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Published: October 13th 2011
(Damenglong, Yunnan province)
They say only mad dogs and Englishmen go out in the mid-day tropical sun. Except for Kit, none of us are mad dogs so it is just after sunrise when we head out down the country lane leading out of this small town. We are happy to be in the countryside as the town itself has been taken over by Han Chinese road workers who have ripped up all the streets, presumably to replace them with new ones.
The morning is fresh with no hint of the head splitting heat that will beat down in a few hours. We are sharing the road with what appear to be morning commuters heading to Damenglong from a neighboring village on their motor scooters. Still, the walk is quiet and peaceful. We pass citron trees laden with citrus fruit larger than bowling balls. Then we find ourselves are in the midst of groves of trees, each one of which has a wire around it, into which is inserted a tin cup. Above the cup is a spiral of metal sheeting wrapped around the tree. We can make no sense of it. The cups are empty and tipped on their
sides. It seems like a maple syrup set-up. But what is being collected? Is it medicinal?
We continue down the road and soon see cups that are upright with the addition of a spout in the tree. A white substance that looks like Elmer's Glue is dripping into the cup at a rate of about one drop every 20 seconds. Eventually see see a motor scooter parked at the base of a trail leading up through the trees. We follow the path up through the woods and see a woman coming down through the forest with a large bucket. Jacob shouts at her and asks her what she is collecting. He doesn't understand her answer and asks again if the sap is for medicine. She replies that it is for tires. We have stumbled onto a grove of rubber trees!
Continuing our walk we spy a bridge over a small river back in the woods. It is entirely made of bamboo. Kit cannot resist climbing onto the bridge. I think he would have headed out across the river until we point out to him that he outweighs the bridge's typical user by at least sixty pounds.
saved Kit from certain disaster we are stopped in our walk back to the road by a three-foot wide spider web containing a huge -at least four inches long - yellow and black spider guarding her territory. Since the web was virtually invisible we were all happy it wasn't across our path.
After about an hour of walking we come to a small village. The entrance is marked by a huge ornate golden gate painted with designs reminiscent of Thailand. This is an area of the Dai people, related to the Thai, and their artwork is incredible. Their most common symbol is the golden peacock and this entrance is marked with a carved golden peacock whose tail contains red "eyes".
The town itself has a large Buddhist compound including a temple. The young monk in his saffron robes runs back inside upon seeing us approach. The compound is full of flowering plants and ponds and art everywhere. We find the head Monk seated and he welcomes us and we are able to go inside the temple. A huge painted Buddha is at the altar. It is at least 15-feet high and has a serene benevolent face. This Buddha is
Spider on web in the woods
These are much harder to spot than this photo makes it seem.
slim, with black hair and and yellow robes. The temple ceiling has hundreds of long pieces of cloth decorated in a variety of ways that hang down to just above our heads. It is a lovely place and Kathy and I light incense and place it before the altar. A special moment given to us as an unexpected surprise on a morning walk down a country road.
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