Sunday, April 24, 2011

Cormorants, pagodas and mahjong

Interesting morning poking around the market in Xizhou and then down to Erhai Lake for a spot of fishing... with cormorants. The birds are trained to dive into the water and invariably bring back a decent sized fish which, because of string tied round their throats, they can't swallow - but it still takes some doing to get them to part with it.

Lunch and a wander in Dali Old Town, which used to be the capital of Dali kingdom and was pretty much independent until the last century. The French came here, up the Mekong, in the late 19th Century, and the Brits shortly afterwards from Burma. It's nicely preserved but very touristy. A bit more tranquil are the Three Pagodas, built out of brick covered in white mud around 900AD, though they've been renovated a hundred times since.

In the evening we were entertained by some Bai musicians in the courtyard of the Linden Centre. The Bai are the main ethnic minority in the area - around 2m of them. Following that, Caroline and I learned how to play mahjong with two Chinese girls. Quite complicated but against all the odds I managed to win the game.

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