Tuesday, July 31, 2018

28 flights…..

As we were heading out to breakfast this morning, Michael opened the door onto our balcony and a small Gecko hurried into the room.  Michael chased him but he ran under the dresser before we could catch him.   I told Michael that I did NOT want to wake up in the middle of the night with him plastered to my face with the suckers on his feet!!! 

For this our first day at XTBG, Gang (pronounced Goung) wanted to give us a tour of the garden, especially to give me an idea of where I might be walking in the next few days.  We walked quickly past many things that I will go back and photograph when I have time.  Most Chinese people stroll when they walk and their path is erratic.  Michael likened it to a dance with no predictable steps.   But Gang was different…..he walked in a straight line and FAST…..even I, with my long legs, had trouble keeping up with him.

We also had to be careful when walking because many of the stone paths had a slimy layer of mold on them and you wouldn’t know it until your feet started slipping.  I had numerous “near misses” during the walk and will have to remember to be careful tomorrow!!!

One of the first places that we stopped was the “dancing plant”, also known as a “Telegraph Plant.  This plant has small leaves on a hinge and they will move in response to certain stimuli….like singing!!!   The tour director would sing and all of the tourists would crowd around to get a photo of the moving plant….


While I was photographing this event, Michael was approached by two gentlemen who were English teachers in Nanjing.  He enjoyed meeting them and I think that they enjoyed practicing their English…..


This photo looks like a normal flower…..IMG_1290

….but on closer inspection, we found a moth feeding on one of the flowers…..


….and ants on another area of the stem…..


The ants are considered to be nectar robbers…..let this non-scientist explain…..   The nectar on a flower is located down inside the flower and the pollen is on a stem (anther) above the nectar.   Normal nectar feeders, like bees and butterflies push past the anther to get to the nectar, thus taking the pollen away to fertilize another flower.  The ants don’t push thru the pollen so they  “steal the reward” but don’t help the plant.  They do help the plant in another way….they protect it by attacking other birds or herbivores that might eat the plant before it can be pollinated.  Okay…science lesson is over!!

Taking photos is sometimes a trial as many people will crowd around you to take the same photo.   In this case, I stood my ground and got a nice photo of this interesting plant…..


By the way, I love the chandelier in the hotel lobby……


It reminds me of some of the flowers that I am seeing in the garden.

In the afternoon, we were picked up by two of the  XTBG researchers with the plan for them to take us (and another visitor named Doyle)  to “Green Stone Forest”, a rock formation just a few miles from the garden.  The only problem was that, just as we hopped onto the open bus to make the trip, it started POURING rain…..this is the tropics you know!!    It was fun to be riding in an open car with thunder booming around us, even though we had to use our umbrellas in the cart to keep semi-dry.

We arrived at the visitor center next to the forest and sheltered there until the rain had mostly stopped.   It was hard to tell if it had really stopped since there were so many tall trees that water was dripping off of.  But on we went.

The road that we walked on was extremely slick, especially along the edges and one of the women was VERY concerned that we were going to fall down.   As we would drift toward the side, she would come beside us and shoo us back to the middle….kind of like a Mother Hen!!

We reached the first set of stairs leading into the forest and UP we went….IMG_1380Michael’s comment was “Just what we want to do is go higher during a Thunderstorm!!”

As we walked, we saw typical rainforest flora and I was greatly reminded of our walk on Barro-Colorado island in Panama.  There were HUGE Buttress Trees…..

IMG_1359…..tangles of vines….IMG_1341

…..and interesting, if not slimy, Crustaceans….IMG_1337

There were many stops to discuss science….


And more steps going ever up….


We were one of the few parties of  people in this area and Michael asked why.  The answer was that  Chinese people don’t want to exert themselves on the steps and the tour guides don’t either.    But, they missed out on the best parts.    We kept seeing this sign but were not sure of what they were trying to say…..

IMG_1383 ….maybe it was supposed to be “No Running”.   Since we were both huffing and puffing our way up the stairs, there was no worry of  this happening!!!

We came to the area called “Couple Peaks” (Instead of Twin Peaks). and enjoyed a magnificent view of the rainforest….



So now it was DOWN the very steep stairs…..IMG_1409

….and back up again to the second peak….IMG_1417

This one was even more interesting as the floor was made of GLASS panels….a little freaky!!

The view was gorgeous……IMG_1421….and I had to get one “Art” shot including a pink hat…..IMG_1426

After another round of picture taking before the clouds settled in…..


…..and we headed back down again, stopping often to take photos of interesting things along the way…..IMG_1468


The student who was with us wore a Mosquito coil clipped onto her bag.   Since there are some cases of Malaria and Denghy Fever in the area, the researchers and grounds people often wear these to keep the pests away…..IMG_1416

I just made it a point to stay close to her!!

There were signs of scientific research going on in the forest as well.   Here they are re-introducing some endangered Orchid species…..


This is an area where a Bamboo plant had died.  Apparently this is a species that grows very big, flowers and then dies…..


As we walked I marveled at the way they took care of the forest so that the “people” impact was low…..IMG_1454

….and to their credit, there was VERY little trash or signs that people were around!!

As we were leaving the park, there were huge groups of tourists coming in so I think that we timed it JUST right, even if it was during a storm!!

Michael and I had dinner at the hotel that evening and I braved drinking a Sprite that had been poured over ice.  We normally avoid ice because you never know what kind of water they used to make it but I had seen them pour the drink into the urn and I immediately siphoned off my glass so I am telling myself that there wasn’t time for any of the ice to melt….  only time will tell!!!!IMG_6026

Oh, by the way……… the title of this post “28 Flights” refers to flights of steps.   My phone counts steps, miles and flights of stairs and it told me that I had climbed 28 of them before the day was over…..IMG_6008

  It is certainly a good thing that I have my new knee!!

Monday, July 30, 2018

The Hole in the Wall…..

On Saturday Michael wanted nothing more than to have a long walk, something that he had not been able to do all week long while he had been teaching.  So we set out to try to find the Antique market that I had searched for on Friday.  We both had in our minds that it……

1.   was on the right side of the street as we were heading away from the hotel,

2.   was close to the river

3.   was on a very large street

4.   was in a old, wooden red building.

So, off we went, walking down Renmin Road.  After about 2 miles, we decided that we were obviously not on the correct street!!  Since the major streets run in concentric circles around the city area, I suggested that we take a perpendicular road to the next ring out and walk back home that way.  It ended up being a good choice!!  About 1/2 mile onto the new street and we both (at the same time) pointed across the street and said “THERE IT IS!!!!”.

We excitedly crossed the street, entered the maze of shops and then stopped short because almost all of them were closed!!  We are not sure if they open later on Saturday, or maybe not at all on Saturday, but we marked the position in our minds and have vowed to go back on a normal week day!!

AND, to add insult to injury, the building was about 200 yards from the CarreFour that I had visited earlier in the week!!!!!

As we walked, we came across an area of the town that is being refurbished but is trying to keep the old character of the area……IMG_5925

I loved these doors……IMG_5926

We spent the rest of the day just relaxing and letting Michael enjoy some down time.  In the evening he had a fun interaction with a family that was in the hotel for a 100 day party for a little baby…..IMG_1905


Michael was sitting out on the balcony next to the dining area and this party was going on inside.  One of the guests came outside and introduced himself to Michael and told him that the 100 day party was a really big deal.  He also brought out a partial bottle of wine to allow Michael (and myself later in the evening) to join into the celebration.    There were many people there and we figure that this one night would have cost thousands of dollars…..and for a baby who didn’t know anything about it.

The decorations were all blow up animals and balloons and this one little girl came out with her Unicorn and paraded in front of our table…….IMG_1901

Michael asked her “what do you call that animal?” and she gave him an incredulous look and said (in perfect English), “It’s a Unicorn”!!   We are pretty sure that, in her mind, she added “Dumb A—“  to that statement.   Later in the evening we talked to both she and her Mom and were amazed to find out that she was only 4 years old.   We predict that she will go far!!

On Sunday afternoon, we flew to the city of Jinghong and were picked up by Gang, the researcher who is organizing the next week of our trip.   He walked us to the car and we proceeded to drive an hour to the town of MengLun and the Xishuangbanna Tropical Botanic Garden. 

Now you know me and peacocks…..  I took SO many photos trying to get a picture of these fun city decorations…..IMG_5939

The “tropical” part of the area showed itself as we drove with ominous clouds swirling around us…..


Gang knew that we loved spicy food and he was determined to give us a good first meal!!  The driver of the car suggested a restaurant, so we picked up another researcher from XTBG and headed to the restaurant.     Most restaurants in China have individual rooms where groups will sit around a big round table and enjoy their meal in privacy.  Unfortunately there was only one individual room left and it literally was a “Hole in the Wall”……..IMG_5984

….not just this “open to the world window”, but also several large holes in the bottom of the wall!! 

As usual in a place like this, the food was magnificent, starting with tiny deep fried fish and were spicy, crunchy and wonderful……IMG_5968

I know that they look weird but they were so good and probably my favorite for the evening……IMG_5978

As Americans, we don’t tend to eat this delicacy, but we have now enjoyed them in Italy, Portugal and China.

Other meal highlights included  a tasty Bok Choy and another green veggie with tomatoes…..


We also had a fish soup that had a whole fish in it…..


and lots of Sichuan pepper corns.   These little fire balls not only have a pepper flavor but also a bitterness that adds to the heat.   I tend to avoid them while Michael picks them out so that he can have more!!!

The most interesting dish was a vegetable that was a mix between a green bean and an okra pod.   It didn’t have a lot of flavor by itself, but when you dipped it into the salsa, it made all of the difference in the world…..IMG_5974

I think that the Salsa would have been good with a bag of Tostitos.

I enjoyed watching our driver eat the spicy foods.   Apparently he enjoyed eating them but his body couldn’t tolerate the heat.  There were times that his entire head was sweating and he was constantly mopping it with a napkin. 

We finished the trip onto the Botanic Garden property and checked into our room at the Royal Waterlily Hotel…… tomorrow starts a new week in a new place!!!!

Sunday, July 29, 2018

The “Art-less” Day

Since it wasn’t raining today, I decided that I wanted to take a long walk and I didn’t really care where.   I got onto Google Maps on my computer and, while exploring the area, found two art galleries listed.  I thought that those sounded fun so I set my course for the first one.

As I started out, it sent me down a new street.  My initial thought was that it was fun to see something different,  although, different  here is still much the same!!

It was a great walk and I arrived in the area in about 15 minutes, but there was no noticeable Art Museum, only a lot of construction!  So let’s head for gallery number 2…..

The area that I now walked thru was not as glitzy  and passed lots of little shops, each selling only one type of good.   One shop only sold combs and brushes. 

I was extremely happy to see this sign……


…..thinking that I had indeed found the desired gallery.  But disappointment ensued as I climbed flight after flight of stairs and only found offices and bathrooms…..no art in sight!!!

Okay, let’s head for the next destination….. When we were here in 2012, we had found a fun “antique” market and I thought that I had found it on the map so decided to find it.  After another 20 minutes of walking I found only a cavernous, empty building. 

Strike 3 and I was heading home!!!

But all was not lost for the day.    As I walked, I passed a small park that had numerous military monuments.  Several were very interesting…..IMG_1223


I loved this design and can see using it on a quilt someday…..


Speaking of quilting patterns, I really like this iron pattern around one of the tree beds…..


I enjoyed watching this man walking down the street with his wagon of vegetables trailing behind him…..


These two scooters were fun to watch….  Apparently the front one was not working and the rider was “walking” it down the street.  The back driver would slowly catch up with the first one and give him a gentle push.  They were actually moving fairly well!!


While on this walk, I did remember that the easiest way to cross busy streets is to stand next to a local and, when they start, you stay right beside them.  We used this same technique in Rome by finding an old Italian Grandmother because no one wants to run over her!!!

As I neared the hotel, I passed a small opening to a park area and could see lots of people sitting around inside.  I decided to check it out and found table after table of people (mostly men) playing traditional games….IMG_5916

I walked thru the group and on toward what I thought was the end of the park.  Instead I reached a bridge that led to a large complex of buildings that looked very much like a Buddhist temple.  The only difference from the ones that I had seen was that there wasn’t a huge crowd of people milling around.   So, I decided that it was no longer in use as a place of worship.  But, it was still a great place to take photos…..IMG_1248

….especially of the gorgeous and colorful designs that adorned the walls and ceilings….IMG_1263

I spent a long time inside the building taking photos and enjoyed the peacefulness of the place. 

Although there were no Buddha’s present, it was obvious that offerings were still being made there…..


The guard inside the building  patiently watched me take copious photos and as I was leaving he gave me a smile and a thumbs up.   I returned the same!!

As I walked back into the hotel, I was disappointed that my original plans had not materialized but, as usual, Kunming had not failed to provide an interesting experience!!

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