December 21, 2010

Deformity Man

In modern parlance, the Western world refers to a person who has a physical or mental limitation as disabled. In less politically correct times when secretaries were called secretaries, disabled people were called handicapped. In China, this is taken one step further. Bathroom stalls reserved for disabled persons have the words "Deformity Man" prominently emblazoned on them. These are of particular use to me as they are often the only Western style toilet option available amidst a sea of fetid trenches, holes, or other open pits in which to deposit waste. I enjoy squatting during emergencies, but when I have enough time I prefer to take a seat.

Many Chinese men are uncomfortable with their buttocks making contact with the potentially hazardous seating surface of a Western toilet, so their allegiance lies squarely with the squat toilet. In a five star Shangri La hotel in Inner Mongolia, footprints were clearly visible on the toilet seat. On another occasion, there were several men waiting around all but one stall in a public bathroom. I went to investigate why this singular outlet was being ignored. I opened the door to find out it was a Western toilet. To my surprise everybody was content to wait for one of the squat toilets to become free, even though an alternative was available to them.


"As easy as lifting one's finger. Be civilized." ~ A message displayed on top of a urinal recommending the user to flush it after use.

December 19, 2010

The Manchurian Incident

The largest city in northeastern China is Shenyang. On September 18, 1931 a small segment of a rail line operated by the Japanese was blown up nearby. The damage was so limited that a train successfully crossed the tracks afterwards on the same day. The site was of little importance to either Japan or China. Nevertheless, the Japanese used the "Manchurian Incident" as a pretext for invasion. They had named the place Liutiao Bridge, even though it was flat land, so that it seemed to be of more strategic significance then it actually was. The 9.18 Museum in Shenyang explains the details of the plot and displays reminders of the atrocities committed by Japanese troops. 

The generally accepted version of the event is that the Japanese placed explosives near to both the train tracks and to a Chinese regiment. When the dynamite exploded it would do little damage to the rail line, but alarm the Chinese soldiers stationed nearby. The Chinese troops would then run out to the tracks. At this moment Japanese soldiers would appear and spot the Chinese, surmise that they must have bombed the tracks, and retaliate in full force. Using heavy artillery that they had smuggled in beforehand, the Japanese made quick work of the Chinese regiment. After meeting little military resistance from the locals in the region, the Japanese consolidated control of the northeastern states within five months of the incident.


"And therefore those skilled in war bring the enemy to the field of battle and are not brought there by him." ~ Sun Tzu, The Art of War

December 05, 2010

Sichuan Earthquake

A devasting earthquake hit the province of Sichuan on May 12, 2008. The initial 7.9 magnitude quake lasted two minutes, followed by hundreds of major aftershocks. It claimed 70,000 lives, with a further 20,000 victims missing. The disaster rocked not only the region but the whole nation. Apart from the northernmost provinces, all other parts of China physically felt the tremors. The country quickly mobilized to rescue any survivors and then rebuild the affected areas. The most severely hit area was Beichuan.

An off duty Spanish journalist and I made the journey to the epicenter of the quake. The actual town of Beichuan is fenced off and deserted. We transferred from bus to smaller bus until we finally reached the closest settlement to it. The roads in the region had been remade at an astonishingly rapid pace thanks to large infusions of capital by the government. Many of the neighbouring towns had also been reconstructed, but there was little greenery in the neighbourhoods. With gardens full of rubble rather than grass, the vegetation had not caught up with the concrete foundations of the new homes.

We entered one of the few restaurants in the settlement. As neither of us could speak Chinese, we drew the animals we would like to eat for lunch. My artistic skills evaporated under the spotlight of several chuckling townsfolk, but they got the gist of it. After lunch, the restaurant staff corralled a local who dropped us off at Beichuan. Despite the hardship and loss, the people were friendlier and more helpful than most others I encounter on my travels.

Beichuan was still buried under debris, landslides having swept away many buildings and leaving others partially submerged in dirt. Temporary accommodation had been set up several kilometers away in the settlement that we had first arrived at, while a new city was being constructed in another location. Located at the base of a valley, the former site was deemed too dangerous for future inhabitation. There are plans to convert it into a memorial park. A stone marker with the date of the earthquake etched on it has been erected on a nearby ridge overlooking the valley, and that is as close as we ventured.


"We shall draw from the heart of suffering itself the means of inspiration and survival." ~ Sir Winston Churchill

December 01, 2010

Hakka Tulou: Roundhouses

Perfectly circular like the face of an overweight child who has visited McDonald's a few too many times, roundhouses are unique forms of housing complexes found in rural areas of Fujian. The most famous and well preserved fortified dwellings are to be found in Yongding County, home of the Hakka people. The dramatically large earthen structures are called tulou, with some rising five stories high and holding upwards of 80 households.

Built from the 12th century onwards, the strongholds provide security for the whole community. The stone foundation, high walls, and granite framed gates made it hard for attackers to enter the compound without incurring heavy casualties. The house within a house concept also exists. Smaller structures are built inside the protective walls of the roundhouse in concentric circles.

There is a central courtyard where gatherings for events like marriages and festivals can take place. Wells, temples, storehouses, and other facilities are also shared by all the inhabitants. Livestock relax on the ground floor, while people go about their daily business. Rickety staircases lead from one level to the next and the wooden floorboards of the corridors creak underfoot.


"Nor need we power or splendour, wide hall or lordly dome; the good, the true, the tender, these form the wealth of home." ~ Sarah J. Hale

November 29, 2010

Heavy Dew in Gulang Yu

Xiamen is much like any other prosperous large coastal city in China with decent beaches, a bustling pedestrian shopping area, and delicious seafood. What sets it apart is the delightful island of Gulang Yu. The 2 square kilometer isle is a short ferry ride from the mainland, and an even shorter private speed boat ride away from the harbour. Colonial buildings, pedestrian walkways along the shoreline, and a dearth of vehicles apart from the occasional golf cart transporting sedentary Chinese tourists, makes Gulang Yu a relaxing haven even when it is crawling with these aforementioned tourists. I visited during October holidays, when the whole nation of 1.6 billion goes on vacation en masse.

A torrential midday downpour quickly dispersed the crowds, groups of them huddling wherever they found shelter from the deluge. Water cascaded down the narrow stairways of the island, forming temporary waterfalls. When the rains subsided, they all congregated at the ferry terminal hoping to get back to the city of Xiamen as quickly as possible.

Like a scene from an apocalyptic movie , thousands of souls crowded against the gates, clamouring to escape the calamity of being drenched by rain water. I selflessly changed course and went for a coffee instead, waiting several hours for the rest of the crowd to be evacuated safely before leaving the island myself.


"Into each life some rain must fall." ~ Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

November 27, 2010

Xinjiang: The New Frontier

I had a flight to catch to Urumqi, the capital of Xinjiang. China's largest province has seen ethnic tensions rise in recent years. Bordering Russia, Mongolia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Afghanistan, Pakistan and India, a third of China's oil reserves are to be found in this volatile region. The "New Territory" is inhabited by a hodgepodge of ethnic groups including Uyghurs, Kazakhs, Mongols, Tajiks, and Kyrgyz. This has been augmented by a massive influx of Han Chinese in recent years. The Uyghur are still the major ethnic group in the Xinjiang autonoumous region, but will be soon overtaken by the Han population that is the majority in most other Chinese provinces. Uyghurs can generally be distinguished from Han Chinese by their olive skin, sharper features, and ability to grow hair on their faces.

I hurriedly packed and had breakfast with my landlady. "Beijing is safety, Xinjiang is not safety!" she warned as I headed out the door. At Beijing's Nanyuan Airport a small child poked me to see if I was real. On the flight, the same toddler was sitting behind me. She had finished delousing me by the time we arrived in Urumqi. I followed the signs for "distant range arrivals" and picked up my luggage. I decided to immediately head to Turpan, where I was scheduled to rendezvous with my friend Preston the following day. At the bus station I discovered that all buses for Turpan had already left, so I shared a taxi with three chain smoking men to my destination.


"You are not Uyghur???" ~ Question asked in English to me by a shocked Uyghur taxi driver after I did not understand his original query posed to me in the Uyghur tongue.   


I stretched my arms and breathed a sigh of relief, having just launched the biggest project of the year at work. I shut down my computer, switched off the lights, and locked the doors. I was about to embark on my grand voyage through China the very next day. Several meters away from my office stands the recently opened World Trade Center Phase 3 tower. I walked into the gleaming new lobby. Eighty floors later I was in the highest bar in Beijing. The aptly named Atmosphere provides a panoramic view of the city, from the modern skyscrapers of downtown to the sprawling structures of an imperial capital.

I was meeting up with my friends in Beijing, some of whom would have left the country by the time I returned from my trip. Coincidentally, we bumped into the CEO of my company and several other higher ups. An office ARNABabe who was at my table spotted them. The two groups awkwardly combined, as I introduced my colleagues to my friends - my onetime Irish roommate, a scintillating Malaysian diplomat, a Nokia employee, a couple of ABC's (American Born Chinese), and a tousle haired iPhone application developer. After having a few drinks and reminiscing about our past escapades, we parted ways.


“Don't be dismayed at goodbyes, a farewell is necessary before you can meet again and meeting again, after moments or lifetimes, is certain for those who are friends.” ~ Richard Bach

November 22, 2010

A Civilized Urinating

In China, an urinal primarily functions as an ashtray for the masses. Cigarette butts fill the urinal while the actual urine collects in a pool on the ground below it. These streams then form into tributaries of the Yellow River. Authorities have tried to reduce the popularity of this floor-peeing phenomenon by displaying instructions above urinals notifying potty patrons on correct usage of the facilities:

 "Thinking of making things easy for other before urinating"

"It's civilized to get close to urinate"

"You can enjoy the fresh air after finishing a civilized urinating"

"Closer, Easier"

Unfortunately, the clever signage has been unable to stem the tide of long distance urination. The motivational messages have met with little success. The urinal remains too close for comfort.

November 19, 2010

The Safety Notice for Passenger

China Rail High-Speed, abbreviated CRH, is the premiere rapid train service in the country. Operating since 2007, the CRH trains can go at speeds exceeding 230km/h. Between looking at the scenery outside, sleeping, eating, and watching the other passengers get into fights with each other over trivialities, I enjoy endless minutes of jocularity from reading the safety pamphlet available on board the trains:

1. It is forbidden to take with or consign the flammable, explosive, corrosive, posionous, radioactive, and other dangerous articles, including the forbidden knives.

2. The ticket checkage will be stopped before the train’s departure. Please pay attention to the stop time of checking, get on train or stand within safety line on platform for waiting before it.

3. Please stand the queue during get-on and get-off. When getting on after the get-off, please don’t crowd. It is forbidden to pass through under train, climb to roof, jumb off station, enter railway track, and so on. It is forbidden to follow the running train for get-on and get-off before stopping.

4. During the trip, don’t be crowded, lying on the door, and don’t pull (or push) the emergency brake valve handbrake handle, emergency brake button, and other safety facilities at random.

5. Smoking is forbidden at any position inside the train.

6. Under the conditions which may effect the safety of the train and the passengers, please follow the crew’s instruction, keep order, and help the elder, children, illness, disabled, pregnant, and others who need help, but don’t be urgent to take luggage. In case of emergency, please notice the crew in time.

7. In case of the get-off which is necessary during emergency, you can break the safety window by a special hammer for escape. If on Electric Multiple Unit, you can also push the emergency stopping button above the compartment end door.

November 15, 2010

Let The Bullets Fly

The shells ricocheted off the walls as the loud rat tat tat of heavy gun fire resonated all around me. I took my position, gripping the trigger of the sniper rifle firmly in my hand. I looked carefully through the scope, one eye closed, fingers steady, before squeezing down on the trigger. The bullet left the barrel at blazing speed. As it was my first time using a gun, the force of the kickback caught me by surprise. I paused to adjust my grip before emptying the remainder of my cartridge.

I put my glasses on to see if I had hit my target. I was at the China North International Shooting Range. The attendant beside me started giggling. The black and white rings on my target paper remained unscathed. I had completely missed. Usually these sheets of paper are given to participants as souvenirs, but mine was reused since it looked brand new. With steely resolve in my veins and eyeglasses back on my face, I switched to an AK-47 assault rifle and a Beretta handgun. I rarely missed the mark in the remaining sessions of target practice.

Half an hour before, I had been taken to an exhibition room displaying the various forms of pistols, rifles, shotguns, machine guns, grenades, rocket launchers, and flamethrowers I could try out at the shooting range. After selecting my arsenal, I had gotten into the back of a military vehicle that took me to the actual outdoor firing range. Located near Beijing on land formerly used for army barracks, the ballistic bullet park provides a controlled environment to try out the deadly devices. Starting from 10 RMB per bullet, prices rise steeply as the weapon of choice becomes exceedingly ridiculous. For instance, the child beside me in the shooting gallery was using a mortar to pound large holes into a mound of earth a hundred meters ahead of him.


"If you make a gun, you are either going to sell it or you are going to use it. And if you're going to sell it, someone else is going to use it." ~ Arthur Boyd

November 06, 2010

My Name is Arnab

When an exiled hero returned home after many years having vanquished a demon king, his countrymen laid out rows and rows of lighted lamps ("deepavali") to welcome him back. Nowadays Deepavali, or Diwali in condensed form, marks the triumph of good over evil. Observed by many people in different parts of the world, the festival of light has transcended religious and national boundaries. Every year the Indian Embassy in China hosts a cultural event to celebrate Diwali.

This was my second Diwali in Beijing. I had met my good friend Swathish during the previous year's jamboree, so we commemorated our one year anniversary in style. After a brief speech by the Indian ambassador which I missed, Indian and Chinese performers sang and danced to both traditional and modern tunes. This was followed by a fireworks extravaganza and then dinner, which was the primary motivation for attendance for a large segment of the audience. Accompanied by an ARNABombshell and several other ARNABuddies, Swathish and I retraced our steps from the previous year. We concluded the evening with a nightcap at a lake side bar cosily located within nearby Ritan Park, the beats of Bollywood music still resonating in the background.

As I was leaving the embassy premises, I heard someone calling my name. "Arnab! Arnab! Arnab!". I saw an Indian lady I did not recognize rush towards me. I was unperturbed. A man of my immense dignity is accustomed to receiving outpourings of affection from random females. "Arnab! Arnab!". The woman continued past me to a child who had wandered on to the street. Now I was intrigued. She picked up the infant and let out a sigh of relief. "Arnaaaab". I was no longer the only Arnab in town! I looked at her and said "My name is Arnab". She gave me a look of disdain before walking back into the embassy with her son in tow.


"Happy Diwali!"

November 03, 2010


Coorg is a scenic locality in Karnataka filled with rolling green hills under clear blue skies. I went with a group of friends and friends of friends to the "Scotland of India" during a weekend escape from Bangalore. Most of the time was spent relaxing in a secluded cabin set amidst a verdant valley.

We took an elephant ride around a park, climbing onto the pachyderm by means of a stairwell that ended where the the giant beast's backside began. Bylakuppe, the second largest Tibetan settlement in India, was located nearby. We had lunch at the local monk hangout. The monks at Namdroling Monastery were quite modern, shelling out rupees at the corner store for such earthly delights as toilet paper and India’s favorite soft drink Thums Up.


"Mark how fleeting and paltry is the estate of man: yesterday in embryo, tomorrow a mummy or ashes. So for the hair's breadth of time assigned to thee live rationally, and part with life cheerfully, as drops the ripe olive, extolling the season that bore it and the tree that matured it." ~ Marcus Aurelius

November 01, 2010

The Garden of Ten Thousand Beasts

Not to be confused with the Beijing Subway, the Beijing Zoo is one of the city's more affordable attractions. An imperial manor in the Ming Dynasty, a small menagerie was first established in the park in 1906. Now the 219 hectares of gardens and ponds has the largest collections of animals of any zoo in China. After purchasing my tickets, I followed the crowds to the wildly popular giant panda pavilion. Groups of pandas jostled in the artificial playground that had been created for them, while others enthusiastically chewed strips of bamboo.

The cafeteria doubled as the rhinoceros viewing area, so customers could eat lunch and watch the giant creatures laze about simultaneously. The tiger collection was another highlight my visit. One Chinese man repeatedly popped up behind me every time I saw one of the magnificent creatures. "Tiger!"he would shriek into my ear. I said "Yes, tiger." the first time, politely nodded the next few times, and then ignored him for the remaining few episodes.

Meanwhile, a small Chinese child saw a dark and hairy beast roaming freely outside of the enclosures. The toddler shrieked and clung tightly to his mother's left leg, one tiny finger pointing at me fearfully. I gave a friendly scowl and continued onwards to see a bear being enticed by a local to eat yogurt from his cup.


“Zoo: An excellent place to study the habits of human beings.” ~ Evan Esar

October 28, 2010

Beijing Auto Show 2010

The largest auto show in the world takes place in the far reaches of Beijing, about 2 hours away from the city center. Nevertheless, throngs of spectators still flocked to see the attractive models on display at the Beijing International Automotive Exhibition. After they were done, they turned their attentions towards the cars. Having a vehicle is a status symbol in China, although with 4.5 million cars in Beijing alone, it is not a particularly exclusive one.

I walked around for a couple of hours, paying particular attention to the concept cars and those being unveiled to the public for the first time. The numbers were staggering - 800,000 visitors, 1000 vehicles, and 100 international debuts. Not only were all the foreign brands out in full force, but dozens of Chinese manufacturers were also present. The local automakers are yet to make an impact on the global automotive scene, but they still dominate the low budget segment of the Chinese market.

I was ushered into BMW's VIP suite after I explained to the beautiful hostess who I was. A stone faced guard moved aside on her signal and I strode up the stairs. Several exclusive models were on display. I smiled at them before continuing on to the dining area. I sipped a coffee, watching the crowds milling about below. I then enjoyed a sumptuous lunch along with other members of the glitterati who had been granted entrance to the VIP area. After the meal, I rejoined the masses to hurriedly visit the booths of the remaining vendors. It was the last day of the motor show and the workers started to drive the cars out of the exhibition hall well before closing time.


"A car for every purse and purpose." ~ Alfred P. Sloan

October 25, 2010


Amidst the modernity of a fast developing nation, it is always possible to find fascinating traces of the past. 100 kilometers from Beijing lie a series of ancient caves carved out of the cliff side at Guyaju. The original inhabitants of the largest cliff dwellings discovered in China lived here over a thousand years ago. Not much is known about the cave dwellers, with both their origins and disappearance from the region still a mystery. Archaeologists have made guesses on which cave was a temple, which belonged to the village chieftain, which was a stable for horses, and which was a storeroom based on clues such as size, location, and shape of the specific cave.

Although the rock is soft, life was hard for the residents of Guyaju. Not only the walls of their homes, but their tables, beds, and tools were all made of stone. Carefully climbing the steps etched into the cliff, I examined a small sample of the over 120 caves in the complex. From atop I could see the odd modern day reconstruction of a town from the American West down below. This development, ostensibly to allow wealthy Chinese to have vacation homes where they could imagine they are living in 19th century America, is called Jackson Hole.


"Here we stand in the middle of this new world with our primitive brain, attuned to the simple cave life, with terrific forces at our disposal, which we are clever enough to release, but whose consequences we cannot comprehend." ~ Albert Szent-Gyorgyi 

October 18, 2010


When today's tech savvy toddlers were posed the question "What do you want to be when you grow up?" one of the most frequently heard answers was "Technical Project Manager". I live that dream.

My job as a Technical Project Manager (TPM) at Interone allows me to work in a creative environment, alongside art directors, designers, copywriters, and developers in the online division of the advertising agency. What exactly do I do as a TPM?
  • I oversee the technical design, development, and launch of multilingual websites in multiple countries simultaneously, always having to be aware of the statuses of dozens of projects at once
  • I supervise the technical staff, which includes developers (who write code) and content editors (who upload content to the  website), by explaining to them what tasks have to be completed and when, providing guidance on how to accomplish these tasks, checking that they have all the materials they need, and helping them when they are in a bind
  • I evaluate business requirements and alternate solutions, provide cost estimates, and schedule resources
  • I coordinate with third party vendors and service providers
  • I identify, report, and fix bugs
  • I star in the occasional movie
  • I interview potential candidates and perform other day to day managerial tasks
It is a multidisciplinary job that requires not only top notch technical skills, attention to detail, devastatingly gorgeous facial features, and a sharp intellect, but a 360 degree understanding of what needs to be done in the minds of various stakeholders and the ability to bring it all together into a combined product that can be launched under tight deadlines.


"A leader is best when people barely know he exists, when his work is done, his aim fulfilled, they will say: we did it ourselves." - Lao Tzu

October 15, 2010

Mist and Mirage - Kaiping Daiolou

The last place I visited during my epic 40 day trek through the Middle Kingdom was Kaiping. The county is famed for its distinctive watchtowers, known as diaolou. Rising magnificently from fields of green, the diaolou fuse Western and Chinese architectural styles. Originally constructed to keep bandits away during a time of rampant poverty, 1800 of the approximately 3000 structures remain standing today. Many are shuttered and not open to the public, while some still function as active living quarters for locals. Although Kaiping has a population of 700,000 people, it is estimated that another 700,000 Kaipingers are scattered throughout the globe. On a rainy day, I wandered through the cobblestone paths from one diaolou to the other in the village of Zili, accompanied only by a group of clucking roosters. I also visited the nearby Li Gardens and the town of Chikan, both of which also had similar fusion architecture.

After the practice of slavery was largely outlawed in the colonies of the Western powers, the colonialists still needed a source of low cost labour for construction, mining, gold-digging, and other economic pursuits. Their eyes turned to Canton in the 1800's, and Kaiping in particular, for here there was an untapped resoirvor of workers willing to accept any offer for a chance to work abroad. The worker would often get passage to North America or Australasia, and painstakingly work off the debt owed for the ticket in exchange. Many never made it back alive to see their families, others came back much worse off than before, but a few made fortunes in these far off places. These wealthy overseas Chinese then brought back Western ideas and money to fund the construction of these unique structures in Kaiping.


"Americans are very rich people. They want the Chinaman to come and will make him welcome. There will be big pay, large houses, and food and clothing of the finest description. You can write your friends or send them money at any time, and we will be responsible for its safe delivery. It is a nice country, without mandarins or soldiers. All alike; big man no larger than little man. There are a great many Chinamen there now, and it will not be a strange country. Never fear, and you will be lucky. Money is in great plenty and to spare in America." - advertisement for recruiting workers in Kaiping

October 13, 2010

Beast Inside

After years of getting the cold shoulder from both Hollywood and Bollywood, my talent was finally recognized in the People's Republic of China. I acted in a short film called Beast Inside. Along with my fellow thespians, I was picked up in a van and taken to an abandoned warehouse where the movie would be filmed. My principal scene was the first to be shot. It would set the tone for the rest of the movie. After a few practice runs to see if the lighting and camera angles were correct, I changed into my costume.

Everyone held their breath as they waited to see how I would perform in my long awaited debut. Crew members ran around me, releasing smoke from canisters to create the proper effect. The director signalled that filming had commenced. Even through the haze, the spotlight shone brightly on me. I rose to the occasion, nailing my scenes after only a few takes. Everyone applauded as the director yelled "Cut!". I humbly acknowledged their praise as I walked off the set.


"A man of knowledge lives by acting, not by thinking about acting."
- Carlos Castaneda

October 12, 2010

Forty Days and Forty Nights

After half a year of near continuous overtime at work, I took a 40 day leave of absence to explore the faraway regions of China. I said goodbye to some friends, reunited with others, and made new ones along the way. My Irish roommate and Malaysian diplomat would both leave the country to pursue other opportunities while I was away on my trip. My friend Preston would be my travel partner for the first half of my adventure, before returning to his American homeland. We met up in Xinjiang, crossing deserts (the Taklamakan), borders (into Pakistan), streets, and anything else that we came across.

At the midpoint of my journey I would spend a few days in Chongqing with my father, who would be attending a conference there. Preston and I would continue onwards, sailing the utterly disappointing Three Gorges before going our separate ways in Wuhan. He would return to Beijing to collect his belongings before flying home to America. I would turn my gaze eastwards to Shanghai and the World Expo, before traveling south to a tiny village in Fujian province to attend a colleague's marriage.

One successful wedding and several sessions of heavy drinking later I would find myself in Xiamen, a lovely coastal town near Taiwan. Here I would reunite with my former sidekick Leo for a few days until our paths diverged again. He was headed north and I was going south. My 40 days were almost up as I reached Canton, where I divided my time between the mega-city of Guangzhou and the tiny villages of Kaiping before jetting back to Beijing. All told I traveled over 13000 kilometers during this epic journey, or approximately 1/3 of the circumference of the Earth.


Not all those who wander are lost. - J. R. R. Tolkien

August 28, 2010

The Hanging Monastery

Sixty five kilometers away from the dusty city of Datong is a sight to behold. A 1400 year old monastery is perched halfway up a sheer cliff wall. Constructed fifty meters up the rock face, the monastery is shielded from flooding of the river below. As I approached it from ground level it did not look that high.

The staircase grew increasingly narrow as I ascended the precipice. The monastery is supported by pillars of wood, which act as stilts. The stairs wind their way underneath the monastery, allowing zany Chinese tourists to vigorously shake the lumber that supports the very temple atop their heads. Once I had climbed up and peered down, my attitude about its altitude changed. With narrow pathways and knee high railings, the monk hang out was quite scary from above. I stuck as close to the walls of the monastery as I could.


"Don't push! Safty first" - an unheeded warning sign atop the Hanging Monastery