Sudden change of plans this morning. I was up late last night and early this morning prepping for a 9 am presentation to the Academy and was closing down on it at 7:30 when I went over to the main building for breakfast.
As I was leaving the breakfast room, the desk man (who speaks no English) flagged me down with the telephone and it was my host, Mr. Ma, the editor of the Southwest China Forestry Journal.
He informed me that the president of the Academy wanted him to take me to visit one of their rural stations about 100 km ESE of Kunming, and that we would leave after lunch. Goodbye window shrine!! The room, while not central to Kunming, had been peaceful and quiet...
Presentation and lunch at the Academy done we walked down to the East Section of the Kunming Botanical Garden (famous for their camelias)...stopped at the PO so I could get some Chinese stamps for my old friend Monica Hathaway, and Ma could sweet talk the Postmistress into getting us comps for the garden. I didn't have my camera with me or I would post some shots.
We launched around 3pm, through rush hour (why that was not considered I cannot understand).
We drove out past the famous "Stone Forest" which I had assumed to be right in Kunming from all I'd read but it was actually 75 km away in the town of Shilin. I got a few pix of the karst near the Expressway, and hope we might stop back, but time was (apparently) short even after having whiled away the mid-day.
We made a stop along the way (apparently for my benefit) at an ancient Chinese warlord's mountain fortress about 10-15k SW of the main expressway and walked around there for an hour or so. I may post a photo gallery of it at some point as it was reminiscent of Canyon de Chelly. Here is one pic.
We arrived in Lu Liang, which bills itself for crafts (on the highway signs) but is clearly a stone cutter's town. Amazing stuff glimpsed from the expressway, but impossible to photograph that way.
All around the town were hundreds of acres of high tunnels. Not like ours; these are intense and a total way of life for the farmers that tend them.
We arrived around 6:30 pm (I had gotten up at 5:00 am) and went immediately to dinner. As we pulled through the gate to what I thought was going to be the hotel, the two gate guards in olive camo fatigues stood and saluted.
We decamped and walked across a courtyard full of vehicles with roof light, through a portal, and across a classic urban enclosed space, with a basketball court and cadets playing two on two. We entered a spartan dining hall where more cadets were stocking the tables.
As the guest (the first American) I was given the first-feng-shui position, back to the wall, facing the door we had come in. I had to sit while everyone else prepared...and could do nothing for myself.
The Chinese have a ritual toasting ceremony that I will have to describe at some point (but I am too tired now at 10:30pm). I will leave it with a picture of the table (notice the turntable for grazing the dishes and the little toasting glasses and carafes of liquor).