Visions of Providenciales

Turks and Caicos.  These moments from our honeymoon several years ago.

First of all, there’s Grace Bay.  Look at this perfect nonsense.  The sharpness and clarity of that pristine water, the arc and loft of the clouds.  The sand is fine, soft, forgiving, like you’re strolling along on just wrapped in a blanket of warm memories, breeze on your carefree shoulders.

Grace Bay Providenciales Turks & Caicos Caribbean Grace Bay Providenciales Turks & Caicos Caribbean Sunset in Grace Bay Providenciales Turks & Caicos CaribbeanThen, if you drive to the southwest part of the island, there’s Chalk Sound, a majestic crystalline lagoon of this crazy teal color.Dock at Neptune Villas Chalk Sound Providenciales Turks & Caicos Continue reading

Stone Forest – Kunming, Yunnan, China

We left early in the morning to visit the Stone Forest, about an hour and a half outside of Kunming, Yunnan.  I had been so happily surprised with the landscapes and hidden treasures that Yunnan had provided so far, and the Stone Forest was no different, a stark and poignant emblem of the rich natural beauty of this corner of the country.

House of Haos Stone Forest Kunming Yunnan 1It’s odd that all the Chinese tourists essentially flock to that one little pagoda, winding their way up and down crowded stairways, snap a few quick photos, and then head back to the entrance, especially when there is the whole rest of the park to explore. House of Haos Stone Forest Kunming Yunnan 2We covered perhaps half of the park, almost all secluded.  There were steep, claustrophobic ravines, with glimpses of light and green shimmering through.House of Haos Stone Forest Kunming Yunnan 4 Continue reading

Mengkuan Market – Xishuangbanna, Yunnan, China

As we’re leaving Mengkuan, I stopped to browse the wares at the local market.  The pictures below are actually a mix of the one in Mengkuan and a slightly larger one that we also visited on the trip back to Jinghong.  But they felt similar in spirit, calm despite the crowds, full of supremely fresh produce and live animals and things that were mostly interesting to the outsider passers-by like me, but extremely so.  And a few small, wonderful moments of levity.House of Haos Xishuangbanna Menghai Aini Village Market Hawker StallsHouse of Haos Xishuangbanna Menghai Aini Village MarketA steamed bun morning snack, with red bean paste brushed onto the rolled dough.House of Haos Xishuangbanna Menghai Aini Village Market Steamed Red Bean BunThis spread below is what the Dai locals usually eat with sticky rice for breakfast: mashed eggplant, mashed tomatoes, or chicken, with little baggies of fried pork skin.House of Haos Xishuangbanna Menghai Aini Village Market Sticky Rice Continue reading

Mengkuan Dai Village – Xishuangbanna, Yunnan, China

After the hike through the Pu’er tea fields, Stone and I headed back to Jinghong, and then took a short bus ride to the southeast, to a small Dai community just off the main highway.  I wish I had gotten some photos of the view from the bus window, because the scenes were some of the most awe-inspiring that I had seen that day, including the hike.

This had been right around dusk, with the sun peeking up intermittently from behind tall, boisterous cloud cover, and the bus, with its open windows, was zooming past hillsides thick with banana trees and gorgeous, plunging valleys cross-sectioned with rice paddies and rows of tea trees and corn stalks, every turn of highway revealing a change in landscape, as if one of those old red View-Master stereoscopes.

We spent the night in a Dai house raised on stilts, harassed by mosquitoes.  The next overcast morning, we took a leisurely stroll around the village grounds, accompanied only by the pattering of scattering chickens and the occasional motorcyclist.House of Haos Xishuangbanna Menghai Aini Village 1 House of Haos Xishuangbanna Menghai Aini Village 2 House of Haos Xishuangbanna Menghai Aini Village Banana Tree House of Haos Xishuangbanna Menghai Aini Village Chickens 1 Continue reading

Jinghong Tropical Botanical Gardens – Xishuangbanna, Yunnan

There’s a stunning corner of China in the southern edges of Yunnan, bursting with the intensity and brightness of color that would be so revitalizing to see in the clogged arteries of coastal cities and steel-clad metropolitans.  I wish I had discovered this place so much earlier.

House of Haos Xishuangbanna Jinghong Tropical Botanical Gardens Flower 1 House of Haos Xishuangbanna Jinghong Tropical Botanical Gardens Flower 3 House of Haos Xishuangbanna Jinghong Tropical Botanical Gardens Flower 6 House of Haos Xishuangbanna Jinghong Tropical Botanical Gardens Flower 8 Continue reading

A Journey Into the Clouds – Nan Nuo Shan and Pu’er Tea Fields, Menghai, Yunnan

 

What little research I did about Xishuangbanna outside of where to eat was about day treks.  With Pu’er tea fields, with some trees centuries old, and all those minority peoples whose histories date back way further, I really wanted to spend some time outside of Jinghong.  Via Lonely Planet, I found Forest Café, which led a number of different treks of varying difficulty and length.  I made some arrangements remotely with the owner to meet her brother, Stone, at the café on my first full day and finalize the plan.

Another out-of-town couple happened to want to do the Pu’er day trek on my last day in Jinghong, so Stone said to meet him back at the café then.

House of Haos Rice Noodle Soup 1 House of Haos Rice Noodle Soup 2After an early morning bowl of noodles, I set off in the back of a bread van, the Chinese term for the narrow shoebox minivans that number many a Chinese street.  The driver had the good taste to have made a mixtape filled with patriotic Chinese songs about the Diaoyu (or Senkaku) Islands filled with anti-Japanese jingles, which made for an informative ride up Nan Nuo Shan.

The roads were bumpy and narrow, but in fairly good shape.  In about an hour, we were let out in this small village of slow-slung homes up in the luscious green hills, almost eye-level with the armada of clouds rolling off these hilltops towards God knows where.

House of Haos Yunnan Puer Tea Hike 2 House of Haos Yunnan Puer Tea Hike Chickens House of Haos Yunnan Puer Tea Hike Chickens Corn House of Haos Yunnan Puer Tea Hike Basketball Court CloudsFrom this quiet village with its skybound basketball court, we descended a bit into a valley, along a path lined with tall trees and short tea bushes, and the occasional pop of color.

House of Haos Yunnan Puer Tea Hike Flowers 1 House of Haos Yunnan Puer Tea Hike Flower 3 House of Haos Yunnan Puer Tea Hike Flower 2These blossoms, with their velvety white petals and yellow center, are the flowers of the Pu’er tree.House of Haos Yunnan Puer Tea Hike Puer Blossom Continue reading

West Lake – 西湖 – Hangzhou

During a weekend trip to hot and muggy Hangzhou, we took a late afternoon stroll around its famed West Lake, one of China’s most well-known bodies of water.  The summer sky was breathtaking, especially as it settled into dusk.  We took one of the last boat rides around the lake, returning to dock after dark, with the fat, glossy moon hanging over the serene waters.DSC_0029-001 DSC_0046-001 DSC_0039-001 DSC_0041-001 DSC_0055-001 DSC_0066-001

Vermilion Gates – Fushimi Inari Taishi, Kyoto

DSC_0491 DSC_0488 IMG_0952 IMG_0942 IMG_0946 IMG_0957DSC_0484 On an overcast morning, I journeyed to the southern edge of Kyoto to climb the hillsides of Fushimi Inari, the narrow walkway draped with an endless procession of thousands of vermilion torii gates.  Walking along the path is a marvelous experience: the sharpness and immediacy of gated shadows tinged blood orange, occasionally interrupted by the swift passing footsteps, as if drifting along some other planetary existence, raptured, transported, meditative, unconscious, hallucinatory, dream-like.