Saturday, October 6, 2012

Qinghai青海: Beauty, food poisoning , and a very curious "magic" trick

Hello everyone it has been quite a while, I just got back from Qinghai, which is a western province of China that borders Tibet. It was an extremely interesting trip filled with plenty of exciting and bizarre experiences.
The first day I was in Qinghai I decided to go for a run, it was 6:30 in the morning and raining but I was itching to get some fresh air, well at least more fresh than Shanghai. I soon found myself running in a park seeing the typical pockets of people doing their morning tai chi, absorbed in my own little world I was thinking "yes! hotel has free breakfast". I ran past a lady performing tai chi when I was suddenly shocked out of my musings to a loud battle cry which sent me flying off the path into some nearby bushes. Recovering from the initial shock I realized it had been the little old lady performing her morning tai chi, I soon herd similar cries throughout the park and accepted the fact that I was not going to have to protect myself from a senior citizen . Upon returning to the hotel I found out that some people who practice tai chi accompany each move with a shout, so its a normal everyday thing in China.

Qinghai is a beautiful place to visit, barren grasslands extend for miles and are only interrupted by the stunning snow capped peaks that abound in the region. The scenery is complemented by the beautiful Buddhist monasteries that are tucked into the mountain sides near almost every town. It was in one of these towns where my friends and I had a very interesting bar experience. It was a Monday night and we decided to see what kind of night life the small town in which we were staying had if it had any at all. We soon walked into a disco bar, not expecting much since it was a Monday night, but to our surprise the place was packed. It seemed like every young man in the village had turned out and not taking note of the lack of women, which should of been a warning sign, we sat down. It turned out that this was no ordinary bar and after the opening song, which was Gangnam Style, the performance began. At first it was just singers the bar had hired to sing Chinese pop songs which in fact was really cool, but then things changed when the singers stopped singing and started "dancing" if you catch my drift. After the last singer/dancer left the stage it was time for the final act, and what an interesting and bizarre act that turned out to be. The act started with a guy dressed as, well the closet description I can think of is a clown draped in Maoist era clothes. After performing a series of juggling tricks and acrobatic stunts, interspersed generously with lewd gestures, it was time for his pièce de résistance. This consisted of him placing a condom over his head and inflating it with his nose, and that was our cue to leave. Now I am assured by my German couchsurfing friend that in fact this is quite a common performance and he has seen it many times in Europe. So I don't know I guess the U.S. has to get with the program. It was a very weird night, one I most likely won't repeat, but if you are interested I have been told that there are similar variety shows in bars all over China.

Food in Qinghai is great! Meat, more meat, and if you have not already guessed it, even more meat. Predominately it is yak meat, every part of the yak is used in some way. There is yak milk tea, yak butter, which is also used to make candles, yak cheese, and a couple of my friends bought a certain part of the yak anatomy that supposedly treats impotence when put in tea. It was the second to last day of my trip in Qinghai when after eating a large amount of Yak cakes I suddenly began to feel a little bit under the weather, I then preceded to spend the night and a good part of the next day praying to the porcelain god. This was the first time I got food poisoning in China and I have to say it was not one of my favorite experiences, images of the movie The Exorcist come to mind when recalling it, but all in all I feel like this was yet another part of my initiation into life in this country and I will always remember the experience.

Qinghai has been one of my favorite experiences in China and would certainly recommend the trip to anyone who wants to leave the beaten tourist track for something more authentic. Qinghai was very beautiful so I took about 200 pictures here are a few of them.
Prayer Wheels: People walk along these walls spinning each wheel as they pray

Qingahai: Had a lot of these three wheeled vehicles. These vehicles brought back childhood memories of that most efficient means of toddler transportation, the tricycle.

Clay Model used in the casting of Bronze Buddhist statues.

                                                                Yellow River 黄河

Dining outside

Mountain Temple

Mountain temple: inside

Good Translation

Tibetan Mastiffs: Status symbol in Qinghai

Tibetan Thangka painting

More Tibetan Thangka paintings

1000 hands and eyes Buddha

Incense Burner: By the end of my trip, all my clothes had the smell of these incense burners and yak butter candles

Prayer wheels

Sheep Herding in Mountains

Qinghai Mountains

Solar Cooker

Qinghai Nomad Meal

Nomad winter housing: During warmer months Qinghai nomads travel with there flocks living in tents

Qinghai School Children wait for diner

Yaks: mmmmm dinner

View from Mountain Temple

Mountain Prayer Flags

Mountain Temple

Meditation spot 

Qinhai Lake
Very Cold

Sand dunes near Qinghai lake

Sand Dunes

Desert Nomad: White skin reflects sunlight and is useful in signaling to other nomads