Lugu Lake: Photo Edition

There’s more to Lugu Lake than the Mosuo people.

We stayed at the Lige area of Lugu Lake. Most travellers tend to stay at the LuoShui area of Lugu Lake, but we were advised not to stay there as it is highly commercialised. Lige, however, is increasingly becoming very commercialised as well.

Let’s just let the photos do the talking here:

The view of the Lige area of Lugu Lake

水性杨花 (Shui Xing Yang Hua), the name of this flower and a term used to describe a woman's infidelity

Can you spot the Lugu Ness monster?

There. The Lugu Ness Monster. ie: a really small snake.

Locals barbecuing

My attempt at playing boat woman. It's very hard work.

My friend, HX playing with some of the local kids

Dinner with our Israeli friends

Here's a Labradoodle (Labrador + Poodle. Not sure how that came about). There were two in the hostel we stayed at. One was free to roam around, but this one was chained. Reason according to the hostel owner? He's not "honest" and likely go around to partake in "walking marriages"

Photo credits: Thanks to Seng for some of the photos. Your photographic skills do the place more justice.

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The Mosuo People of Lugu Lake

Leaving Lijang Gu Cheng (Lijiang Old Town) and a 7-hour bumpy bus ride after, we arrived in Lugu Hu (Lugu Lake). Lugu Lake was not like what everyone had raved about. Translucent blue waters and clear cloudless skies? Neither of these was present. What we were treated to instead were dark waters, which only reflected the state of the skies – gloomy, grey and cloudy. We stayed for two days (not by choice, rather because we could not get a seat on the next day’s bus) walking around doing nothing much.  We had wanted to cycle around the lake, but changed our minds when we found out that not only was the lake’s circumference 53 kilometres, the route was an undulating tarred road we had to share with vehicles that passed through the area. That said, the two days spent at Lugu Lake were no less fulfilling and enjoyable for a couple of reasons – the company and the mini history lesson I received.

Lugu Lake is located in the North West region of Yunnan Province. The villages surrounding the lake are home to various ethnic minorities, including the Mosuo people (some 20,000 of them stay in this area). Now, one of the most fascinating aspects about the Mosuo people is that they are probably the only (or at least one of the very few) matriarchal societies that still exist in the entire world.

A bit of a history and culture lesson:

The Matriarchal Society

In Mosuo society, children are under the custody of their mothers, take their mothers’ surnames, and live in their mother’s household. One woman, the “grandmother”, though not necessarily the oldest of her generation, but the strongest, will become the head of the household. In short, the women in the family run the show.

We went to a local's house. This lady introduced herself as "the future head of the household"

So what then do the men do? To quote what a Mosuo man, whom we met who told us stories on the Mosuo culture, said:

“In the Mosuo culture, it is the women’s world, but it’s the men’s paradise.”

Men have no say in the household, but they do have to go out and work, though I’m not too sure what work they have to do. They do not have to manage their children, although they are very much part of their children’s lives. They have no say in their own household, neither do they have a say in their “wives” household. They have no part in the kitchen or in managing finances. Isn’t this then, as the local said, “men’s paradise”?

A Mosuo village

A typical Mosuo house

The Interior of a Mosuo Household

A Mosuo feast

The Walking Marriage

Another interesting fact is that the Mosuo society does not subscribe to a system of marriage that we’re used to – man and woman marry; woman moves into man’s household; man are the head of the household. Instead, the Mosuo man and Mosuo women do not marry and believe in a “walking marriage”.

Picture this: A Mosuo woman at coming-of-age (13 years old) gets her own room. She meets a suitor and if he’s interested, he will go to her room at night, and hang his hat outside the door to indicate that someone is in her room. He must then leave by the morning. This happens every night during their courtship. The day the man is no longer interested in the woman, he will not show up. The day the woman is no longer interested in the man, she closes the door and does not allow him to enter. As simple as that. Hence the term “walking marriage” was borne from the action of the man walking to his partner’s room every night and leaving in the morning.

This may sound like the optimum setting for promiscuity, but in actual fact, apparently some 90% or so Mosuo people stay faithful to their partners once their relationship has been stabilised.

Mosuo women (and one Mosuo man) in their traditional outfits in some touristy dance event we attended.

The History

Historically, the Mosuo people became a matriarchal society as a means of survival. To cut the long story short, every person in the Mosuo household, which typically has 10-20 people (sometimes more), has a role. In the event of a union between man and woman in the Mosuo culture, or rather the stabilising of a relationship since the idea of “marriage” does not exist, neither man nor woman will leave the household. This means that each household will not lose a particular role overnight and will remain strong in numbers in the face of adversity. Many centuries later, this culture remains almost the same.

An old Mosuo woman sitting by Lugu Lake

Those are three pigs deboned and preserved for future consumption, a tradition in a Mosuo household

Some local Mosuo kids we met when exploring the area

I had first heard of the Mosuo people in a documentary I had chanced upon on TV some years back and was most intrigued by its culture and the idea of “walking marriage”. Having known of their existence, it was most insightful for me to get a taste of  the Mosuo culture, interact with actual Mosuo people and see their stories come to life.

And here’s one ethnic minority group in China slightly better understood. Now another 54 to go.

Photo credits: Thanks to Seng for some of the photos. Your photographic skills do the place more justice.

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Foto Friday: A Theatre Carved out of a Cliff

Near Porthcurno, Cornwall
June 2008

Can anything be better than watching a play facing the Atlantic Ocean on seats carved by hand?

I sat down on these hard rock “seats” and waited for the modern version of Shakespeare’s “Comedy of Errors” to begin. It was a summer day’s evening and the Minack Theatre was quickly filling up with other theatre-goers. In front of us was a small stage, and behind that stage, the Atlantic Ocean as the backdrop.

I was unfamiliar with this Shakespearean play, but felt that it was indeed entertaining and worth the watch. However, the main purpose of my visit there was not to watch the play, but to just be there, sitting on a “seat” of this magnificent work of art, this theatre on a cliff carved by hand by just one woman. Her name was Rowena Cade.

Cade began work on the Minack Theatre in 1932 and worked on it till her passing in 1983. From a simple garden, which was originally Cade’s backyard, the area evolved into a full outdoor theatre with seats and a stage. Patrons from around the country would travel down south to Cornwall during the summer to catch a glimpse of this theatre and the plays that were performed there. Almost eight decades after the first stone was laid, I, a foreigner, was there too, embracing the hard work, blood and sweat that the remarkable Cade had put into constructing this impressive piece of work.

You can read the whole history of the Minack Theatre here.

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Every photograph we take contains a story, but we often do not spend enough time sharing that story with others. Hence, Foto Friday was born to give some recognition to these forgotten photographs and the memories they hold. Taken over many trips (2004-present) using my crappy cameras and whatever minimal photography skills I have, these photographs serve to give you a little insight into my travels. And if you haven’t realised by now, they’ll be out on Fridays.

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Volcanic Villages on Merapi

Volcanic Villages on Merapi | Photo Credit: John Stanmeyer, National Geographic (http://bit.ly/dBcYEZ)
Mount Merapi has been making the news this week with its major eruptions on Tuesday and Thursday that have killed 34 people and displaced tens of thousand others. I was looking at this album of photos on the volcanic eruptions when this aerial shot of the volcanic village on Mount Merapi really struck me. I was amazed by the sheer number of villages that were built on the mountain. To quote:

“Carving its slopes with steppes, farmers have set up croplands and villages as far up Mount Merapi’s ridges as possible. The attraction of Merapi’s rich volcanic soils is apparently greater than the threat of burning lava, toxic gas, or smothering mud from one of the word’s most active and dangerous volcanoes.

Worldwide, volcanic soils cover only one percent of Earth’s land but feed about 10 percent of all people, according to National Geographic magazine.”

If you’re keen to read more about the volcano, here‘s a good article on Mbah Marijan, the Gatekeeper of Mount Merapi. He has since passed away in the recent eruptions.

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Foto Friday: Wild Strawberries

Annapurna Range, Nepal
May 2010

Wild Strawberries

Wild strawberries lined the tracks of the Annapurna sanctuary. One could literally walk along, pluck some fruits, and pop it right into one’s mouth like a snack. These round strawberries were small, no bigger than a centimetre in diameter, but boy were sweet, juicy and very refreshing, a perfect treat for a walk under the harsh afternoon sun.

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Every photograph we take contains a story, but we often do not spend enough time sharing that story with others. Hence, Foto Friday was born to give some recognition to these forgotten photographs and the memories they hold. Taken over many trips (2004-present) using my crappy cameras and whatever minimal photography skills I have, these photographs serve to give you a little insight into my travels. And if you haven’t realised by now, they’ll be out on Fridays.

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Foto Friday: Winning 2kg Toblerones, or not

Göteborg, Sweden
May 2008

Now that's a huge-ass Toblerone

Two kilograms worth of Estrella (Potato Chips), Toblerone, Marabou, and Daim Chocolate Bars – These were prizes up for grabs at the several game booths all over Liseberg Amusement Park. All one had to do was to place a “bet” on a number at the counter, and spin a wheel. If the wheel landed on the number, one would win that two kilograms worth of goods.

Seven of us had gone to the theme park together. We eyed other visitors carrying boxes and boxes of these around and decided that we simply had to give it a shot to get our own box of chocolate. We went to the Toblerone booth and each chose a number and placed a “bet”; there were only three other people there who took the remaining three numbers, so our chances of winning were pretty high. Apparently someone up there did not want us to die of chocolate-overdose as we did not win that bet. We tried over and over again throughout the night, but not one of us even won a single bar.

We walked away that day empty-handed (without chocolate, potato chips, or cash, having spent all on the “bets”), but knowing, thankfully, that we would be safe from choco-intoxication.

_____________________________

Every photograph we take contains a story, but we often do not spend enough time sharing that story with others. Hence, Foto Friday was born to give some recognition to these forgotten photographs and the memories they hold. Taken over many trips (2004-present) using my crappy cameras and whatever minimal photography skills I have, these photographs serve to give you a little insight into my travels. And if you haven’t realised by now, they’ll be out on Fridays.

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Singapore Airlines Announcements

In the past week, Singapore Airlines (SIA) announced two pieces of good news for travellers who can actually afford to fly Singapore Airlines.

1)     Flights to South America

Now this announcement got me really excited. For the longest time, South America felt like the other end of the world (though in actual fact, it really is). With the introduction of these flights, travelling to South America feels like a much more attainable goal. Imagine the places one can visit:

Machu Picchu in Peru…

 

 

the Salt Flats in Bolivia…

 

Bolivian Salt Flats | Photo Credit: http://www.webalice.it/edmtromb/blog/salar4.jpg

 

the Amazon Forest

 

 

– the opportunities are endless.

The first SIA South America-bound flights, which will fly via Barcelona in Spain, will arrive at Sao Paulo, Brazil sometime in early 2011.

2)     SIA introduces WiFi on flights

For the social media junkie who finds the need to tweet, check facebook, and “check-in” on foursquare at any given opportunity, this service is most welcomed. Imagine an update that says,” I’m flying over the Indian Ocean”. How awesome is that.

SIA is not the first airline to introduce such a service; in fact some American airlines have been offering the service since last year. That said, I’m not too sure how high the take-up rate would be as I reckon the service will come at quite a hefty price. This article in Wall Street Journal seems to indicate that not many American travellers utilise this service.

Unfortunately, I will probably never be able to afford to fly SIA in a long time to come (or ever), so looks like South America and WiFi on flights will remain unrealisable dreams for me. For now.

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