From January - July 2010, we are roaming the Indian Subcontinent (and beyond, as it turned out)...

...during that period, this blog page is the temporary home of

Friday, July 9, 2010

Tai Chi'd

The last week's been beautiful. We spent it practicing tai chi at a monastery up in the forest on the side of a mountain.

Tai Chi? It's a martial art that doesn't really look like one; it's all about slow, controlled, focused movements.

The setting? Well, a monastery. No electricity. Male/female segregation. A giant bone-rattling bell that clattered from 5.30am onwards. Chanting and incense that filled the air for many hours each morning, afternoon, and evening. Vegetarian food eaten communally with strict rules on conduct: we were issued a bowl and a set of chopsticks when we arrived, any grain of rice dropped had to be eaten, no leftovers permitted, no eating until the master had begun. Mornings began with a jog down to a nearby stream, followed by finding a rock to carry on your head, back to the monastery. Our training ground was a small clearing in the woods; five hours per day were spent stretching and practicing our routines. Each day, old women passed through the area, having picked handmade basketsful of wild mushrooms in the nearby forest.

It was fantastic to stay at an active temple, falling asleep to evening prayers, living this relatively slow-paced and unstressful life. A by-product of the stay was that we've been whipped into shape a bit, and the tai chi really helped to further develop my cat-like agility and grace.

We're back in Dali. We've been in this area for nearly two weeks now, and have gotten to know a lot of people. Recently, we were out to eat and ran across a Chinese guy we'd previously met. He invited us over to his friends' table, and though we'd already eaten, we were implored to join in cleaning up their feast, which included a pyramid of platters, among them: fried flowers and milk sheets, minnows, raw lake shrimp, duck necks and feet, pig intestines, and strange roots that look like grubs. Rice and plum wine accompanied, and we ended the evening at a small pub, listening to a haunting performance of a local musician. Perfect...


Everything begins to unwind. We spend the next three nights on the train, a long, long voyage eastwards to Shanghai, where we'll end what we began so long ago in southern India. I love the symmetry: our first couple weeks in an Indian ashram, studying/practicing yoga; our penultimate week at a Chinese temple, studying/practicing tai chi.

We are looking forward to our time on the train, the busy city of Shanghai, and everything in between. Our trip is down to eight days...and counting.