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Posts tagged with ‘culture’

Traveling Around The World For Free

Backpacker relaxing and enjoying the view of the Torres Del Paine national park in Chili

While my travels are usually measured in days or weeks, most of the other travelers I’ve encountered during my journeys were usually on the trail for months on end, and sometimes even years. It requires a completely different pace of life. It’s a lifestyle in itself. For if you’re not pressed for time, the slower you travel, the cheaper you can live.

The article ‘How to travel the world for free‘, goes on to explains how one can explore our planet with just pennies in your pocket. Though I have some doubts if it can really be done completly for free; you can probably go a long way if your goal  is to immerse yourself in the different cultures and customs you may encounter during your travels, while skipping the hightlights and tourist hotspots.

月光 – Moon Dance by Yang LiPing (Dynamic Yunnan)

Liping Yang performing the moon dance as a silhouette with the moon as a backdrop

Traveling through the Yunnan province in China left me with a lot of mixed feelings. On the one hand, it was a wonderful experience and I’m glad I did it. With most of the Chinese ethnic minorities living here, there is a very rich mix of cultures to be found here. It’s a place filled with centuries old traditions and ways of living, while at the same time, it is also in constant transformation as it clashes with the new, more modern and bolder China. Sometimes positive, sometimes negative.

On the other hand, the whole trip was also mentally and physically very straining. Many of the people here are very poor and live in crowded and filthy conditions. Despite having grown up in some of the least developed nations on this planet, even I wasn’t prepared for the culture shock I had to experience in the rural areas. And so after three weeks, I was glad to be going home to some peace, quiet and personal space.

But before we left, we went off to see one more show in Kunming, the provincial capital of Yunnan. It was a dance performance by a group called Dynamic Yunnan and choreographed by Yang Liping (杨丽萍). She is known in China for her Peacock Dance which she performed as well. Inspired by the traditional music and dances from around the province, she had created about ten different dance acts, but each time with a modern twist to it. It was an impressive spectacle with at times over forty dancers on stage. It’s quite possible that the story line connecting all the different dances into something meaningful (the use of colors seemed to indicate as such), but even after three weeks, my Chinese wasn’t up to speed yet.

Country of Daughters (Dynamic Yunnan)There were guards present in the theater preventing anyone from filming anything. But I did manage to find a few fragments of the show online. The Moon Dance was the second act. Yang Liping herself is the silhouette in the  performance. Though the quality isn’t that great, here is another act I enjoyed: Country of Daughters. Strange, yes, but I particularly like the costumes and almost hypnotic music that went with it. And thanks to the internet, I also now what they were singing about. The lyrics:

The sun wants to rest, it can rest.
The moon wants to rest, it can rest.
Women want to rest, they can’t rest.*
If women rest, the fire will burn out.

Cold wind blows at the elderly, and women use their backs to block it.
Splinter in child’s feet, and women use their heart to pad it.
If there is a woman there, the old and the young will stay together.
If there is a woman there, the mountain may crumble and men will hold it up.

If there is no women under the heavens, the sky will not light.
If there is no women on the earth, the grass will not grow.
If a man does not have a woman, the man will be ill.
If there is no women under the heavens, there will be no men.

The performance in general was of a very high standard. It was nothing like the Yunnan I had seen in the past three weeks. It did however remind me of some of the Chinese films of recent, such as ‘Hero’ (mind fight) and ‘House of Flying Daggers’ (Beauty Dance & Echo Game). After having seen Dynamic Yunnan, I was at least able to leave China on a positive note. And with that, I leave you with the Two Tree dance.

* While it is true that in many places around the world — especially where poverty prevails — society would come to a complete standstill if it were not for the hard work of women; It was a strange discovery to bicycle into one of the villages just outside of old town Dali where we found the gender roles had been switched. Within this Naxi ethnic minority, it’s the women who are in charge. While they hang out on the streets gossiping and enjoying the care free life, it is up to the men to do the house keeping and take care of the children.

Exotic Train Travel: a list of the nine best rail journeys

The Tangula luxury train traveling through the Uninhabitable yet beautiful landscape of Tibet.

Having finally taken the Eurostar from Brussels to London and back, it not only struck me how small Europe has actually become; compared to the state of air travel to today, trains have become a lot more enjoyable and comfortable way to travel. While it’s hard to claim the Eurostar trip as being exotic, other rail lines do speak to the imagination. For example the Orient Express, that in its heyday followed the famous silk road. Or the Trans Siberian, which probably is not only the longest rail line in the world, but is also a destination in itself. “The nine best train journeys in the world” has put together a list of the more interesting rail lines, some of which I had never even heard of up until now. Never the less, they all look quite interesting.

One line missing though is the Tangula, which connects Beijing with Lhasa in Tibet. Maybe out of political correctness? The railroad itself is a remarkable feat in engineering that traverses through some of the most harshest environments on this planet. Because of the extreme heights it runs at, the cabins are pressurized. There is already a regular line running on this route, but apparently, the Chinese have also added a luxury train.

Great for Beijing, but for Tibet however, the railroad is a threat. For it has long been Beijing’s policy to actively relocate and subsidize the majority Han Chinese to the poorer areas of the country. From their point of view, they are simply spreading prosperity and trying to increase the standards of living for all Chinese. But with this new rail line, traveling and moving to Tibet has become a lot more easier. The danger for Tibet however is the further loss of their culture, identity, but most important of all, their autonomy. If they had any left. The Tangula is probably one of those rides you have to take with a lot of mixed feelings.

T-shirts with the god Shiva print