Archive for Yunnan



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After three weeks in Yunnan, I was taken to a special restaurant the day before heading back home. After a three weeks of mostly vegetables, this restaurant was going to completely erase any good my lean diet had on my body! And I am all the more wise for it!

A bowl of pork bellies in Dongguan. It is well worth returning to China just to eat these bits of heaven!

Mao Jia Fan Dian (Mao’s Family Restaurant) is a chain started in 1987 by Mao’s distant niece. It is typical Hunnan style food with lots of heat. From snake to eggplant to tongue-numbing chilies, there is plenty to choose from. But the signature dish here is what I was craving.

Walking up the stairs and out of the searing heat of the street, you are met by a huge bust of Chairman Mao as you enter the restaurant. It is large, tasteful decorated with polished wood floors and furniture. It is bright with large windows and the staff welcoming and polite.

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Early morning sun and Sea Cloud in Duoyishu



In Duoyishu the early morning air is deathly still, scented with vegetation and slightly thin at 1,700 metres. The sun is not yet up, but over the ridges of the valley, the sky is a deep mauve. Today will be a warm & sunny day – like every other day that bathes this region in crystal clear sunlight.

The walk from the tidy, family-run hotel to the viewing area overlooking these famous rice terraces is 7 minutes along the quiet, paved road. Quiet now. But in an hour, will be transformed into the vital artery that it is, supplying villages with goods, ferrying people about and the only route to move water buffaloes from one valley to the next. This road connects the villages, families and cultures and is about the only way to get around in this vast rice terraced region of Yuanyang. Read More→

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A photo & video montage showing the beauty of the land & people of southern Yunnan Province

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This is Liu Fang as she played the Guzheng, a traditional, classical Chinese instrument. It has a beautiful rich and vibrant sound. The pipa on the other hand has a higher pitch and is played sitting in a chair with the instrument in the musicians lap.

Liu Fang is hugely popular all over Europe and enjoys a broad & dedicated fan base. She currently lives in Montreal with her husband/manager, Risheng (a fascinating man in his own right). The love international story of their meeting and eventual move to Canada is right out of a classic romance novel. Who knows, perhaps one day Fang will write a song about their journey.

But for now, we have several albums from which to listen to her music, close your eyes and imagine the long history of Chinese music that this talented musician skillfully shares with us.

Please visit her website, purchase a few albums (also available on iTunes) and find out where she is playing next. And if you are able to, try to attend her concert. You will be amazed!

Liu Fang playing her pipa at the George Ignatieff Theatre, Toronto


A detail of the guzheng's strings

Categories : LIU FANG, MUSIC, Yunnan
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Coffee falls into the stomach … ideas begin to move, things remembered arrive at full gallop … the shafts of wit start up like sharp-shooters, similes arise, the paper is covered with ink …
– Honoré de Balzac

Enjoying a coffee on the roof of my family-run hotel

As Balzac so wisely eludes, coffee sharpens the mind and hones one’s senses for the day ahead. So, like an addiction, I cannot imagine a morning without the ritual of grinding, brewing and drinking a fine coffee.

This is all fine & good, but there are times when you may experience a period of coffee interruptus. Such a time would be when you travel to China. China is thought to be one of the most tea-saturated countries on earth. China is indeed the world’s largest tea consumption and production country in 2010, according to a U.N. report. And I can believe it.

Go into any home, restaurant, hotel, and business in China, and you will see a collection of tall Thermos bottles corralled on the floor filled with hot water – for tea. A drive along Beijing’s ritzy Wangfujing Street is not without observing a driver in his Mercedes, cigarette & cell phone in one hand and a clear flask of tea in the other! In the countryside, everyone has tea with them in those glass or plastic tea flasks. Some even have what look like big pickle jars filled with tea leaves and water. It’s everywhere!

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Categories : BEIJING, COFFEE, Yunnan
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One of the Smile-O-Meters you might encounter at the Immigration desk

Okay, I’ll put it out there… Nothing in my life raises such a nervous sweat than going through immigration at an airport. And that goes for driving across international boarders too. I am the obvious victim of watching too many cheesy TV shows and Hollywood movies! I can’t help it, when I approach an immigration kiosk or gate, my skin becomes clammy and I begin to rehearse what I will say if questioned, hauled over and stripped searched!

So, you may ask, what does this have to do with your entry into China? Good question. I have entered China from two locations, Beijing and Hong Kong/Shenzhen Customs. Both are the same in their very quaint and ridiculously cute way.

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A view of the campus grounds at Yunnan University in the centre of Kunming

After a gruelling 16 hour flight from Toronto to Hong Kong, the short hop from Shenzhen to Kunming, the capitol of Yunnan province in southern China is but a blink of the eye. And what a treat for the eye! On approach to the Kunming airport, you are treated to one of this province’s artistic displays, the colourful, patchwork landscape. The canvas is red earth and the painting is a vast display of multi-coloured crops that flow over the soft, undulating landscape.

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Categories : Yunnan
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I will soon be in Kunming, Yunnan Province where I will then head south to Yuanyang to film in the rice terraces. This part of Yunnan has always been a destination I have dreamed about visiting. In doing trip research I came discovered the musician, Liu Fang. She is a brilliantly talented pipa player (like a lute). Fang was born and grew up in Kunming. And to my surprise, lives in Montreal, Canada.


Liu Fang en concert au TFF Rudolstadt festival / Liu Fang in concert at TFF Rudolstadt festival from MBAM on Vimeo.

Watch this video and pay close attention at the fingering Fang masters at about 0:36 into the video. This is simply outstanding.

If you have a chance to hear her play, you must make a point of doing so. Here is a link to her upcoming concert dates.


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For a long time, I have wanted to visit Yunnan and explore the breathtaking rice terraces. A friend of mine was there not long ago and after seeing the photos, I knew I had to visit too. I will go to areas which are quite remote and not on the typical tour routes. But this is how I like to travel.

Thanks to Ning Zhang for the use of this beautiful photo of the water-filled rice terraces

I will fly into Hong Kong, then overnight in Shenzhen before flying to Kunming. From Kunming, I head south to the Yuanyang rice terraces.

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