Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Faces of Sichuan

Hi everyone,hope you are keeping well. My apologies for the long absence. Have been on a holiday in Chengdu, Jiuzhaiguo, Kangding, Hailuoguo in Sichuan. We flew from Chengdu to Jiuzhaiguo. Jiuzhaiguo which means 'Nine Village Valley' rewarded us with its renowned beauty for its fabled blue and green lakes,spectacular waterfalls and more. However, during our visit the spectacular autumnal colours did not show off yet as seen in postcards.That we missed.

It had been a very hectic schedule, travelling on the bus for seemingly endless hours traversing mountain roads. Not to mention the terrible roads, without shoulders and barely space for 2 trucks to pass by,  there were cliff hanging moments, never to be forgotten with many scenic towering mountains and valleys to remember too. The rain and mist combined to make travelling extra difficult. Like most of the fellow travellers we suffered varying degrees of altitude sickness as the highest altitude reached was over 3,700m at Mugecuo, near Kangding.

From Jiuzhaiguo to Chengdu, we passed by the WenChuan Earthquake Ruins and the Chengdu Narrow Valley.Remote villages with its people gave us glimpses of the simple, rustic life of these hardy inhabitants. The Tibetans and the local Han people were a delight to be in touch with.

Passing through some tunnels from Kanding to Hailuoguo wrecked our nerves as discipline was not the order of the day. But luckily our driver coped admirably and kept such excellent discipline that got us safe and sound to every point of the journey. Impatient drivers overtook in the dark tunnels. One was so pot holey that we rocked as if tossed in  rough seas. Thankfully it was not too long. From Kangding, we passed through a well -lit  4.5 km Erlangshan Tunnel @ 2182m. which is part of the Sichuan - Tibet Express. This entry point is of great importance that it is controlled by fully armed police. According to the tour guide, traversing this part of of the mountain terrain was terribly hazardous and took as long as an entire day but this tunnel cuts  the passage  time to a mere 10 minutes. Heavy trucks and tourist buses ply the roads and these were the main vehicles.

Am comfortably safe in my home. Looking back over the last 9 days of travel, it was indeed an experience,seeing things as they are for the first time. I'd like to share with you images and snippets of tales. To kick off, I hope you enjoy these images of the people of Sichuan.

One of the Tibetan ladies at Die Xi Hai Zi ( Double Stream Lake), a small  Muslim village selling  a wide variety of nuts. There, I sat on a white yak for 10 yuan for a picture moment.

In Moxi town, we were drawn to this old lady. As we walked about the court yard, she called out to us as she sat by a doorway, holding a pair of lovely  embroidered soles of shoes. Very soon, from her gestures and words uttered  she asked us to buy them. Her animated expressions and persistence paid off. I too bought  a pair . She had only 2 pairs to sell. Our fellow travellers took a liking to her and gladly dropped some yuan in her pocket as tokens. Her face  brightened  and her eyes just  danced and glistened.
Moxi  Old Town is part of Luding County, 304 km from Chengdu. We visited the small church and the residence where  Mao Tze Tung stayed  and held one of the meetings in the Long March - Moxi Meeting -to make  stategic plans for Luding Bridge Battle in 1935.

This is a relative of the 'sole' lady. Through her, we found out that they are related. When asked, she told us she was  72 and her relative  was 62. So grateful was she, that she wished us, 'good health' for the generosity shown to them.

Shangli  Old Town, once an important post on the Silk Road of the South lies  north of the Ya'an city of Sichuan. It is listed as one of the 10 Ancient towns in Sichuan. Be prepared to step into an era of bygone days. This old man was quietly watching our activities as we explored the  town which fascinated us with its old buildings, tranquil atmosphere, artists capturing the quiet waterways and  the waterwheel which was a big attraction of the quiet town.

In Chengdu, at Jinli Street,  this young lady was ready for some cultural performance. As she alighted the van, she gamely posed for my hubby. Note her costume which is a reminder of ancient Chengdu and her lovely peachy complexion.

Another  happy lady who served us in a Chinese restaurant in Chengdu.

What proof does one have of being at the Glacier at Hailuoguo National  Park Forest,  Asia's lowest altitude glacier when it was hidden by the thick fog? Well, nature doesn't always oblige, so a huge backdrop provides a sense of satisfaction for  disappointed visitors. Our group of ladies, kept warm and were high spirited, nevertheless. Can you spot me??  

Monday, September 12, 2011

In touch with her roots

This one is not for sale!  Perched above the patrons' heads, Ganesha  sees and blesses all.

To J. the place where she  bought the Tamil dvds  and cds was Masjid India, so she believed. That's her comfort zone to chill out when it's her off day. That's where she has her meals and meet friends, gossip and feel the pulse of a part of Kuala Lumpur that throbs with activity.

Someone must have told her Lebuh Ampang is also Masjid India! This  was the first time for me to be on foot in this part of KL. Looking around, how could J doubt the 'India' in the name Masjid India.. The shops that feed her consumer needs just makes her feel so much at home. She pointed to a huge shop opposite the dvd shop selling  beautiful clothes, bearing the allure of Chennai. ' But I can't afford,' she says. Next to the dvd shop a goldsmith shop displays trays of gold jewellry behind the glass windows. Indians generally  wear and buy 24 k gold and they really shine. Opposite, across the busy roads, restaurants bide colourful welcome in their billboards.

Shops to match the fervour of India.  Sangeetha rings a bell as my husband's niece has the sweet name.

Food to tempt your appetite but I bet J. can give them a run  for their money when she takes charge of the kitchen. 

That morning, there was a mission to accomplish. I had brought J. to exchange a couple of dvds for cds. In her excitement she purchased wrongly. But such mistakes inevitably remain mistakes with no exchanges or returns. In her sweet voice, she explained to the shopkeeper. Though I couldn't understand  the conversation, I knew from the body language, he was not going to oblige.  Then another man, the boss was brought in to sort out the situation.  Again, it appeared a stalemate. I thought it was my turn to intervene. Assured the men the dvd was not viewed tho we have a dvd player in the house. And that a happy customer will always be happier to return !! Somehow, my words connected with the business sense  and J was allowed to have the exchange. No more  repeats though.

Please Mr Shopkeeper, I got it wrong...

As J browsed and made her selection, I got a better idea of what a shop like this offers to J. who has made the journey across seas to earn a living in a foreign country. Her savings allows her to enjoy music, carnatic, religious and popular as she manages the housework.  Everywhere I looked, the products crammed for every space available . There seem to be so many things to look at at one go! The ground floor stocks  mainly small items  and if one calls it an Indian 7 Eleven outlet - a convenience store for things you can pick up and go, one is not far from wrong! No ice cream and stuff like that though!

The music that played was loud . At the front of the shop popular music blared  and walking towards the inside, some religious music was equally loud.  Add to that the honking of vehicles just a stone's throw away.

So this is where J finds a little piece of home. The homely feel of the familiar and speaking the mother tongue  helps to ease the distance felt for home in Sri Lanka. Another happening place for J is Brickfields, our  Little India.

Flanked on both sides - many  goods - cards, books, decor items...

His iconic hairstyle got my attention.

Stick - on 'pottu' for the added glamour

Up the hidden stairway - a world of  music and drama opens up for their clientele

Certainly Old is Gold! My brother-in law tells the story of Maruthur Gopalan Ramachandran ,  popularly known MGR who passed away in 1987 . He happened to be in Chennai and   felt the  earth-shaking effects caused by the outpouring of sadness upon hearing the  hero's demise . 

Ganesha in bright colours 

Incense holders

Vibrant colours - garlands for altars etc.

Replicas of mango leaves ( plastic) to hang at doorways of Indian houses, usually to add a festive touch.

Be ready to  make your choices and not be overwhelmed . 

I guess if you say you want a particular artiste, song, movie etc, you will not be disappointed. 

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Birthday Fun

The FUN within!

How soon another year passes! It was time to celebrate another birthday of my maturing years. Like the wine that matures with age, likewise friendship. I took the opportunity to celebrate with some close friends and relatives, keeping the company cosy. Behind closed doors, in Rama V Chalet, we indulged in the Thai ambience, cuisine and basked playfully in the warm ties that bind us.

'Come in something red , a tinge or more to wish ourselves and everyone good luck' was my email to the guests. I could almost hear the resounding ayes as they clicked the replies.

Dear Janneke from the Netherlands sprung a surprise and added touches of the masterly genius of Shakespeare to an upbeat afternoon. She had been hard at work, racked her brain and had meticulously written  quotes  to hand to all the guests, Shakespeares' works extolling  friendship. For once, she stressed, I had to listen, not speak! Yes, when the Bard speaks, listen ye well! Gamely my friends  quoted Shakespeare in a few lines. Then came the nice bit  - a gift of videos of  The Shakespeare Collection of  the 37 productions of the BBC Television Shakespeare Series. Holding and accepting it with all my heart, it was indeed a weight of gold to treasure.

Songs to remember

I made a special request for Janneke to sing  2 songs. Not likely to to let a good friend off so easily when she sings with  choirs and reputable ones in the Netherlands too. Her choice of  Early One Morning, an English folk song even got us joining in the refrain  with some acting thrown in.Was I  glad to sing it again as I learned that  awhile back during my singing lessons.

After the main dishes, it was time for everyone to break free and unshackle ourselves. Mime time. Hilarity! Spontaneity! Fun time all through. I even dangled a small prize to all the sporting beings around me. The theme was movies of the 60s. How do you mime The Big Gundown, From Russia With Love, Yellow Submarine, What's New Pussy Cat? Guess Who's Coming To Dinner?  It was a blast!

Too funny to contain.

Born Free - please hurry up and guess right!

Good things finally had to end.  The clock ticked away the hours as we shared  excellent company and more than yummy Thai  food . Ain't I lucky to enjoy a special date with my girl friends to mark another memorable  day in my life.

 Chor ladda - blue flower  dumplings stuffed with chicken and shrimp. I was too busy to snap pictures of the lovely dishes. Now I've forgotten their Thai names.

Friends for life! ' A friend  is one that knows you as you are, understands where you have been, accepts what you have become, and still , gently allows you to grow' - William Shakespeare

What's THIS?

Even if you can't guess it right, just  laugh your heart out.

It was Romeo and Juliet for  her.  In desperation she grabbed the waiter!!
'Let the wine of friendship never run dry'

Last came me - What's New PussyCat?

Dear  friends minus Rupali who had to leave earlier

Friend since the inception of The Sunshine Group.

All in the family