Vicky on Day 6 (Friday, June 12th)
Today we drove to the Stone Forest, what I think is one of the most incredibly preserved geoparks in the world. Although the walk around the park was challenging, witnessing these magnificent rock formations made us all appreciate how amazing nature can be. None of us could imagine that something so beautiful could be formed by simple rainfall. Then we made our way to the Western Hills and Dragon Gate. Who knew that something so spiritual and calming as a Buddhist temple could be built on a rocky, almost perilous cliff? Upon entering the Western Hills, one is almost calmed by the spiritual stillness that seem to envelope these holy sites. But as soon as you walk through the Dragon Gate, you find yourself standing on the edge of a cliff. This contrast of peril and spirituality was incredibly eye-opening on how Buddhist monks worshipped.
After, we drove to Chuxiong, which is, in my opinion, the best and most fun town we have visited yet. The architecture is so different from what we were used to in large cities such as Beijing and Kunming. Instead of brand new glass and steel skyscrapers, small traditional houses lined the streets. Upon our arrival, we were greeted by bright red Chinese lanterns illuminating the night sky along with distant folk singing. It seemed we had come to Chuxiong during a festival of some kind. You could find everything from a sheep-drawn carriage ride to carnival games. We even had the opportunity to light a floating lantern with our wishes on it. My favorite thing from the festival was getting to join in on a cultural dance with the locals. We stayed at the carnival until well into the night. Now I just can't wait to see what Dali has to offer.