Sunday, February 16, 2014

Yunnan Part 5: Upper and Lower YuPeng

A view from our window in Upper YuPeng, Meili Xueshan National Park, Yunnan, China

Ahhh .... the best part of Meili XueShan National Park... Yupeng (pronounced we-pong). We still, 4 months later, talk about this place nostalgically... Nestled in a valley just before the great snowy mountains lies this little Tibetan town. Two little Tibetan towns to be exact. It's kind of like stepping back in time to some mythical village. No car roads lead here so anything that is here is brought in by donkey. Apparently they have only had electricity here for a year or two.

Ok, let's be clear about one thing, though. While these towns may have always been here in some shape or form, these two towns have certainly grown substantially with tourism. Houses here have clearly been built with the idea that they would be guesthouses. But don't let that turn you away, most residents that we met come from just on the other side of the mountain in Ninong (I'll get to there in another post) and as you can see in the photo above, all the buildings have been built in the typical Tibetan style. Thanks to the money from tourism, the locals can actually afford to do that. Here in India where I am now, while there are hundreds of Tibetans living around me, it's nearly impossible to find houses built in this style, probably due to lack of funds and lack of experience in building these homes.

Building a new, traditional style Tibetan house. 

But life here in Yupeng is good. Though it is located some 2,500m above sea level, its location so near the tropics (just a hop, skip and a jump from the border of Myanmar and about a day or two drive from Vietnam) so there is never any snow.

View of the glacier from Upper YuPeng

The view from our bedroom window in Upper YuPeng afforded us a beautiful (though often covered by clouds) view of the glacier in the mountains nearby...

Cooking dinner in Upper YuPeng

Cooking out here is done the old fashioned way, on a wood stove. It was fascinating to watch this woman, who was our guesthouse owner, run the kitchen.

Dinner in Upper YuPeng

Food here was mainly Chinese style. We kept asking around for Tibetan food, but everyone looked at us a little strangely and couldn't understand why we would ask for such a strange thing. So, we mostly ate lots of fried vegetables and rice. Fortunately we like fried vegetables and rice.

Maybe breakfast? in Upper YuPeng
Preserved meat in Upper YuPeng

With no car access, anything eaten here must either be grown here or lugged in on a mule or backpack. Meat, of course, could not be sealed and stored in refrigerators as it would be in developed places so meat was salted and preserved and kept on the wall, as you can see above. I'm sure the salting process is not too unlike that which Americans used many years ago. When we ordered food with meat in it, she would just take down this salted pork from the wall and shave off a few small slices and add it to the food.

Dali Beer

We did enjoy a number of these 大理啤酒 (Dali Beer) on our trip, it seems to be one of the only beers available in many rural areas of Yunnan Province. However the beer is quite weak, just 2.5% alcohol... But, I suppose we should not have been drinking it at all as it had to be carried in by mule and hopefully the used bottles were also being lugged out by mule. The price was several yuen more than what it cost in restaurants in the city.

Drinking with the locals

Another exciting moment for us with the local cuisine was sampling the local liquor. We had chatted with this woman, the one with the black vest in the center of the photo, earlier in the day and she told us that she makes her own, homemade, liquor. We told her we wanted to try it later, so around 8pm that night we headed down to her restaurant in the dark and inquired if she were open. Of course we were the only ones in the deserted restaurant but she was excited to show us her liquor and we were excited to try it. We wanted to try both her wine and her barley liquor, so we ordered one of each. However, it was far too much alcohol to drink for the two of us (you can see the containers, the barley liquor was probably 40-50% alcohol...). So, we started recruiting locals to drink with us. Once the woman sitting next to me wondered in, completely drunk, it wasn't hard to get the rest of our drinks drunk as she was more than willing to help, plus getting others to join her in her drunkenness.

Mules in front of traditional Tibetan house in Upper YuPeng

Life in YuPeng runs at a slow pace. There are animals roaming the streets in all directions. While a lot of the local economy is now supported by tourism, it still logistically makes sense to keep up the agricultural way of life as everything here still needs to be brought in by horse if it's not made here.



 Pet monkey?

Not sure what's up with the pet monkey, but it was a little scary and tried to attack us... I think...

Our accommodations in Upper YuPeng

Accommodations here were rustic and simple, as one would expect when trekking I suppose. But, we thought this place was quite nice and clean for $3 USD/ person/ night (20 yuen per night). Not really what most people imagine when they think about honeymoons... but, it was a different kind of romantic I suppose...

Our lovely hosts in Upper YuPeng

After two nights in upper YuPeng we sadly left our guest house and said good bye to those working there and headed down to lower YuPeng for the next night. Lower YuPeng seems to be a more popular place to stay because it has a slightly better view of the Meili Xueshan mountain. However, considering the fact that the mountain is nearly always covered in clouds, or at least it was when we were there, we found life in upper YuPeng much more enjoyable. Fewer tourists, friendlier people, and cheaper accommodations. We went around to several guesthouses before we were able to find one that was both cheap and had a good view. But we paid for it with bedbugs...

Our accommodations in Lower YuPeng

Temple in lower YuPeng

View of the mountains from Lower YuPeng

A moment of clear skies in Lower YuPeng. 

Overall, both Upper and Lower YuPeng are beautiful, fantastic places which have been relatively untouched by modernity. They are fantastic places to find traditional architecture, good meals made with fresh ingredients, kind people, and fantastic views. The husband and I, even now 5 months later long to return to YuPeng...

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