Monday, August 15, 2011

Flashback 02: Rocking Lijiang

Hong Kong to Bangkok summer 2002 - Part 3
I am in Lijiang, Yunnan province, China. A very old (in parts) town over 3000m above sea level. It is so beautiful here. Winding cobbled streets lined with picturesque houses with delicately tiled roofs. Exactly how I would have pictured a historical Chinese town. I've really enjoyed just strolling around, taking it all in, but of course found a bit of time for dress up. Our time has been enhanced by the company of Rachel, a New Zealand wicker witch (i.e. white "good" witch) we met dancing on the roof of our hostel in a torrential lightning storm and a slightly odd, but very friendly lolloping German called Thilo, who wears decidedly tight shorts for such high altitudes (or indeed anywhere) and has an evil sense of humour. We did a great cycle ride out to some outlying villages. Yunnan has so many distinct ethnic groups with differing traditions and dress. How long they can exist before the all engrossing monster of Han culture devours them is hard to guess, but their odds seem pretty short. To add to our recent excitement, on the way here a chunk of our minibus was ripped out by a landslide as we rolled along in the pouring rain from Kunming. Rubbish weather changed our plans. No longer are we to trek to Tiger Leaping Gorge, now we are planning something markedly different... Near Lijiang on a mountain side (the highest one round here is over 5,500m high - in other words, shit high) China's first major rock festival just happens to be about to commence. Pure chance and we've rolled sixes. What has been dubbed as the "Chinese Woodstock" starts tomorrow and Felix and I are itching to go. Who needs Reading? A FEW DAYS LATER... The Snow Mountain Rock Festival rocked... eventually. The full works in terms of sound, lights and set up, though the crowd was much smaller than expected due to the weather. A distinctly odd turn out. Try and picture it, somewhere half way up a mountain in the foothills of the Himalayas, hundreds of people shielding under umbrellas in two piece suits wearing plastic bags on their smart shoes to guard against the sodden ground. Around the perimeter, ticker tape was guarded by a load of soldiers in full gear. Were they there to keep others out, or us in? To be honest, it was a bit crap at the start, polluted by Cantonese pop (to be avoided at nearly all costs), but the tide soon turned....
In the interests of livening things up a bit, I was one of the founders of the first mosh pit in Chinese rock festival history (or so the people around us later informed us). We were left with little choice as a seriously cool punk band thrashed out their three cord creations. We then got slashed on beer and bacardi breezers on account of them being free. Why? We are Western. A strange not all too pleasant feeling, but you can't be fussy with only a few yuan in the pocket.

The clear highlight was the last performer of the weekend, Cui Jan, the godfather of Chinese rock, who has been banned on numerous occasions and even played at Tiananmen square preceding the massacre. He was awesome. Being the last foreigner left, the cool Chinese crowd through me up in the air and gave the bumps. I just about survived though I fear I crushed one or two quite small people. A fitting farewell to this bizzare but entertaining event was bid by the Chinese army - who ever said military conscription doesn't go to good use... Anyhow, a great experience, but onwards and upwards, we are off to Indochina tomorrow. I just hope the nasty stomach bugs that has afflicted me and left Felix doubled up over a particularly minging rat infested hole in the ground for hours on end alleviates. God bless the Dongba guesthouse and all its black bean soup.

Vietnam awaits....
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