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Photo by Sampor Burke, Mekong Semester.

China Trek: Falling In Love With Lover’s Valley

Our guide, Abo, scampered ahead and behind me, jumping over the fences that designated the path up the mountain, to gather wild mushrooms. We were hiking out of Lover’s Valley and up a mountain where Chinese tourists flock to see the UNESCO World Heritage Site, a massive and scaly rock called 1,000 Turtles Facing the Sun.

We had visited another UNESCO site only a few days earlier; the old town of Lijiang. In Lijiang, we observed the detrimental effects of a UNESCO title attracting tourism and erasing culture. However, this rock and natural site seemed untouched by the tourism it attracted. Culture in and around the rocky mountain area was widely preserved. One question I ask myself is: what is the difference between these two sites? How can an attraction, natural or cultural, maintain its authenticity while sharing its beauty and gaining a revenue for locals through tourism?

We did yoga at the top of the hike. Our instuctor, Steve, who doubles as a yoga teacher, showed us another way to nurture our bodies, minds, and hearts through a series of complicated (at least for me) stretches. A day earlier, after Abo led us through the clouds on another day hike, Steve sat us all down on the mountain top for a meditation, another tool for us to use for understanding ourselves more fully. On that day, Abo gathered something different: blue wildflowers.

Daria

PS, to my family, I love and miss you so much. Thinking of you <3