enzymes and chemicals within the tea leaf):
1. Unoxidized: green tea, white tea

2. Partially oxidized: oolong tea, yellow tea

3. Fully oxidized: tea  pu’er tea, black tea

Southern Yunnan is where tea originated, a place of lush green hills terraced with rows of tea bushes, patches of thick green jungle, valleys filled with sugarcane and banana trees. Large leafed pu’er tea,  related to the original wild teas of the region, is grown on the sides of steeply sloped hills and harvested twice a year in spring and autumn. 
Just like the influence of terroir on wines, the altitude at which pu’er tea is grown, the age of the trees, the mineralization of the soil, the water supply, the hours of sunlight, the rate of oxidation once picked and the skill of the tea artisans controlling the oxidation process all add to the unique flavour profile of pu’er tea.
Differing from green and oolong teas, after full oxidation (drying and warming) pu’er tea is left to naturally ferment, causing it to develop complex flavour characteristics over time.
依据氧化度(空气作用于茶叶的酵素和化学作用)中国茶基本分为三大类。
未氧化的:绿茶,白茶
部分氧化:乌龙,黄茶
完全氧化:普洱茶,黑茶
云南南部是茶的发源地,一个郁郁葱葱绿色山丘,这里布满几排茶树丛的梯田,长着几块浓绿色丛林和
满甘蔗和香蕉树的山谷。大叶子的普洱茶。和部落原始的野生茶相关,长在陡峭的斜坡山边,一年可以
割两次,春天和秋天。
正如土壤对于葡萄酒的影响,普洱茶生长的海拔,树龄,土壤的矿物量,水源供给,日照时间,一经采
的氧化频率,茶叶技工的技术控制氧化程度,都决定了普洱茶独特的风味。
不同于绿茶和乌龙,在完全氧化之后(干燥和加热),普洱茶是被自然的发酵,以致让它在一段时间之
产生复杂的口味特色。

Making Pu’er Tea 制作普洱茶

After picking, the leaves are first converted to ‘rough tea’ or maocha by drying for 5-6 hours on bamboo trays, then briefly cooking in warm metal pans and ‘rolling’ by hand, curling the leaves a little. The leaves are then sorted to separate the premium larger leaves from twigs and small leaves.
The leaves spend one day in the ‘greenhouse’ drying further – a large airy room with a glass roof concentrating the warmth. 
在采摘之后,叶子首先通过在竹盘上干燥56个小时被转化成“粗糙的茶”或者说是毛茶,然后短暂的在金属平底锅里蒸煮处理一下,在用手“揉搓”,将叶子弄卷曲一些。然后将茶叶分类,将大一些的叶子和细枝和小叶子分隔开来。 用一天的时间将叶子在“温室中”进一步烘干——一个有玻璃房顶保暖又通风的大房间。

The dried tea is measured into 200g portions, placed into a cotton bag and steamed briefly before being compressed into a cake or bing. The bag’s twirled knot gives the pu’er cake its distinctive indentation.
干燥好的茶叶将按200克一份进行分量分配,放在一个棉布袋里,在压成饼状之前短暂的蒸一下。布袋转动打结可以给普洱茶饼做一个特色的压痕。
Each cake is then placed under a heavy stone weight and the stone ‘rocked’ to further compress the tea
每一块茶饼然后被放在一个重石下面,晃动石头进一步压紧茶饼。
The tea cake is removed from the cotton bag, still steaming but now compressed flat, and placed to dry on racks for two further days. After this the tea is fully oxidized and ready to start the process of aging or fermentation.

从布袋拿出茶饼,仍然冒着蒸汽,但是现在被压平了,放在货架上再干燥两天。在这之后,茶就充分地氧化了,准备开始成年或者发酵的历程。

Wrapped in locally made paper, free of chemicals that might taint the tea, the tea is stored in traditional bundles of seven cakes wrapped together in banana husk – qi zi bing cha

用本地纸包装,完全不含污染茶叶的化学物质,茶叶以传统方式用香蕉外壳把七个茶饼一起捆绑为一束——七子饼茶。
This is sheng cha or green pu’er tea. Over the next eight to ten years the residual moisture in the tea leaves will allow it to slowly ferment, developing more and more complex flavours with age
这个就是生茶或者说是绿普洱茶,在接下来的八到十年里茶叶里剩余的水分将可以慢慢地发酵,伴随年限产生越来越多的复杂的口味。
Brewing the Perfect Cup of Pu’er Tea 酿造完美的普洱茶

The mysteries of the perfect cup of tea seemed insurmountable to a mere tea mortal like myself with way too much fuss, bother, equipment and paraphernalia involved.  So it was entirely refreshing to have Chen Ying tell me she makes her pu’er both the traditional way, and a quick way if she’s drinking tea alone.
The necessary equipment:
1. A small teapot made from pure clay (eg Yixing ware), so as not to cause any chemical impurities to seep into the tea.
2. A glass jug into which the tea can be decanted
3. Porcelain tea cups
4. Boiling water and tea
Method:
1. Break off a small of amount of pu’er tea from the cake, add tea to pot
2. Fill the pot to overflowing wth just-boiled water, replace lid and pour water over pot to warm it
3. Allow to brew very briefly then pour the first brew of tea over the tea cups – this rinses both  the tea leaves (removing any dust or impurities) and the tea cups
4. Fill pot for a second time with boiling water
5. Allow to steep for 30 seconds
6. Decant tea into glass jug, and from there pour into individual tea cups
7. Refill teapot with water and repeat for up to 15 steepings, according to taste
If she’s in a hurry Chen Ying says she just puts some leaves into a lidded porcelain teacup and allows it to steep in the cup, adding more water as needed. She explained though, that tea drinking should always be a relaxing activity, with the proper time taken to do it well.
When to Drink Tea
There is really no better reminder of the best times to drink tea than to follow the esoteric directions in Hsu Tse Shu’s Ming Dynasty poem:

Proper Moments for Drinking Tea

When one’s heart and hands are idle.
Tired after reading poetry.
When one’s thoughts are disturbed.
Listening to songs and ditties.
When a song is completed.
Shut up at one’s home on a holiday.
Playing the ch’in and looking over paintings
Engaged in conversation deep at night.
Before a bright window and a clean desk.
With charming friends and slender concubines.
Returning from a visit with friends.
When the day is clear and the breeze is mild.
On a day of light showers.
In a painted boat near a small wooden bridge.
In a forest with tall bamboos.
In a pavilion overlooking lotus flowers on a summer day.
Having lighted incense in a small studio.
After a feast is over and the guests are gone.
When children are at school.
In a quiet, secluded temple.
Near famous springs and quaint rocks.


对于我这样一个万分慌乱、烦恼,还得准备好各种器材和设备的普通人而言,完美茶饮的未解之谜看起来简直是不可解的。因此当陈颖告诉我她做普洱茶的两种方式,传统方式和独酌的快捷方式的时候,真的让我很振奋。

必要的设备:
用纯泥土制作的小茶壶(例如宜兴茶具),不会让任何化学杂质渗入到茶里。
一个茶水可以被轻轻倒出的玻璃水壶。
瓷质茶杯
沸水和茶叶

方法:
从普洱茶饼上折断一小块,将茶叶放在壶里
用刚煮沸的水注满茶壶,移开茶盖并且将水倒在壶上面,使它变暖
迅速地冲泡一下然后将茶的第一泡倒在茶杯上——这是冲洗茶叶(去除灰尘和杂质)和茶杯
用沸水将茶壶二次填满
浸泡约30秒钟
将茶轻轻倒入玻璃水壶,再从那里给个人杯子倒茶
重新用水填满茶壶,依据口味,最多可以浸泡15

陈颖说,如果忙的话,她会把一些茶叶放入带盖子的瓷茶杯里边,让茶叶在里边泡一泡,然后再加入更多的水。她解释说,饮茶虽然应该是一件放松的事情,但是也要在合适的时间把它做好。

什么时候饮茶
关于什么时候饮茶,没有比跟随明朝诗人许次纾的诗更合适了:
饮时
  心手闲适,披咏疲倦,意绪纷乱,听歌拍曲,歌罢曲终,杜门避事,鼓琴看画,夜深共语,明窗净几,洞房阿阁,宾主款狎,佳客小姬,访友初归,风日晴和,轻阴微雨,小桥画舫,茂林修竹,课花责鸟,荷亭避暑,小院焚香,酒阑人散,儿辈斋馆,清幽寺观,名泉怪石。

Pu’er Tea: The Taste  普洱茶:味道
I tried five different pu’er teas that day – a recently pressed sheng cha or fresh pu’er, which had a light herbaceous taste, then a one, three, four and five year old tea. Each different year brought a variety of new tastes – light smoke, polished wood, wet leaves and earth. None were musty or mouldy tasting, and there wasn’t a single hint of basement or attic. They were all smooth and very refreshing.
I had officially been converted. I bought two cakes of the oldest tea I could afford, which turned out to be three years old. One to drink now, and one to keep for as long as possible. Chen Ying’s oldest tea, eight years old, was entirely out of my price range at around $150 per bing. Imagine the price of a twenty, thirty or fifty year old tea!
那天我尝试了五种不同的普洱茶刚加压的生茶或者新普洱,有一种淡淡的草本的味道,以及一年,三年,四年和五年的陈茶。不同年份的茶有不同的味道淡淡的雾气,光滑的树干,超湿的叶子,还有土壤。没有哪一种尝起来有霉味,也没有一点阁楼或者地下室的印记。他们都很柔滑,而且非常提神。
我完全折服了。我买了两块我能承受价格的最老的茶饼,这些茶饼的茶龄最终证实是3年。一份现喝,一份尽可能久地保存。陈颖所有的最老的茶已经有八年了,它的价格已经完全超出了我的范围,每块茶饼大约要150美元。想想20年,30年,甚至50年的茶叶的价格吧!

Buying Pu’er Tea 购买普洱茶

As the exclusivity and value of pu’er tea has increased in China, so has the ingenuity and guile of those willing to risk prosecution to make money from the everyday consumer – you and me. 
Scams I heard about included (but clearly weren’t limited to) the classic bait and switch (try a tea of very high quality, then be sold a pu’er cake of inferior tea) and the sale of semi-fake cakes of pu’er with high quality outer leaves (so when you break off a little and test it, it seems the genuine article) but filled with cheap, inferior tea on the inside.
Buying aged pu’er is also problematic, as the price rises exponentially with the age of the tea. What condition has the tea been stored in for all of that ten or more years?  Has the tea changed hands during that time?
Just as it’s difficult and daunting to know which red wines to buy when you first start out (and in China the red wine market is equally full of fakery and quackery) the suggestion is to make friends with a tea lover and learn from them. Taste plenty of teas and learn which you like best, find out who their trusted tea suppliers are buy only from them.
Ultimately though, it comes down to taste – your taste – and buying what you enjoy drinking even if it’s inexpensive or younger than fully aged pu’er tea.
由于独垄断占性,以及普洱茶在中国价格的走高,因此那些狡猾的人会冒着被起诉的风险从寻常消费者(包括你我)身上赚钱。
我听说过的欺诈不过(当然不限于)经典的诱饵营销(品尝一种很高品质的茶,然后卖给顾客次级普洱),出售半假的茶饼——他们外层包着高品质的茶叶,但内层确实便宜的次品(因此,当顾客从茶饼上掰下来一小点品尝时,尝起来就像是正品)。
由于普洱的价格随年代的增加而呈指数上涨,买年份久的普洱茶也是有问题的。这些茶在过去的10年或者更久的时间里是在什么样的环境中保存的?在这些时间里,它们被倒手过么?
就像开始买红酒时,很难判断应该买哪一种一样(在中国,红酒市场充斥着假货和骗子),在开始买普洱的时候,我的建议是和茶叶爱好者交朋友,向他们学习。品尝大量的茶,然后知道自己最喜欢那个,找出他们最信赖的茶商,然后只从这些茶商购买。
不过最终,还是要回归到口味上——你自己的品味——买你喜欢的茶,尽管他们可能不那么贵,或者年份并不久远。

Storing Pu’er Tea 储存普洱茶

Pu’er needs to be stored in a clean, dark, dry, airy place, wrapped in its original paper to keep it clean. Excessive moisture will lead to mould. 
普洱茶需要存放在干净,阴暗,干燥和通风的地方,用最初的纸包裹起来以保持清洁。湿度过大可能会导致发霉。

Resources for Learning More:
Seven Cups  – a US website dedicated to Chinese tea
Making Pu’er tea – a demonstration video at www.dianxitea.com
Information about Pu’er tea and Chen Ying’s tea workshop can be found at her website www.qualitea2005.com

Post 500: How I Went To China and Became a Writer

Five hundred posts! How the hell did that happen? 

Five hundred posts couldn’t happen without all of you – a blog is nothing without readers and I’m enormously grateful to you wonderful food lovers and adventurers for dropping by, reading, sending emails, posting comments and continuing to drop by, making it all worthwhile. It’s been a great joy to get to know so many of you in person too.

So please drop in for dumplings anytime you’re in Shanghai – it would be a pleasure and an honour.

To be honest though I’ve been struggling with this post in my head for quite some time. The 500th post should be deep and meaningful, reflective and insightful, right? Needless to say it’s been sitting here half written for some weeks and now it’s down to the wire. It has to be posted, because otherwise it will be Post 501 or Post 504. Not as punchy. 
Three years ago, almost to the day, I started Life on Nanchang Lu – ostensibly as a way to document Shanghai life around me, but in reality and with the benefit of hindsight, I can see it was because China was completely overwhelming me and I subconsciously needed to make some sense of it.

While outwardly I claimed to be loving my new life in China, inwardly I was struggling with the loss of identity that comes with leaving a well-established career in medicine to relocate to a country where you know no one, can’t work and don’t speak the language. The combination of frigid wet weather and the frustration of being functionally illiterate and friendless in a society I found extraordinarily confusing (how can a country of 1.3 billion people function if nobody queues??) was tough, at least for those first months.
A blog seemed a good place to start to clear through the confusion and frustration I was feeling. Lord knows intensive Chinese classes and therapy sessions might have done the same job but there it is. A blog was born.

Who would have thought that three years, five hundred posts and a lot of late nights later, I would be a food and travel writer with more than sixty published articles under my belt? I honestly didn’t see it coming and I didn’t set out to become a writer, but I love writing and telling stories about food and places. And if I hadn’t come to China (a country which I now dearly love, even with all its faults) this would never have happened, so for that I will always be thankful.

So here goes Post 500, about how I came to China and inadvertently became a writer, dedicated to all the many talented but as yet unpublished writers out there.

I Started Small

Two years ago, just as I began to think it might be possible to write outside of my blog, I was introduced to the editor of Parents and Kids Magazine – a monthly magazine for Shanghai’s expat families. We got chatting about a recent holiday and I was asked to write a travel piece for the magazine. It would be unpaid because I was an unpublished and untested writer, but it seemed like a great place to start because if I was going to write I wanted to write about travel and food, the two topics close to my heart.

It turned out to be a good decision – Parents and Kids belonged to a group of publications under the same owner, so after that first article was published I was asked to write a series of blog posts for their main website, City Weekend Shanghai, on new things to try in Shanghai followed by a blog series called Try Everything Once.

As is common with many print magazines, online blog content is essentially unpaid, written largely by either staff writers or by bloggers like me. Part of me baulked at doing so much work for nothing week after week for several months, but I felt confident it would lead eventually, one way or another, to paid writing commissions.

Soon after, City Weekend’s family columnist resigned and I took her place writing Family Matters: a fortnightly column about family life in China, and this time a paid gig in their high-circulation print magazine. I was overjoyed! That column became my regular for well over a year until I resigned after leaving for the Great China Roadtrip.

Now you might say writing about family life wasn’t ever going to lead to writing about what I really wanted to – food and travel – but it got me a byline and an audience and gave me a valuable grounding in the way magazines work and what makes an editor happy. I considered it my magazine apprenticeship.

This regular published work led to my becoming the Food Feature writer for Shanghai Family Magazine, then travel writer for That’s Shanghai and That’s Beijing Magazines, which led to work with the Sunday Times, CNNGo, and Oryx magazine. I would never have had a chance with any of those bigger publications if I hadn’t started small and built up experience.

I Found a Mentor

Negotiating the tricky world of freelancer contracts, editorial decisions and pitching stories would have been unimaginable for someone like me without a journalism degree. I needed the help of those wiser and more experienced than myself.

Luckily blogging helped put me in touch with just the people whose advice I needed. It turns out a lot of food journalists, writers and editors come to Shanghai at one point or another for stories, and they often look to local bloggers as a source of information and referrals.

Whenever I met a writer or editor I asked questions, lots of them, and learned from their years of experience. They were all, without exception, delightful people and happy to pass on their knowledge and expertise to someone way below them. Some became firm friends and continue to be mentors to me, some became my editors. Which leads me to the next point…..

 

I Tried to Keep My Editors Happy

I was in terrified awe of some of the editors I met, but once I got to know them I realized they all wanted one thing from their freelancers: to make their busy and stressful lives easier, not more difficult. 
All editors want articles that are on time, come close to the specified word count, and have been edited for spelling and grammatical errors. It sounds basic, but I heard editors so often complain about freelancers who turned in 3000 words for a 750 word piece they ‘couldn’t trim’, or had to be chased for weeks past deadline and then turned in nothing publishable.

As The Grumpy Traveller (freelance travel journalist David Whitley) notes, editors will take reliability over brilliance almost every time.

I Kept My Day Job

Let’s be perfectly frank here – writing is possibly one of the most difficult ways on the planet to make a living. If you break it down to an hourly pay scale, you’d be fiscally better off working in a supermarket – so if your day job pays better than supermarket wages, keep it. At least until your fifth novel goes gangbusters and makes you super, super rich.
As a day job it’s hard to better working in Emergency Medicine – if you happen to have done six years of medical school and six years of specialist training that is. The hours are flexible, it pays pretty well and you’re often free when everyone else is at work – perfect conditions for getting a lot of writing done.

I Learnt Another Skill

I took up photography for the creative enjoyment when I arrived in Shanghai, but it gradually became a marketable skill I could offer editors.

Before print publishing was decimated by online media, magazines would rarely dream of hiring the same person to write and photograph a feature. But in these days of tight budgets and major online competition, being able to offer editors a package of writing and photography means I can command a higher fee than for the writing alone, and may mean the difference between an editor choosing my pitch over someone else’s.

Obviously I’m not talking about National Geographic, but about magazines who need good quality photography to illustrate a story. I have always provided my own images for the stories I write, which means I also have more input into which images are chosen. It must be frustrating to write something amazing only to have it illustrated with a stock photography beach shot.

I Kept Writing

Week in, week out, whether I had a deadline or not I kept writing – blog posts, ideas and pitches. I blogged because I love to share stories, and I’ll continue blogging as long as all of you wonderful people keep reading.

Blogging keeps up the habit and practice of writing until it becomes an ingrained part of life. Blogging isn’t my job and I make absolutely no money from it, but it has given me the freedom and space to develop my own writing style and voice, and at the same time has become my online business card and CV rolled into one, a place where potential employers can see what I do for themselves, and contact me easily.

The Future

I hope to be able to continue writing about China for a long time yet – there’s certainly a bottomless pit of stories from my last three years here, most of which are untold.  Life on Nanchang Lu will continue to be around whether I’m in Shanghai or back home in Australia and just dreaming about Shanghai.

And once our travels are over I’m planning to sit down in a quiet place to write a book about them – my biggest writing project yet. I’m terrified and excited by the prospect all at once, but can’t wait to get cracking. I’ll keep you updated with how it’s progressing.

Helpful Resources:

Dianne Jacob’s practical, sensible and extraordinarily helpful book Will Write For Food is like a road map for carving out a food writing career. Although written specifically for food writers her solid advice applies equally to budding writers in any field.

Pitching Errors: How Not to Pitch – from website The Open Notebook  offers valuable advice on what  not to do when pitching a magazine story. They also keep an interesting Pitching Database of successful pitches.

The Single Most Important Piece of Advice for Freelance Writers by The Grumpy Traveller is well written advice that should give all freelancers heart. He also has a useful section on Writing and Media

If you have a story to tell or a tip to share about writing, I’d love to hear it! 

Ten Must Try Foods in Yunnan 十大不容错过的云南美食

Yunnan is mountains and clouds, mists and forests, jungles and wilderness, and a richly textured and coloured human landscape of different ethnic minorities, each with their own strong food culture. Tucked into a corner of China bordering Tibet, Myanmar, Laos and Vietnam, Yunnan’s diverse food reflects its topography, unique climate, human population, and the food of its neighbours.
Here are a group of ten foods we enjoyed over the last few weeks as we travelled through Yunnan from the cold and mountainous north, to the subtropical jungles in the south and the exquisite rice terraces landscape of the east. We’ve eaten well, as you can see!
There are some Yunnan foods you won’t find here, either because I’ve written about them before (Crossing the Bridge Noodles, Bugs, Barks and Dragonfly Nymphs and Yunnan Ham) or because I’m writing about them in an upcoming post (like Yunnan’s famed Pu’er tea).
Feast the eyes!
1. Mi xian 米线
A warming bowl of rich stock filled with slippery smooth rice noodles, and topped with a dizzying array of bright bursting tastes: sour, salty, fiery, and bitter. This is mi xian, possibly the most popular street snack in all of Yunnan and one of the few that is eaten in every corner of the province. 
In the last four weeks I’ve tasted ten or fifteen variations of this noodle dish, each particular to a local area and/or a particular street vendor. The essentials are always the same – rice noodles, thick or fine, your choice – served in a broth made of stock, along with some leafy greens and the addition of various condiments and toppings. 
The condiments might include any or all of the following – pickled beans, chili oil, pork cooked with fermented soybeans, soy sauce, cilantro, finely diced fat pork, fermented chili, hot tomato salsa, or pickled cabbage. In the middle of Yunnan in the small town of Changning, every bowl comes topped with hearty hunks of cold cooked pork and crispy shards of pork crackling, just for something different.
满满一碗热腾腾的爽滑的大米做的面条,上面排列着眼花缭乱的调味:酸的,咸的,热辣的还有点苦的味道。这就是米线。这很可能是云南最著名的街道小吃了,而且在这个省市的任何一个角落都可以找到一家米线店。
在过去的四星期我们吃了1015种面食,每一个都是本地的特色或者是特色的街边排挡。但实质都是一样盛在肉汤里面的大米做的面条,满满的,撒些绿色蔬菜还有各种调味品和浇头。调味品可能包含每一样或是会有接下来的这些东西腌制过的豆子,豆瓣酱加工过的猪肉,香菜,肉酱,辣椒酱,西红柿洋葱做的辣调味汁,或者是大白菜泡菜。在云南中部的一个叫崇安的小镇,每一碗上面都会浇上用心烹制过的凉肉和猪油渣脆皮片.

2. Wild Herbs Ye Cai 野菜
When I read ‘fresh wild herbs salad’ on a menu in Lijiang I thought of mint and wild plants. It sounded fresh and delicious and very, very green – just what I was hankering after. When this plate of brown lichen arrived I sent it back to the kitchen, thinking a mistake had been made, where the chef patiently explained to me this was ‘wild herbs’ ye cai 野菜, an all encompassing term apparently meaning ‘anything growing wild in the forest’. 
I’ve since tasted many delicious versions of this salad with frail feathery lichen, mixed with cilantro and mint leaves, a little sharp chili, and a touch of sweet soy, but sadly the bark-like lichen doesn’t improve no matter what you do to it.
当我在丽江读到新鲜野菜沙拉的时候我想到薄荷和各种野菜。它听起来很新鲜美味,而且非常非常绿正如我期待的那样。当这个盛满棕色苔藓的盘子端上来的时候,我把它退回了厨房,想着肯定是搞错了,但是厨师耐心地解释这就是野菜,一个涵盖范围过广的术语显然意味着任何长在森林的野生植物。我曾经尝过许多这种美味的沙拉,混合着香菜,薄荷叶,加一点辣椒还有少许甜豆酱。

3. Sour fish stew 酸汤鱼

The first flavour you recognize is sourness from the fermented chili sauce used, and the sweet fish – then the full force of chili heat sears your lips. After that, you taste little but chili but the texture is sublime – the silky, soft, soothing cubes of fresh tofu and the crunch of scallions. 
最先辨识的味道就是酿制的辣椒酱的酸味和鲜美的鱼而后热辣的味道就快要灼伤你的嘴唇。在那之后,你稍稍尝一点,但是辣椒的辣还存留于口中柔滑爽口的豆腐块还有一些葱段。

4. Roast Tofu 烤豆腐
This Yi lady sits at a low table inside the restaurant with an old wok full of charcoal covered by a grill, carefully turning each of the squares of 五天豆腐 wu tian doufu, five days old and just starting to ferment and soften slightly in the centre, while dry on the outside. 
The outsides begin to brown and soon enough they’re little nutty, crispy balls with soft warm centres, ready to eat, dipped into a sauce made with soy sauce, ground sichuan green pepper, cilantro and pickled chili.
And yes, that’s what she wears to work every day, and no, it’s not for tourists. Beautiful isn’t it?

一个女士坐在饭店内的低矮的桌旁,上面是一个装满木炭的珐琅餐盘,她小心的翻煎着方形的五天豆腐,五天豆腐才开始煎烤(发酵),中心慢慢地些许变软,变成褐色,外边还是干的。外面开始变棕的时候,浸在由豆子,青葱和腌制的辣酱做的调味汁里,就可以吃了。

5. Dai Style Feast 傣族宴会

In southern Yunnan the local people, the Dai,  share much in common with those of northern Thailand and Laos. They love communal eating, hot and sour flavours, and the dishes feature the local fish and a combination of mint, ginger, chilies and sour pickles.
A Dai feast arives all at once, with everything meant to be sampled and shared. Bowls of steamed wild greens and uncooked herbs are served with a choice of four dipping sauces – a mild crushed peanut sauce, a sour pickled chili sauce, a fiery fermented tomato sauce, and a rich, deep, dark sauce made with fermented tofu.
At the centre of the table is a platter of roasted fish and meats, all char-grilled and smoky – sweet slices of barbecued ham, crispy-skinned chicken, fish wrapped in banana leaves, pork and mint sausage, and siced fatty pork. There is a tiny dish of a salty, peppery, spice mixture in which to dip your meat.
There are several hot dishes too – a free-range chicken (tuji 土鸡)cooked in a light broth, and pumpkin leaf shoots in a soup that magically takes away the heat of the chillies.
在云南南部的居住民族是傣族,他们分享着和泰国北部还有老挝一样的习俗。他们喜欢一起吃东西,喜欢酸辣的口味还有烤鱼和烤肉。
傣族宴会即将开始,每一样食物都是样品和供人共享的。盛放蒸熟的野菜碗和没加工过的野菜会配有四五种蘸酱汁淡淡的花生碎沙司,酸辣酱沙司,热辣的番茄沙司,还有用发酵豆腐做的深色沙司。
桌子中间有一大盘烤鱼和烤肉,都是碳烤和烟熏的,烧烤火腿片,脆皮鸡,裹着香蕉叶的鱼,猪肉,薄荷香肠,肥猪肉片还有猪耳朵。有一个小盘盛着咸盐,胡椒和混合香料,可以配肉品尝。
也有热菜在肉汤里炖煮的家鸡,汤中的南瓜枝叶很神奇的带走了辣椒的热辣。




6. Egg Yolk Fruit 蛋黄果
Yunnan is full of the most unusual foods you won’t find anywhere else in China. I had seen these globe-sized yellow fruits in the markets – bright golden yellow and very soft on the inside, the first mouthful feels just like a bite of soft-boiled egg. 
Your mouth is confused by the texture because the taste doesn’t match – the fruit is a little sweet with a flavour somewhere between sweet roast pumpkin and ripe papaya, but mostly unlike anything else. It goes very well with a squeeze of fresh lime juice.
云南有各种你在中国其他地方找不到的食物,我曾在超市里见过这些球形的黄色水果,最终有机会品尝它们,里面的金黄色非常柔软,第一口感觉咬到软软的刚煮好的鸡蛋似的。你的嘴巴都被这种质地搞糊涂了,因为这种味道不符合任何一种其他水果这种水果有点甜,有点像熟木瓜的味道,但主要的味道不同于任何一种水果。牙齿咬出酸橙汁的那一刻感觉棒极了。

 7. Baba 粑粑
This popular street snack, served hot and wrapped in banana leaf, is chewy, sticky, and sweet.  Circles of purple sticky rice dough are first grilled over charcoal, where they puff up into a ball over the heat and soften, then flattened and filled with dark brown sugar which quickly melts, before being folded or rolled into a neat, sweet package.
这种有名的街边小吃,用香蕉叶包裹着的热乎乎的盛着,粘粘的,甜甜的。紫糯米团先在木炭上烘烤,他们通过加热膨胀成球形,慢慢变软,然后扁平,在折叠或者卷成一个小甜包裹之前,里面夹上很快溶化的深棕色糖。

8. Fresh Lime juice 柠檬水
In southern Yunnan, neighbouring Burma and Laos, tropical fruit grows abundantly even in winter. Papayas, pineapples, mangoes and passionfruit are served up as juice in tiny streetside juice stalls.
Everyone’s favourite refresher though is ning meng shui 柠檬水 or homemade sweet lime juice. The juice of two or three limes, some sugar syrup, ice and cold water. 
在云南南部,紧邻缅甸和老挝,甚至在冬天都生长着大量的热带水果,木瓜,菠萝,芒果还有热带果,在小街的果汁摊位都有所售卖。人人都喜欢新鲜提神的柠檬水或是自制的甜酸橙汁。两三种果汁,外加一些糖浆还有冰水。

9. Paoluda 泡鲁达
Intriguing and bizarrely addictive, the individual components of paoluda 泡鲁达 don’t sound altogether appetizing: tapioca, sweet condensed milk, black sticky rice, jelly cubes, chunks of dried bread or biscuit and shaved coconut. But this hot weather desert or drink (depending on whether you have it in a bowl or a tall glass with a thick straw) served over ice is surprisingly fabulous.
The locals told me the desert is Burmese in origin, and the name is a pinyinised version of the Indian and Persian drink falooda, which it closely resembles.
很莫名其妙的使人上瘾,非常的有趣,泡鲁达的主要成分整体来看不怎么有胃口:木薯淀粉,甜炼乳,黑糯米,果冻干面包或是饼干屑还有椰子肉。但这种热天之下在冰上面放着甜点或是饮料(你可以自主选择放在碗里还是在高高的玻璃杯里加一根粗吸管)真是惊人的美味。本地人告诉我甜点是原产于缅甸,名字则是印度人和波斯人喝的法鲁达的拼音拼写。

10. Sticky Rice Sticks 糯米油条
Small balls of sweetened sticky rice dough are stretched into short lengths before being laid gently in bubbling oil, where they puff and lengthen into a crisp sweet stick with a chewy gooey centre. These nuomi youtiao 糯米油条 (sticky rice oil sticks) are sweeter and lighter than their street food breakfast counterparts, you tiao
I declared them Yunnan’s version of the donut, minus the cinnamon.
甜味糯米团做的小球被穿在短棍上,放入滚烫的油锅中,慢慢膨胀逐渐变成一个中间是粘粘的外皮是脆脆的长棍。我敢说,去掉桂皮后,这就是云南版本的炸面圈。

Travels Round China by Food:

All Smoke, No Lava: Tengchong Volcano Park 腾冲火山公园

Ever since the Brady Bunch went to Hawaii and saw volcanoes I’ve wanted to see a real volcano too, glowing with lava and occasionally letting off spurts of sulphurous steam. Like Indianna Jones faced with the Temple of Doom, the thought of a sacrificial pit filled with bubbling lava was very thrilling to my fourteen year-old self, although I wasn’t as keen on the human sacrifice component involved. 

Suffice to say I have a highly romantic and somewhat idealised mental vision of volcanoes, dented somewhat when Mount St Helens erupted, completely lava free, killing fifty seven, and rekindled after recently re-reading Mark Twain’s American travel odyssey Roughing It, with a description of a night-time walk across the three-mile wide crater of the Kilauea volcano in Hawaii:
“Under us, and stretching away before us, was a heaving sea of molten fire of seemingly limitless extent. The glare from it was so blinding that it was some time before we could bear to look upon it steadily.
It was like gazing at the sun at noon-day, except that the glare was not quite so white. At unequal distances all around the shores of the lake were nearly white-hot chimneys or hollow drums of lava, four or five feet high, and up through them were bursting gorgeous sprays of lava-gouts and gem spangles, some white, some red and some golden—a ceaseless bombardment, and one that fascinated the eye with its unapproachable splendor.”
Mark Twain, Roughing It, 1872
自从布雷迪去夏威夷看到那些我也曾如此期待的火山,伴着火山岩浆喷发耀出红光,喷射出硫磺。就像印第安纳琼斯面对末日殿堂一般,想到一个充满熔岩沸腾的献祭深渊令14岁的我不禁毛骨悚然,虽然我不喜欢有人类牺牲这样的内容掺和进去。我只想说我的确有一种高尚的浪漫主义情怀,把火山理想精神化了,削弱了当圣海伦斯火山爆发,完全的熔岩释放,致使57人遇难又重新复燃的实情,在最近重读马克吐温的美国人在奥德赛旅行,艰难岁月一书中有一段描述是在夏威夷徒步走夜路穿越基拉韦厄火山的一个三英里宽的火山口。
“在下面,我们面前是一条绵延至远方的道路,一片起伏的火海看起来没有尽头。耀眼的光芒使人目眩,带我们平稳的看清下面还需要一定的时间。就像是在正午时分直视着太阳一样,除了刺眼的光不是那么白以外。沿着湖岸边不规则的距离都是白热化的烟囱或是中空的鼓形熔岩,四五英尺高,在它们之上是一团团熔岩华丽爆炸的喷雾还有像闪烁发光的珠宝一般,一些是白的,一些是红的,还有一些是金色的一连串的爆炸,发出的无与伦比的光彩吸引着你的眼球。” 马克吐温艰难岁月1872


So after hearing that western Yunnan is home to China’s own volcano cluster, we took an almighty detour towards the Myanmar border to the centre of the action at the Tengchong Volcano Park, or more properly and Chinglish-ly named the National Geo Park Of Tengchong Volcanic And Geothermal. I guess that covers everything.
My expectations of volcanic satisfaction were high, given that in China everything is big. This was going to be major, and we could also say it was educational and therefore justify the four days’ round trip out of our way to see it.  
The whole Tengchong region is a hotbed of seismic activity with volcanoes, hot springs, geysers and reasonably frequent earthquakes. We thought it might be an exciting place to take the kids to maybe see some science in action, but just in case we saw a bit too much science in action we made a family pact not to tell anyone back home until after we were safely somewhere else. Which we now are.
I’d built up quite an exciting level of risk in my mind, imagining walking Twain-style across a just-cooled crater of lava, but my first niggling doubts that the experience might be just slightly underwhelming came when we arrived at the Volcano Park and purchased tickets.
“Would you like tickets to Big Empty Mountain, Small Empty Mountain, Black Empty Mountain or all three?” the ticket seller asked. 
Empty? I thought. Empty? Surely not. 
We opted for Big Empty Mountain, being the biggest, but first took a turn through the Volcano Museum where they displayed an out-of-work geiger counter and a battery-operated volcano replica at least as tall as a person, rivers of red cellophane lava flowing endlessly down its sides. This was going to be GOOD.
Outside beyond the impressive five flagpoles Big Empty Mountain looked decidedly small up close, so I checked the map just in case we had detoured to Small Empty Mountain by mistake. We hadn’t, because the flat tree-covered hillock off to our right was, in fact, Small Empty Mountain, and Big Empty Mountain was dead ahead.

所以听说云南西部也是重活本土火山群的故土时,我们毅然决然的绕道前往缅甸边界进入腾冲火山公园的活动中心,更适当的讲,中英文名字叫做腾冲火山和地热国家地理公园。我想这名字包含了所有信息了。我对于火山印象期待很高,因为之前已经有一种中国每件东西都很巨大的印象。这次也一定不同凡响,我们也可以讲这是很有教育意义的,因而也能见证我们偏离正常路线绕行4天的旅行专程来看它。
整个腾冲就是火山活跃带的温床,温泉,间歇喷泉还有适度频率的地震。我们原以为这应该是个可以带孩子们来的很有意思的地方,也许可以看看运动中的科学,但是以防万一,我们看这种运动的科学有点多,我们达成一个家庭协议。直到我们安全了才会在回家之后告诉其他人。也就是现在。
在我脑海里形成这一点确实比较冒险,想象走在一个刚刚冷却的台湾风格的火山岩坑口,但我首先零星的怀疑竟是当我们到了火山公园买票的时候这种经历无足轻重。
“你想要去大空山小空山, 黑空山或者包含三种的门票吗?” 卖票人询问.
空的? 我想了一下. 空的? 当然不要了.
我们选择大空山,因为是最大的,但先转个弯浏览一下火山博物馆,那里陈列着废弃的盖革计数器和一个和人一般高的电池供电的火山复制品,红玻璃纸做的火山熔岩沿着边界流下。这个真的很不错。
走出外面,印象深刻的五个旗杆旁边的大空山看起来真的很小,所以我检查了一下地图,以防万一我们误绕到了小空山,但是我们没有,因为在我们右边平坦的树木覆盖着的小丘事实上就是小空山,而大空山就是面前这个。
Big Empty Mountain. Be very afraid.




The climb up Big Empty Mountain’s 648 stairs was just the thing for building anticipation of what a real volcano crater would look like. Never mind that the volcano itself was small. The crater would be black. Crusted with ancient lava. Perhaps occasional little puffs of high-pressure steam. Maybe.

Huffing and puffing, we arrived at the top to find this:

爬上大空山648级台阶就像是不断建立期待中真正的火山口是什么样的,无所谓火山本身多小。火山口很黑,远古时期陈旧的熔岩。也许偶尔会有高压蒸汽产生的小小喘息,也许。气喘吁吁的我们到达顶峰时发现:

Possibly the boring-est photo of a volcano ever taken. Ever.

At least the view from the top was lovely, and for a very brief minute we were able to convince the kids that the far off hill was smoking, until the cloud moved and destroyed that illusion.

I asked the girls how they thought it might have been better.

The older one favoured a scorched earth approach to volcano improvement:

“They should have taken away all the trees and grass so it looked more like a real volcano” (volcanoes in her mind being blackened cones of rock glowing red from within).

The younger one felt some lava inside the crater would have been better than “a bunch of trees” or failing that “at least a lake you could swim in”.

In summary, they named it a “spectacular disappointment” and didn’t even stop to look at the lava souvenirs carved into fish shapes, something they may one day regret.

至少从山顶看下去很美。有一刻我们可以向孩子们确认遥远的山峰还在喘息,直到云朵移开,打破了我的幻觉。我问孩子们她们觉得怎样会感觉更好点。大一点的孩子赞成用焦土的方法改进火山:“他们应该把树和草都移开,让它看起来像一个真的火山”(在她印象中火山应该是内部闪着红光的黑色锥形石)。小一点的觉得火山口里面的熔岩应该比“一丛树木”更好些,或者就算不是的话“至少是一个你能在里面游泳的湖”。总之,她们把这个称作是“无比的沮丧”(坑爹),甚至不想停下来看看雕刻成鱼的形状的火山纪念品,也许有一天他们会有点遗憾的。

The Sea of Heat 热海
Which is how we ended up later that day at the fabled Tengchong Sea of Heat, acres of boiling waters, geysers, bubbling mud and noxious gases. At least, that’s what we all thought it should have. We did know there was an outdoor swimming pool heated with therapeutic underground spring waters, and if there’s one thing that makes up for pretty much any disappointment when you’re a child, it’s the thought of splashing around in a swimming pool for a few hours.

We spent an hour searching through the campervan’s dozen or more cupboards for everyone’s swimming costumes, unworn since the beach on Lian Island, packed them into a bag along with changes of clothes and hairbrushes, and fought our way to the ticket office through a hundred tour buses and a hundred ladies selling eggs wrapped in raffia in the carpark. Why eggs? We had no idea.

The smiling ladies behind the vast ticket counter asked whether we wanted to see everything in the Sea of Heat, or just a select few things like the Boiling Cauldron and the Sea of Pearls.

“We just want to go swimming actually” we said.

“OK, so altogether that’s one thousand and seventy two yuan” she told me.

I handed her a one hundred yuan note, thinking she’d said seventy two yuan.

“No, no, a thousand and seventy two yuan. Two hundred and sixty eight yuan each person” she replied. That’s close to a hundred and eighty dollars. Two hundred and sixty eight yuan is the same price you would pay for dinner for ten in a local restaurant, or a room in a 4 star Chinese hotel.

At this point, expensive disappointing volcano behind us and promise of swimming rapidly evaporating before us, I became one of those tourists. The one who can’t believe how expensive everything is. The one who has to make her point known to the poor dummy manning the ticket desk, the same dummy with no say over the obscene prices charged by private enterprises who have bribed their way into running a business inside a national park.

“268 yuan? Why is it so expensive?”

“It’s very, very good.”

“Can you sleep there overnight?”

“No…”

“Do you get breakfast, lunch and dinner for free?”

“No, of course..”

“So HOW can you justify charging 268 yuan to go swimming??”

“It’s very good. The waters are very steamy.”

My husband gently pulled my elbow. “Let’s just pay to see the hot springs, how about that?”

在传说中的腾冲的热海,我们结束了那天最后的旅程,这片热海有几英亩沸腾的水,间歇泉,冒泡的泥浆还释放着有毒气体。至少这都是我们认为它该有的东西。我们知道有一个室外水疗泳池就是靠地下泉水加热的,当你还是个孩子的时候,若是有什么可以弥补任何失望,唯有在游泳池里嬉戏几个钟头了。
我们花了一个小时搜索房车各个角落或者更多的橱柜,就是为了找到每个人的泳衣,自从连岛海滩之后就没有穿了,把它们打包起来和换洗的衣服还有发梳放在一起。然后我们全力前往售票厅,在停车场穿过一百辆旅行车和一百个卖鸡蛋的女人,用拉菲草包着的鸡蛋。为什么是鸡蛋?我们不知道。
在巨大的售票台后面的女士问我们是否要看热海的每一个区域,或是只是选像沸腾池和珍珠之海这样的几个景点看。
事实上我们只是 “来游泳的” 我们说.
“好的,所以一共一千零七十二元”她告诉我。

我给了她一张一百的, 想她还会说还有七十二元

“不,不,一千零七十二元。每个人两百六十八”她回答。那快接近一百八十美元了。两百六十八都够在当地十个人吃饭的饭钱了,或者是中国一家四星级旅馆了。

在这一点上,我们身后是昂贵的令人失望的火山,面前时承诺中那个雾气缭绕的游泳池,我成了那些游客中的一个。一个不能相信每个东西都这么贵的游客。一个一定要搞清楚售票处这些虚假的工作人员,还有同样虚假的毫无说明就索要的无理票价,这个票价一定是私营人员通过贿赂的手段在国家公园里面经营这种生意。
268元?为什么这么贵?”
“这个真的非常,非常好”
“能在那过夜吗?”


 不行……
“那能免费吃早饭,午饭和晚饭吗?”
“当然不行。”
“那你凭什么要268元去游个泳??”
“真的特别好,是有雾汽缭绕的水池。”
我丈夫轻轻地拉了拉我的肘。“让我们就付款看看热温泉吧,怎么样?”




So we paid the relatively paltry sum of forty dollars to see the Boiling Cauldron, an impressively scalding pool of sulfur-bubbling water where suddenly eggs wrapped in raffia made perfect sense. Why just look at a pool of boiling volcanic water when you could cook stuff in it? Genius.
因此我们就付了相当于40美元的数额去看了沸腾的大锅,一个特别令人印象深刻的景象出现了,这是个滚烫的冒着硫磺泡的水池,突然有裹着拉菲草的鸡蛋出现,感觉真是好极了。当你能填满它来煮东西的时候,干嘛只是眼巴巴的看着它?简直是天才。

The cheapskates who had brought eggs in from the carpark were relegated to a simmering puddle in a far corner, away from those who could afford to pay the premium price charged by yet another private enterprise for the privilege of having their eggs (and peanuts and potatoes) cooked in the actual Boiling Cauldron.

At that point I could feel the familiar buzz of a bee in my bonnet but thankfully kept it to myself. We had all paid the same entry price, and yet we couldn’t all cook our eggs in the Boiling Cauldron, and we couldn’t all enjoy the view from the outdoor seats because those things were all extras run by private companies.

As we walked through the park VIP Beauty Spas and Very Expensive Tea Shops popped up at every turn. I don’t mind paying an entry ticket to see an attraction, far from it, but when most of my path is roped off to permit access only to people who’ve paid VIP prices? It’s just….just….JUST NOT VERY COMMUNIST now is it??

从停车场带进来鸡蛋的吝啬的卖家被安排在远处角落的一个水坑煨煮,远离那些付过额外费用给私人企业的摊贩,他们有特权可以在真正的沸腾大汽锅中煮他们的鸡蛋(还有花生和土豆)。
在那一点上我感觉很像是阀盖上一只嗡嗡的蜜蜂,但我只是自己知道。我们付了同样的门票。然而却不能在沸腾大气锅里煮鸡蛋,而且也不能享受从外面的座椅上欣赏这些风景,因为那些东西都是私营小店额外经营的。
当我们穿过公园顶级美丽水疗区以及每个拐角处突然出现的昂贵茶餐厅时,我并不介意付额外票价去看一个奇景,姑且不说这一点,但是当我大部分的道路都被围起来的时候,而且仅仅是允许付过会员价的人进去。这真的,真的,真的非常的不人性(共产主义),不是吗?




Unfortunately, the best view of this waterfall of boiling water and frog-mouthed geysers was roped off, obstructed by a large tent selling photos of tourists taken in a VIP position with the best view.

不幸的是,最好的观看沸水瀑布和青蛙嘴间歇泉的景观位置都被围起来了,被一个巨大的帐篷摊位阻塞,这个摊位就是以卖给游客在最佳位置拍摄的照片为主。

And the previously impressive boiling river had been diverted with a very attractive rock wall and pipe to feed the VIP Spa nearby.
之前印象深刻的沸腾河已经被改变了, 变成一个吸引众人的石墙和供养附近水疗的一个管道.
The pavilion and bridge were, unbelievably, Included in The Entry Price. I kept waiting for someone to spring out and charge me for walking on it.
We rounded a corner and there it was, the Unbelievably Expensive Swimming Pool in the midst of a Costly Private Resort, smack bang in the middle of a national park we had all paid to get into. The path through the valley was no longer passable because the resort had requisitioned all the land.
The girls made little conciliatory remarks to make us feel better, like “I bet they wouldn’t even let you play Marco Polo in there” and “people probably spit in the water”. 
We stood on one side of the fence and watched the only two occupants of the pool, men with white towels wrapped around their waists, walk past smoking. 
“You’ve been ripped off!” I wanted to yell at them, and at all the tourists around us. But they were too busy lining up to pay for a laminated copy of their geyser photos. Oh China.
亭子和桥也是一样,难以置信,都包含在门票里面。我等待着某个人能跳出来,控诉我在上面行走。
我们绕到一个拐角,就是这里了,在昂贵的私人度假胜地的中央就是这个贵的要命的泳池,在我们支付一切只为进入国家公园中心的时候又是猛然一惊,通往山谷的路径不再通行,因为度假村已经征用了所有的地盘。
姑娘们说了一些安抚的话语让我们感觉稍微好一点,像是“我打赌他们甚至不会让你在那里玩游戏的。” 
我们站在围栏边,看着泳池边的两个人,手腕上绑着白毛巾,抽着烟走过我们身边。
“你们上当(被宰)了!”我真想朝他们,朝着周围所有的游客喊出来。但他们都忙着排队支付那些喷泉照片的费用。唉,中国。





Tengchong Volcano Park 腾冲火山地热国家地质公园
Approximately 25km north of Tengchong just outside Mazhanxiang village.
Admission 60 yuan per person

Sea of Heat 热海
Approximately 10km south of Tengchong
Admission 60 yuan per person for limited access to attractions

Yunnan’s Biggest Market: Yousuo Friday Market 云南最大的集市: 右所周五集市

Every Friday in Yousuo, north of Dali, Yunnan’s biggest, noisiest and liveliest market takes place, spilling across the main road through town and into side streets, lanes, and a vast open area at the foot of the mountains. The local Bai people arrive from nearby farms and villages, baskets on their backs and dressed in their finest to buy and sell goods – livestock, vegetables, embroideries, woven baskets, pots and pans, sweets and tea.

Markets are a peek through the keyhole into another culture and way of life – what people eat, how they do business, how they dress. And markets are full of what the Chinese call renao 热闹, translated literally as ‘heat and noise’ but meaning ‘noisy excitement’ or ‘hubbub’. 

Renao is one of my favourite Chinese words and describes that indefinable atmosphere of all-round enjoyment and festivity that makes a good restaurant great, or a party unmissable. Noise and heat. Bustle and excitement. Crowds and activity. 

I love renao, and would rather visit a local market than a hundred temples, if the truth be known. 

Impressivley well-travelled writer Thoedora Sutcliffe recently wrote about 100 Lessons Learned from 1000 Days of Travel around the world with her son. It’s a great read and a  great list, but Number 3 particularly caught my eye:


3. Big Ticket Sights Are Almost Always Worth It …..if you’re within 50 miles of one of the wonders of the world and don’t see it, you’ll be kicking yourself for decades.

I mostly agree with her, but if there’s a market within 50 miles of one of the wonders of the world and I miss it, then I really will kick myself.

So what will you find at Yunnan’s biggest, most renao-ish market? Have a look.

大理北部一个叫右所的地方,每周五都会有云南最大规模,最喧嚣和最生机勃勃的市集。本地的白族人身着美丽的衣裳,背着竹筐,从附近的农场和村落赶来进行商品买卖——牲畜,蔬菜,刺绣,编织的篮筐,坛坛罐罐,糖果和茶叶之类的。通过窥探市集可以了解到另一种文化和生活方式人们习惯吃什么,他们如何做生意,他们如何着装。市集到处都是中国人常说的热闹,字面理解成“热烈喧闹”但实际意味着一种兴奋和喧哗。
热闹是我最喜欢用的中国词语之一,它可以描述出那种难以名状的氛围,到处是节日的喜悦和欢乐,可以用来形容一个很棒的餐馆,也可以表示一场不容错过的派对,喧闹和热烈,活跃又亢奋,充满活力的人群,我喜欢热闹,说真的,相比于成百上千的庙宇我更喜欢这样一个本地的市集。

高价景观总是值得一看

令人印象深刻的著名旅行作家克里夫最近在和其子环游世界的过程中写了一本书,从千日旅行中学习的百堂课程。读起来真的很不错,还有很棒的列表,尤其是第三章节非常吸引我。
我非常赞同她,但若有个市场离世界奇迹只有50英里,而我却没去这个市场,我真的会后悔的。
所以你猜我们会在这个云南最大最热闹的的市集发现什么好玩的呢?跟我一起看看吧。








Piglets in baskets: one farmer tried to swap a piglet for our youngest daughter, but we resisted. Just.
筐子里的小猪:一个农民想用他的小猪交换我们最小的女儿,但是我们拒绝了。这点不容置疑。

Bai women shop with baskets on their backs, straps on their foreheads or over their shoulders. Cane baskets are still the most popular but coloured woven tape baskets are becoming a new trend.
白族父女用背上的竹筐进行购物,将绳子勒在前额或者绕过她们的肩膀。藤筐仍是最受欢迎的,但彩色的编织带篮筐即将成为新的流行趋势。
The women favour a sleeveless cobalt blue or red tunic belted with a hand-embroidered sash, and a scarf or flower-embroidered head dress to cover their hair, often with a straw hat perched on top. Those who wear the flower-embroidered head-dresses often cover it with a net scarf to keep it clean in the dust of the marketplace.
女人喜欢无袖的钴蓝色或是红色束腰外衣,搭配一条手绣的腰带和围巾或是用绣花的头饰遮住他们的头发,通常也会在上面带一个稻草帽。那些带着绣花头饰的女人常常用围巾再盖上,防止市集的灰尘弄脏头饰。

Local sweets: peanut brittle, rock sugar, ground sticky rice flavoured with rose water, sesame toffee
本地甜点, 花生太妃糖, 冰糖, 玫瑰味的糯米糖, 还有芝麻太妃糖.

Tricycle truck – slightly larger than a motorbike, holds slightly more than a wheelbarrow. Maximum load seen carried: six people plus a pig and eight chickens.

三轮卡车比一般的摩托车大一些,装的东西要比独轮手推车多一些,看起来最多能装载:六个人外加一头猪和八只鸡。

If you don’t have a tricycle truck you can also carry your chicken purchases like this. Friends have suggested it would be a useful way for carrying unruly small children.
如果你没有三轮卡车,也可以这么带你的鸡。朋友建议对于不老实的小孩也可以用这种方式。

Not everyone wears traditional dress of course
当然并非每个人都穿着传统服饰

Coolest dude in Yunnan, selling thermoses. Because everyone knows only cool people use thermoses.

云南最酷的人, 都卖热水壶. 因为人人都知道只有很酷的人才会用热水瓶.

Bai woman selling joss papers for burning at the temple.

Yunnan has a unique climate and topography, so you’ll find plenty of unusual foods not seen elsewhere in China
Left: mao doufu – mold fermented tofu  Right: hai cai hua 海菜花 (ottelia accuminata) – a water plant with delicate white flowers that float on the water surface of lakes, the stalks of which are used in cooking.
云南气候和地形都很独特, 所以你能发现很多中国其他地方不会生长的食物.
左: 毛豆腐发霉的一种豆腐
右: 海菜花 (海菜花属一种生长着精美白色小花的水生植物,漂浮在湖水表面,它的茎干可以用来烹饪)

The man who sells everything from his square-metre shop: kitchen scourers, rubber gloves, safety pins, sewing needles, packets of single-use shampoo, zippers, plugs, and a thousand other useful things.
在这个一平方大小的小店,卖家销售各种商品:厨房调味品,橡胶手套,安全别针,缝衣针,一次性香波,打火机,插头还有成百上千种其他的有用玩意儿。

And lastly the street dentist, who for 50 yuan (about $8) will fit you with a shining silver cap for one of your front teeth, on the spot. Without even taking off his sunglasses.
街巷牙医,50块钱(8美元)就可以当场给你的一颗门牙镶上闪闪发亮的银套。甚至不需要脱掉他的太阳镜。

Yousuo Friday Market
Every Friday from early morning until mid-afternoon
Yousuo is on the  G214 about 40km north of Dali, Yunnan
GPS: Lat 26.018064  Long  100.063546