Laowai tai duo

yo i am in Lijiang, which i knew sucked hard balls but now after five years i returned to check it out and lord almighty does it suck. the Chinese tourists here are insecure racists and their desires and idiosyncrasies have rubbed off on a local populace that is struggling not to become rude and greedy. But waves and waves of Sichuanese make it hard to handle … all within the hallowed confines of a sprawling labyrinthine old city, where scattered nooks whisper to hidden crannies about the good old days.

This place used to be a trekkers haven, with a beautiful old town to fall back on. Now there are gangs of dressed up Naxi clownboys clapping and harassing passers-by with an extreme version of the hard sell. And what are they selling? A KTV room constructed of local wood in the backpacker fashion: knickies and knackies hanging here and there. An old photo of their grandfathers black and white and for sell. Maybe pancakes alongside Sichuan hot pepper beef.

But that aint the kicker: there is a stage in the back with a square dancing half-stepping group of young slaves, facing forty television sets, hooked up to a speaker system with the capacity to blow away a good sized club BUMPING a retro-techno version of some Tibetan-Naxi love song contracted out in the 1980s by the Communists to show the world how much love there is between the Han and the rest of the people that live here. This theme does not change across the entire town. Spectacular wood and stone buildings with ornately carved staircases and attached mini windmills plowing the obediently babbling brook vs. bamboo and stone chalets with ivy and wood roofs for the right to split my ears with horrible, horrible music.

But you know. Perhaps i am just a dirty imperialist with my own notions of what is cool and i should just shut my mouth and watch the handover of Lijiang to the Chinese middle class with the Zen righteousness of the British when they watched the bad ass PLA roll into Hong Kong.

But you know i just can’t keep my mouth shut.

There are pockets of cool here. 2416 is a music workshop here, i think it is run by Leland, a pretty famous Chinese musician with all sorts of famous friends. Leland is a very friendly guy, but i can tell he is doing it to offset the visceral hatred his buddies have for foreigners in general. Unless they are French musicians or females attracted to “the Other” in the form of the ultra-cool hip avant garde Chinese artiste. So me being a dirty American who knows too much — well i am a threat. A barbarian who was schooled at the imperial court by some traitorous, mischievous official with political designs that the barbarian could not possibly fathom.

And as a barbarian i respond jovially: “I puke all over this bullshit.”

Because i know where the hatred comes from. Lijiang’s beauty and potential as a spot to find Jesus was discovered by Joseph Rock — a cracker imperialist if there ever was one. And the beauty was recognized and ratified by UNESCO, more white people. And the first people to come here where greasy backpackers like myself and our cool ass Chinese homies — who by the way all disappear during the heavy tourist season to some place thats … cool.

So for all those Wang-come-latelys, well, they just gotta hate. Cuz me and my tribe spoil the scenery.


“I love it”

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Sascha Matuszak

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