Monthly Archives: October 2011


Conquering (?) Vertigo in Tiger Leaping Gorge

Tiger Leaping Gorge Lead

Z jumps from stone to stone across the waterfall which tumbles in a rocky stream across the cliff-edge path and a mile or so down grassy rock, autumn wildflowers and orange-tinged spruce into Tiger Leaping Gorge. A candidate for the deepest gorge in the world, Tiger Leaping Gorge is the place in Yunnan, China, where […]


The Friday Photo: Autumn Wildflowers in Tiger Leaping Gorge

Wildflowers Tiger Leaping Gorge

Trekking the world’s deepest gorge in mid-October, pushing two miles above sea level, you don’t expect to see wildflowers. But in Tiger Leaping Gorge, in northern Yunnan, China, not far from the old border with Tibet, we saw millions. I loved these tired, tatty flowers drooping their blue heads. This splash of hot pink amid […]


Oh James! I'm Sorry About the Jade!

Jade laughing Buddha pendant in Lijiang Old Town, Yunnan, China.

James is bookish, bespectacled, educated in Kunming and Chiang Mai, a walking encyclopedia of Chinese history and culture. He’s thirty, with a three-year-old son, yet old enough to remember the days when: “All I wanted when I grew up was to be rich enough to eat meat once a month…” For us, children of the […]


Learning Mandarin: Week 4

Shangri La Sign

“If you finish this book,” Sophie reiterates, “You’ll be able to get all around China with no problems.” I wouldn’t have thought it possible when we started learning Chinese. But, weirdly, I think she’s right. A month ago we couldn’t tell where one sound ended and the next one began. A Chinese sentence was a […]


When Does the Chinese Century Begin?


“Why do you want your son to get to know China?” James asks. We’re sitting in the sun, by a rushing canal in beautiful Lijiang Old Town. “Well,” I say. “I’m British. The 1800s were our century. The 1900s were America’s century. And the 2000s will be China’s century.” This isn’t, as my ma points […]


The Friday Photo: Black Dragon Pool


This is Black Dragon Pool, one of the most tranquil places in beautiful Lijiang, China. It was built as a pleasure garden for the feudal ruler’s wives and on clear days you can see all the way across to the unconquered 6000m peak of Jade Dragon Snow Mountain. The dragon of the name is the […]


The Prettiest Town We’ve Ever Visited

Lijiang Lead Image

Ever heard of Lijiang? It’s an old town in northern Yunnan, in what was once the Dali Kingdom, the fought-over hinterland between China and Tibet. Curved eave buildings topple up narrow alleys towards a Qing dynasty pagoda. Willows and flowers drip over its narrow canals, crossed by slender bridges. There’s a reason they call it […]


Learning Mandarin: Week 3

Kunming Sea of People

A week to go before we head out of Kunming into the great wide open, over 30 hours of language lessons in, and we are, both of us, beginning to wonder whether the blood and sweat we’ve invested in learning Chinese is going to work. To understand and be understood in Chinese, I’m finding, you […]


The Friday Photo: Nine Dragon Pond

Kunming Park boats

It’s been sunny lately. So t’other day we went to the park. And the park was a lake. With nine dragons. Now, the Chinese have been landscaping dazzling gardens for over three millennia now, so beauty shouldn’t come as a surprise. But… It did. Right now Chinese society is urbanizing as fast as the US […]


Learning Mandarin: Week 2

Mandarin Week 2

So the boy and I have completed our second week learning Mandarin in China. We’ve only got a week’s more learning before we’re out on our own exploring — although I think we’ll carry on via Skype. If you’re a language geek, or planning to study Chinese, you might want to read about our first […]