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  • hardie karges 2:20 pm on December 24, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Alpha male, Beta male, Chiang Rung, , Jinghong, Lue, ,   

    China Redux: a Trip about Nothing by an Unrepentant Beta Male… 

    20181216_110914 (2)Cigarettes dangle from the liquid tea-stained lips of disenchanted shopkeepers and hotel managers, uttering clipped replies and forced pleasantries in order to do what only comes all too naturally, make a buck, and never too far down on their luck, that’s poker, or pai gow, but not when trafficking in biological necessities and imagined luxuries, psychological desires and sociological niches, far from the tossed dice of playing cards and thankless marriages, so these are almost certainties…

    Alpha travelers arrive with itineraries in hand and cash in bank, cards and codes and kabalistic telephonic inscriptions the key to fulfillment in a world increasingly full of governments and corporations, individuals left to their own devices, mostly electronic, appointments with destinies subject to change so hardly worth even printing out: terra-cotta warriors and great firewalls, temple tours and rice terraces, a song and a dance and an invitation to tea, a nod and a wink and an invitation to drink, all for the price of a minor Christmas binge, minor for an Alpha male, anyway… (More …)

     
    • Esther S. Fabbricante 6:55 pm on December 24, 2018 Permalink | Reply

      Hardie, this i the best one YET. i WANT YOU TO BE HAPPY. Merry Christmas.
      Esther

    • hardie karges 9:26 pm on December 24, 2018 Permalink | Reply

      Tttanks, Esther. Happy holidays!

    • Dave Kingsbury 10:44 pm on March 10, 2019 Permalink | Reply

      Many good lines but this was my favourite, I think, probably because I can really identify with it:

      “I prefer the silence of indecision, and the science of non-selection, perfectly calculated to yield non-results, and perfectly suited to play another day.”

      Somehow reminds me of John Keats and ‘negative capability’ …

      • hardie karges 4:38 am on March 11, 2019 Permalink | Reply

        Yes, that line often defines me…

  • hardie karges 10:42 am on November 21, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , Jinghong, , , , , , , , VPN,   

    Old China, Old Tai-land in Mengla, Xishuangbanna… 

    20181104_100110If I didn’t know better, I’d almost swear that on some cosmic drafting table in some corner of the universe there is a blueprint for the Tai diaspora out of China from a couple thousand years ago, or maybe outta’ North Vietnam in half that, in which the northern and southern flanks of this proto-Tai state are laid out on either side of what would become Laos like a mirror image of each other, in which the northern Tai towns of Jinghong (Chieng Rung), Mengla, and Mohan (Bor Han) would become Chiang Mai, Chiang Rai and Mae Sai, respectively…

    And Lampang may even mirror Menghai, though I haven’t been there yet, so unsure. And the further irony is that both of these areas were indeed part of the same Kingdom, known as Lan Na, which ranged from one to the other, with parts of Laos and Burma added in for good measure, and to secure the Mekong, which ran between, and was apparently the geographical feature that linked them…

    So that as recently as 60-80 years ago, maybe even less, you could have convinced yourself that this area of Xishuangbanna/Sipsong (12) Pan Na was at least as much or more Tai-like in style and character than the predominant Chinese style of the country of which it was at least a nominal part…

    20181119_105845But that would be a hard statement to make now, as the majority Han Chinese have pretty much overwhelmed whatever it was that was here before. But I imagine it much resembled the Chiang Mai or Chiang Rai of the same era. And if it’s any consolation, it does resemble somewhat the modern versions of those same two cities, which have also changed much, of course, and these may even be nicer…

    So basically we’re talking about language, and the sharp reduction in use of the local Tai Lue dialect vis a vis Mandarin. And if it’s any consolation the local dialects in Thailand and Laos have suffered equally vis a vis the standard dialects there, both of which I know, fortunately, along with some northern Tai dialect, which is probably closest to the dialect here…

    And which I try out every chance I get, thanks to the predilection of the local Tai (Dai) women of wearing cool beautiful trad rags, so I can pick them out of the crowd, and racially profile them as potential Tai speakers, haha. Not that I’m on some holy quest to save Tai culture (I’m not Thai), but simply that there is a much better chance of having an actual conversation in Tai than Mandarin Chinese, and I could probably be fluent in 2-3 months if I could find a book to help, judging by my previous experience in Laos…

    20181117_112650And it will take me a cool year or two to become fluent in Mandarin, no matter how hard I try. So Mengla has been my makeshift home for the last three weeks, while I finish my current term for online studies, and plot my next move. Frankly I really don’t want to travel much in mainland China, due to the difficulties of indie travel there, here, mostly in the booking of rooms, but that is not so much of a problem here in Mengla. I’ve been at the same place for three weeks and never even registered!

    That would be unthinkable elsewhere, where foreigners are often not even allowed, especially in the cheaper digs, and always thoroughly registered, complete with color glossy photos or at least smart-phone pics. Remember that in case you need to ‘lay low’ somewhere sometime. But don’t expect a ‘travel vibe’ here, as I have yet to see another western soul the whole time. I’m sure Jinghong has more, but not much…

    The bloom is off the rose in China, and rightfully so, as it ain’t so cheap any more, and the hassles are endless. But that’s the deal. It keeps the riff-raff out. Fortunately in this neck of the woods cheapie hotels are ubiquitous and not hard to find, so kinda’ like the old days where you get off the bus and just start walking, Lonely Planet optional. Forget the booking sites, except for reference, or just to book the first night and then take it from there…

    20181116_201545People are friendly here, and that’s what is important for me, not some abstract considerations of tourist spectacles. There are still tribal people here and they fill the morning market, something hard to find elsewhere in Asia. Food is dirt-cheap, and the rooms are not too bad for the easy bucks. That is not always true elsewhere. This in fact is probably the cheap-room capital of China, so enjoy it while you can, because elsewhere is sure to be more dear.

    True, it’s mostly a nitty-gritty working-class town, with few spectacles to entertain, but it’s big enough to have two supermarkets, so you know what that means. And ‘Thai-style’ is little more than a design motif now, temple styles ubiquitous on buildings and houses now, where they were never intended. But people exer-dance in the parks at night, every night, and it’s only a matter of time before they drag me into it, haha…

    So if you want throngs of foreigners just like yourself, then Cambodia, Laos or Thailand is probably more your speed. But if you want to learn Chinese language, then this is not a bad place. You won’t have much choice, actually, if indeed you do come. Just remember that no social media nor anything Google will work here unless you have a VPN, something to consider B4 you cross the border. Did I mention that you’re only an hour from the Lao border here? So now you know…

     
    • Esther S. Fabbricante 11:21 am on November 21, 2018 Permalink | Reply

      I don’t know how you do it!! Your stamina must be boundless.

    • Dave Kingsbury 10:57 pm on March 10, 2019 Permalink | Reply

      Your comment about friendly people put me in mind of my favourite poems so, at the risk of imposing somewhat, here it is. Its message seems to chime with much of what you write (yours rather more colourful and detailed, though) so I hope it’s not out of place. Apols if I sent it before!

      His Country
      A poem by Thomas Hardy

      I journeyed from my native spot
      Across the south sea shine,
      And found that people in hall and cot
      Laboured and suffered each his lot
      Even as I did mine.

      Thus noting them in meads and marts
      It did not seem to me
      That my dear country with its hearts,
      Minds, yearnings, worse and better parts
      Had ended with the sea.

      I further and further went anon,
      As such I still surveyed,
      And further yet – yea, on and on,
      And all the men I looked upon
      Had heart-strings fellow-made.

      I traced the whole terrestrial round,
      Homing the other side;
      Then said I, “What is there to bound
      My denizenship? It seems I have found
      Its scope to be world-wide.”

      I asked me: “Whom have I to fight,
      And whom have I to dare,
      And whom to weaken, crush, and blight?
      My country seems to have kept in sight
      On my way everywhere.”

      1913.

      • hardie karges 4:37 am on March 11, 2019 Permalink | Reply

        Nice. Thanks for that…

  • hardie karges 12:12 am on August 15, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Alipay, , , Jinghong, , ,   

    Indie Travel Update: Surviving China 

    20180804_204240China must be single-handedly keeping the Lonely Planet franchise in business, you know: they of the 5-pound, 50-dollar, 500-page ‘survival’ guides, most of which is largely obsolete, simply the idea that ‘survival’ is an issue in most of the world, unless you’re talking about survival of traditional cultures, languages and tribal peoples in a world increasingly homogenous, and frankly, pretty friggin’ boring. The only thing in danger of survival are reasons for travel itself…

    Except for China. This is the one country where you can actually use a little help from your friends, they of the world’s only non-alphabetic language, which makes Greek look like a weekend at the beach. Hey, I learned the Greek alphabet, but not the language, of course, in four days of reading road signs in Athens (and we thought all of our vocabulary came from Latin, haha. Tell that to the Russians)… (More …)

     
    • Esther S. Fabbricante 2:03 am on August 15, 2018 Permalink | Reply

      Oh, my. Too deep for me. How in the world do you survive?

    • hardie karges 2:11 am on August 15, 2018 Permalink | Reply

      Hibiscus for high blood pressure, meditation for stress, haha. I persevere…

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