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Himalaya

Day 79: Lugu Lake

Tiger Leaping Gorge, China 
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The end of Tiger Leaping Gorge. The Yangtze below me is about to fall 700 feet (213m) in a series of 21 lethal rapids. I've walked 20 miles along the edge of a cliff and Iím going to bed.
Michael Palin - HimalayaThere are 26 officially recognized nationalities within Yunnan, the most ethnically diverse province in China, and this morning, after a drive over the mountains and through gentle foothills spotted with Yi farms, we're entering the homeland of the Mosuo, who, like the Yi, are primarily Tibetan in origin. Their numbers are small, around 36,000, and are concentrated around a lake that straddles the border with Sichuan Province at a height of nearly 9000 feet (2740 m).

I'm going to meet Yang Erche Namu, known simply throughout China as Namu, a Mosuo woman who, after winning a national singing contest, ran away from home and found fame and fortune as a singer and later a model in China, Europe and America. Already I've had a glimpse of what to expect at Lugu Lake. The tourist authorities, as anxious to bring people to these ethnic areas as they once were to keep them away, have made much of the matrilineal tradition of the Mosuo. A billboard on the way here showed inviting girls in local costume above the slogan 'Lugu Lake Women's Kingdom. God Living There'. They meant 'Good Living' but for the men who troop out to the lake in search of liberated ladies it comes to the same thing. The irony is that there aren't enough Mosuo women willing to live up to this hype and they have had to import Han Chinese sex workers masquerading as Mosuo to satisfy the demand.

It seems to be working. With 60,000 tourists visiting Lugu last year, the lakeside village of Luoshi has become a boom town, with property prices rising as fast as the multistorey, log cabin-style hotels.
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PALIN'S GUIDES

  • Series: Himalaya
  • Chapter: Day 79: Lugu Lake
  • Country/sea: China
  • Place: Lugu Lake
  • Book page no: 183

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