Tucked away, in the center of the Yunnan Nationalities Village is a delightful slice of Americana which I like to call Jurassic Park.
It's a little island/park full of dinosaurs made of upholstery foam, under which are located tiny little outdoor speakers spewing out helplessly distorted Godzilla sounds. Most of the dinosaurs made the same sound. This park was a cross between Twilight Zone technology and The Simpsons amusement park clichés. Now this is no Itchy and Scratchy Land, but it does contain all the joy and wonder that you'd expect from a hastily thrown together and severely under maintained theme park.
I couldn't stop laughing once we got here. If you're in Kunming, and you really want to find some old-fashioned fun like you haven't had since the last time you saw a Godzilla movie. This is definitely the place to go.
Continue reading "Jurassic Park, Chinese Style" »
Note: This article was written in the Spring of 1998.
References to "nowadays" should be read with that in mind.
Among the things that I miss more than anything here is good music. Certainly, Chinese classical music is a treat for the ears, but just like Chinese food, there grows within you a need for the familiar taste of a veggie burger, fries from unsaturated fryers, and cola flavored mineral water.
With that in mind, I offer you this Top-Ten countdown of English language songs in China, along with observations regarding the Chinese approach to music that I've found in Kunming.
(insert Casey Kasem voice here)
Continue reading "The Chinese Top-Ten Western Hits of All Time" »
It is said that if you're one-in-a-million, there are four of you in New York City. Well, Kunming's 3 million people (a mere "berg" by Chinese standards) provide an occasional surprise in the study of genetics. I've, thus far met a few people who bare a striking resemblance to celebrities found elsewhere in the world's great genetic pools. This page is devoted to Chinese celebrity look-alikes. Some of them really do undeniably look like celebrities while others are perhaps my own psyche's attempts to add order to an otherwise chaotic social experience.
Dr. Joyce Brothers: ironically, this is the staff psychologist at the Yunnan Province TCM hospital. That always kind of dumbfounded me.
Continue reading "Chinese Celebrity Look-Alikes" »
Yunnan Province is very proud of their minority population. There are something like 26 official indigenous minorities made up of everything from Tibetans to some of the tribes from Northern Thailand and Laos.
Not far from town, they've constructed a tourist attraction devoted to all of the minorities, their home life and of course, their crafts for sale.
Continue reading "Yunnan Minorities Village" »
Shi Lin, the Stone Forest
Said to be "the Peerless Scenic Wonder under the sun" (by the travel books), Shi Lin is not a bad excursion for a day or two.
The remains of an ancient sea floor have long since given way to the uplifting of the continent, or perhaps the receding seas. In either case, what was left was a whole bunch of limestone that ultimately began to erode into some interesting columns to walk through. A likely theory considering the numerous sea shell fossils that are sold in the area's gift shops.
It is also said that way back when, the Gods decided to break up the stones to give lovers a place to be together without being watched by anybody. This is a good theory too, considering all the little Gods available in the area's gift shops.
Continue reading "Shi Lin, the Stone Forest" »
There's a street sweeping truck that comes out and sprays down the main thoroughfares when it hasn't rained for a while, to keep the dust down. It plays music much like the ice cream trucks back home. The song that it plays is "happy birthday to you." This tune is catchy like a flu. Not something you really want echoing in your head all day.
Continue reading "Stray Images of Kunming, Part One" »
A few more stray observations and pictures that didn't require an entire article, but nice vignettes.
Continue reading "Stray Images of Kunming, Part Deux" »
You're not supposed to eat on the job. And if you must eat on the job, you're not supposed to be photographed by a foreigner while eating on the job. But if you're really hungry while being photographed eating on the job, then you should get up and walk away. Though you shouldn't stop eating (and she didn't even as she scurried off the moment after this picture was taken.)
Continue reading "Stray Images of Kunming, Part Three" »
"Laowai". That's pronounced "Lao-why." It means foreigner. To me, it means "dog." It means an individual who isn't really human. That's how it feels when the Chinese say it in reference to me. They never say it directly to me, always among themselves. You aren't privy to their conversation, but you can see the degree of entertainment that they enjoy when you're in their presence.
Continue reading "The "Laowai", Racism and Personal Space in China" »
This picture was worth a thousand words, or Chinese characters, depending on how you look at it.
I happened upon this man, actually, a teenager, drawing Chinese characters on the sidewalk. They were very well written and organized.
Continue reading "The Kunming Street Artist/Begger" »