Thursday, October 13, 2005

Chapter the Fifth: In Which Our Hero Finds Harmony and More Yak in Shangri-La

Another early morning, another lackluster Chinese breakfast, and another bus ride took us to "MaoNiuPing," which translates into "Yak Plateau." Approaching the destination certainly gave the idea of a plateau, but not so much yaks. However, it wasn't until we actually disembarked from our own mechanical steed that I began to understand what was happening.

We were ascending a mountain, and a rather tall one, as I couldn't see the summit hidden behind the mass of clouds. We weren't going to hike it, that was for sure, as few of my fellow travelers were in shape for such a task, instead we took a luxurious ride into the clouds via chair lift.

The ride lasted about 25 minutes and chilled me to the bone. I wasn't prepared to gallavant around a mountaintop that day, let alone take a walk in the clouds, so all I had on was a t-shirt and my hoodie. Oh well. Live and learn: Don't go to Yak Plateau without the proper gear.

When we got to the top and hopped off the lift, a convenient boardwalk led us towards the village, but not without the requisite yak photo op. I take no shame in exploiting yaks for my own silliness.

I let this yak know I had eaten his little brother for dinner the night before, he responded with a horn thrust to my chest. I guess thats what I deserve for... wait for it... YAKKING OFF! HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA! Oh Sweet Lord.

Anyways, from the yak we followed the boardwalk into the village, still raised off the muddy cloud-laden dirt floor of Yak Plateau. I didn't spend too much time purusing the wares, though I did snag a horrendously ugly yak skull pendant as a souveneir for someone who will appreciate a good yak skull pendant.

At this point I lost track of time and assumed I only had 20 minutes left to circle Yak Plateau when I actually had an hour and twenty minutes. Oh well. Soon enough I found a Tibetan style temple where the locals corrected my entrance in that one should enter a Tibetan temple on the right side while spinning the prayer bells and exit on the opposite side. Silly me.

Shortly after the temple I ran into Crazy Purple, who's real name I can not recall at this moment but who is certainly crazy, but in a good hyperactively friendly way. She basically took charge and led me the rest of the way through Yak Plateau, forcing me to wear the silly costumes for a picture (see previous posts) and then buying my food back at the village. She even paid a little girl to sing for me, and I thought at first the little girl was singing some traditional minority song until I listened close and realized she was simply saying "Mao is good, Mao is great, Mao is the best thing ever" over and over again. And, yes, for those of you paying attention, she was singing about the Chairman Mao, not the Yak "mao." They sound the same, but they are different. Stupid Chinese language. Argh.

Anyways, as I sat and warmed myself over some hot yak milk mixed with tea and chewed on yak-kabobs, I learned that Yak Plateau is apparently a supposed site of the legendary culture of Shangri-La. Now, I'm sure many spots in Northern YunNan and Western Tibet claim this distinction, but I don't really care for two good reasons: 1. I understand Shangri-La to be a legendary city, as in not real, like Atlantis or Seattle. 2. Who cares?! I just want to say I've been to Shangri-La! Can you say that, heh? Can you?

Eventually we had to leave the Yak Plateau and all of its cloudy yakness and yaknicity. Swerving back down the perilous mountain rode to head back to LiJiang (Dad, the roads to Dingle have nothing on what I saw during this trip) we took a quick stop by a river that was surprisingly clear/green. Most everyone washed their faces, some people jumped at their last chance to yak it up all yak style.

Soon enough we had returned to LiJiang proper, eaten lunch, and were on our way back to DaLi to catch our train. On the way I did give into an impulse buy and picked up a nice cheap jade Chinese Chess set. My companions bugged out when they saw this, as none could believe that I knew how to play Chinese Chess. This immediately led to the retelling of the same story 14 times, reading the piece names out over and over again, and reciting the idioms I know regarding the game. Fine enough, as when we did get back to DaLi we had to kill 2 hours our so. Thanks to the commotion with the chess set, I had Chinese lined up to take me on. I can not say I am good at Chinese Chess, but I won a single game, and upon that stroke of luck Crazy Purple's (who I had been playing against) father practically disowned her for losing to a foreigner. Haha!

But again the night brought a sleeper train back to KunMing. I loaded up on beer before boarding in a hope to pass out, perhaps to some Bon Jovi (sophomore year reference), all the way to KunMing. I had two days left and had no idea what was in store, so I wanted to have plenty of energy just in case.


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