Thursday, February 16, 2012

Laomeng - Part One

Sun-Ling was trying to decide which direction to head after Mengzi, west or southwest, when she found out that Laomeng to the southwest has a big Sunday Market. Decision made.

We had big expectations for the Laomeng market after seeing so many very cool weekly markets in South America. We hoped we made a good decision.

The bus ride from Mengzi to Laomeng, retraced part of our 2008 route to the Yuanyang rice terraces, and like 4 years ago, Yuanyang was fogged in as we rode through town. However, the clouds parted at a viewpoint 20kms to the west, one we had visited in 2008, and we had a good look at the terraces as we rode by. We noted that there is now a 38 RMB fee to view terraces and a group of locals hanging out at the parking gate looking to sell stuff to entering and exiting vehicles.

Reaching Loamen, the bus dropped us off on the main road and we walked across the river and into town. Almost immediately we concluded that Laomeng is one of dirtiest towns we'd ever seen. Piles of days old trash, organic and inorganic, everywhere. Plastic bags flying in the breeze and in the trees. What's up with this? Where are the orange-shirted street sweepers we see in every town in China?

Some possible answers: The town of Laomeng has lots of new infrastructure; paved roads, an irrigation project, a small hydro-electric station under construction, and new buildings, that the villagers don't want, don't need or are unprepared to use as designed. Or, bad local leaders.

Bananas. On the way up the hill to Yuanyang, we noticed that most of the lower valley was planted with bananas. Was it like this 4 years ago? No, we decided. So it turns out that a couple of big banana companies have been increasing their leased acreage in Southern Yunnan. That's good for the farmers as a lease is a steady cash income. The blue and white plastic bags that are used to ripen the bananas and protect then from insects are another matter.

These blue and white plastic bags litter the lanscape. In Laomeng there was a big pile of used bags on the riverbank waiting for high waters to sweep them away. Hmmm.

Before dinner we took a walk around town and were pleasantly surprised to see a small Dai village on the edge of town with many traditional houses built on stilts. Above the town were some newly constructed concrete andbrick houses clumped together making a "new" village. And just below the village, scenic terraces of rubber trees, bananas, sugarcane, and newly planted rice had my camera engaged.

Then a grilled tofu and noodle soup dinner. Then home to our hotel not knowing what to expect at tomorrow's market.

The rice terraces just outside town.
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Looking through the rubber trees and bananas to the rice fields.
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A woman walks along the irrigation project.
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The small hydroelectric plant.
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Bananas wrapped in blue plastic bags.
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A house in the Dai village.
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Noodle soup with grilled tofu.
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