Randomly, i found myself wandering the streets of Chengdu on a 5 hour train layover, when i stumbled upon a large Taoist temple. This was a welcome haven within the chaotic confines of the southern regional capital. I sat for hours under a small pine tree, reading the verses of Taoist poetry that Gill and Dan had lent me, while Taoist priests walked peacefully past me. Their blue Chinese gowns, small black shoes, and overwhelmingly ugly and over grown beards and nails made them look like something out of bad kungfu movie. But it was a perfect background for a bit of philosophical soul searching.
That night i sat quietly strumming my guitar in the cramped train cabin. Everyone slept yet i was stuck to the window, watching china turn from a harsh desert with mud caves (which people lived in until only 50 some years ago!) into a lush tropical forest, with rising amphitheaters of rice patties carved into the hillsides. 50 hours later, and another 5 hours on a bus i found myself in Dali!
Dali was a place which i had first heard of in the small "buddha bar" of china town, san Francisco. I had heard stories of villages without hotels, where people would quickly invite you into your homes and make you part of their family on a moments notice. Things have quite changed since those times, now the obnoxious buses of tourist flood into the once modest city. Yet through that all an interesting subculture has developed in the older part of town. Cobbled stone streets and tiny Chinese cottages house the young revolution of china. Artist from all over Asia come to Dali for an oasis in the rapidly changing china. Music flows out of the many small tea houses, stinking of frustration, but also rebellion. Its quite interesting to have seen the landscapes of cultural struggles throughout this trip, and equally interesting to see the reaction of china's youth centered within the streets of Dali. I will spend a few more days here then head further south, maybe to the border of Myanmar...