Wednesday, July 2, 2008


First stop on this grand Southeast Asian tour was the city of Kunming (昆明) in the southern Chinese province Yunnan (云南). It's a very livable and sub-tropical city with a pretty nice central park and an amazing temple called the Yuantong Temple (圆通寺).

Southern Chinese art and architecture is pretty different from that of the north. The colors are brighter and more bombastic and the overall forms more exaggerated. In the temple live dozens of male and female monks dressed all in black.

The entire temple is covered with plants, trees, and flowers of all kinds. The monks seem to divide their day between study, meditation, and plant care.

We left Kunming by overnight bus to the Vietnamese border headed to the northern town of Sa Pa. It's a small tourist city in the middle of a million mountains and rice paddies populated by local minority groups called the Dzao and the H'Mong, where the woman are in full ethnic gear and offer you hand sewn bags and marijuana or opium along every street.

I'm having a fantastic time, but it's been strange and sad to leave China for the first time in 10 months.

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