On the final leg of our journey before heading home to Singapore, we stopped by Chengdu for 2 days. One popular tourist attraction is JinLi 锦里, where the area is built with olden time architecture much like Wuzhen 乌镇. However, Jinli is better managed and more interesting. There are plenty of shops selling handicraft, souvenirs, snacks and what not. A great place to shop for local stuff. In another section, a wide selection of food that thronged by hungry visitors, which I barely tried due to the crowd.
Our last photo session is in a 100 years old teahouse, situated in another small town 30 minutes from Chengdu. Arriving there before dawn, I had no idea what to expect of this place, which we were told to spend half a day at. I can barely sit at Starbucks for more than 2 hours, let alone an old tea house. As I stumble around the teahouse in the dim lights to take my first couple shots, I slowly came to realize the allure of this teahouse. It is a time frozen place that had preserved the essense of Chinese culture, people and architecture all in one small place of less than 200 square meter. It is a photographer’s treasure trove.
The die hard patrons of the teahouse are nonchalant to a handful of photographers all vying to take images of them. Majority of the regulars are old retirees, who gathers on the daily basis to chat, smoke, play cards and drink tea with their comrades. While some photographers were discreet, stalking in the shadows in hope to get a candid shots. A few brazen shooters, go to an arms length of the old men for portrait shots, which I deem as an invasion of personal space.
The owner of the establishment has been running the place for over 20 years. He would happily teach us where to get good images, expansive knowledge he had gathered from getting in touch with photographers around China. Some suggestions were wildly difficult, while others were good pointers for different angles and composition. By 10am, after taking hundred of shots, a friend’s camera battery went dead. Upon friendly offer from the boss, she agreed to pose for us as models. Even the clothing were available! That pushed the photographers to go on shooting for another hour plus.
Before noon, everyone was having shooting fatigue, fingers shaking and arms aching. It was the first time I had shot non-stop for extended time period, constantly inspired and intrigued. Tired but pleased with the opportunity to capture such challenging and intimate images, I have over thousands to shift through when I get home.
A kind friend loan me his GoPro to play with. This is the first time I’ve used GoPro on a trip and taking time lapse. Compiling the video was another head scratching session because I’ve no clue how to use the software GoPro Studio. Quite frustrating really. Anyway, I hope you enjoy the short clip below, taken over 30 minutes.
One important Tibetan livelihood were the yaks 毛牛 which provided leather, meat and milk. The yaks were critical to the survival in the harsh environment, where normal vegetables can’t grow. 30 years ago, vegetables were rare commodities in the high plateau, until roads and transportation made access to the big cities like Chengdu possible. Now the people can get constant supplies of vegetables and other source of proteins.
An arrangement were made for us to visit a Nomad’s living quarter. Held up by poles and ropes, the tent was no bigger than 20 squared meter. Among the tight space where they eat and sleep, kitchen was right smack in the middle, where the heat also provide warmth during the cold nights. While we waited patiently, the kind host made butter and cheese from yak milk. It was hard not to notice there aren’t any bathroom nor clean water supply nearby, so hygiene is definitely not high on the list.
Along the way back to Yushu, we stopped by a painter’s home. Due to nomadic lifestyle, many do not own alters or big religious statues among their possessions. Usually they own paintings of deity or Buddha as a representation of their religion, which suites their lifestyle. Each paintings are hand drawn and may take 2-3 months of painstaking work.
Our Tibetan trip ends at the town of Yushu. Back in 2010, Yushu was hit by a major earthquake. It is amazing how much was rebuilt within 5 years. Now the buildings looks new, along smooth straight roads and wide pavements. One could not imagine the devastation just 5 years ago.
We had real up close treats to lama’s way of life in monasteries. The lama we visited in Shiqu are categorized as the red hats, different from Dalai Lama who are labelled as yellow hats. Was told the red hats were the original lama in China.
The first Ponru monastery 本日寺 consisted of boys of varying ages. Babies were often left at the door of the monastery. The monasteries are not only caretakers to the boys, they perform the function of schools. Before mondern schools were available, parent send their kids here for education. After passing 9 years education and exams, the boys graduate from the monastery to pursue a career.
The second is call Yiniu monastery 宜牛寺. I was told it is very reknown in the region, like the Harvard among monastery. However, the buildings were terribly run down I found it hard to believe its fame. Apparently many famous lama came from this monastery and people have high regards for it.
Life is tough as a Tibetian lama. Weather and living condition are harsh and unforgiving, yet they perservere, devoting their life to religion.
It had been a tiring journey to reach Shiqu 石渠, a county in northwestern of Sichuan. After 5 hrs flight to Chengdu, we grabbed a quick dinner at 7pm and were told to rest right after. We had to move out 4am the following day to catch 6.30am flight. We touched down Yushu 玉树 9 and began our 5 and a half drive to Shiqu through a mix of good highway road and bumpy mountain road.
Midway we stop at a location for photo taking at an altitude of 4700m. The grass were covered with pretty wild flowers of red, purple, yellow and white. Had to watch our steps as yak dung were everywhere.
By the time we reach Shiqu, everyone was exhausted and most were starting to have altitude sickness. Mine is pretty mild, but persistent headache and light headed. Hopefully I get acclimitized by tomorrow. For the rest of the day and evening, we were told to rest well.
It is bad enough not having access to google, facebook, flickr, etc. There is no mobile access at all. No calls or data available. Will take time to get use to.
Past hiking travel into the scenic mountains, I’d struggled with pain in my knee due to an injury. I ended up using my tripod as support. This time I bought a trekking pole online which was probably made in China. It looked good upon inspection, and hope it doesn’t break upon usage. China knock off have the tendency to look good on the outside and disintegrate when used.
In two weeks time, I’ll be joining a photo tour to Sêrxü, part of Sichuan province in China. Sêrxü also commonly known as Shiqu, is mostly inhibited by Tibetians ethnicity. It will also be the highest altitude I’ll be ascending as of writing. Heard so much about altitude sickness and the saying is that healthy people tend to have bigger reaction to altitude sickness. Taking no chance I’d started taking Hongjing Tian (红景天) capsules to promote energy, blood circulation and function of metabolism.