Two days in Banna (by Ali) -
As expected, our 2-day "Water Splashing" trip down to Xishuangbanna proved to be everything we weren't expecting. We did a lot of eating - big family banquets with Lao Yang's mum's side of the family (she has seven siblings). Lots of Dai food on offer: sour fish and bamboo soup, fried puffballs, snails, the new season's bamboo shoots, things wrapped in banana leaves, and even some donkey meat. In Jinghong Edie, Freda and Lao Yang were kitted out in Dai Nationality costumes (see photo), and we even fitted in an afternoon's swimming at the Golden Banna Hotel. Apart from this, we didn't experience any water splashing - all that takes place at the Dai New Year round about the 15th of April. On Sunday morning though, it became apparent why we were here - we were going to attend Mengyang's Poshui Jie carnival...

Huayao (Flower Belt) Dai women
The main road into Mengyang had been closed to traffic and was lined with all sorts of stalls, mainly Dai bbq food, but also fun-fair style shooting galleries and the like. There was even a Freak Show, something probably banned in the UK for being ultra politically incorrect, but here a great crowd-puller (for those with Y2 burning a hole in their pocket). Freda and Edie went in and reported back: one monkey (chained), one giant python (drugged apparently) and various bottled specimens, including a pig with two heads, a dog with two heads, a frog-man (ie. a frog with human-looking hands and feet) and a human baby complete with tail. Outside on the street and in the nearby showground there was a great party atmosphere. Somehow (because we were foreign?) Lao Yang's mum managed to get us through security and into the ground where groups of beautifully dressed "minority nationality" folk were gathering for the show. Xishuangbanna has a high concentration of different ethnic groups, and today's event was all about getting everyone together, having fun, and showing some ethnic harmony to make the Party bigwigs up in Beijing feel better.

Bulang woman at the Mengyang Carnival
The majority Dai People are split into 3 main groups - Shui (water) Dai, Han (land) Dai and Huayao (flower belt) Dai. Also in attendance were Hani (Aini), Bulang and Jinuo people, and probably quite a few other groups I didn't recognise. We spent a happy hour here then retreated up the road to a fish restaurant near Guanping where we ate "datou yu) - big head fish, heads and all. Then an hour's drive back to Mengyang and straight to another restaurant, deep in a plantation of rubber trees. This is the Chinese Way - lots of eating, interspersed with sitting around tea drinking, mahjong twittering, card slapping and sunflower seed nibbling. It can seem a bit strange to those of us who are more used to do something constructive with our spare time (Don't get me wrong - I'm not complaining, merely making a cultural observation!). Anyway, it was nice to sit out the heat of the day and Freda, Edie and Lao Yang had a great time playing with their ducklings. Oh yes, the ducklings. Did I not mention them? More of that later...

Thanks to the generosity of Lao Yang's extended family we had a fantastic time and saw a glimpse of Chinese festival culture that would otherwise have passed us by. They treated us like honoured guests - this is also the Chinese Way.

12/4/2010 11:53:29

Lovely photos. And PLEASE persuade that freak show to come to Kunming. I have my 2RMB ready and waiting!


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