Tuesday, March 11, 2008
Enticing new opportunities for the cultural photographer are becoming more accessible in these less traveled regions of abundant diversityThis Article Features Photo Zoom
Tourism infrastructure spans the spectrum. The region of Yunnan represented by Dali and Lijiang rather generally is considered to be the mythical Shangri-La. Today, Lijiang’s designation as a UNESCO World Heritage site and the recent addition of an up-market Banyan Tree Resort have put it on the map as one of the most civilized of interior cities, where minorities still go to market in traditional dress. By contrast, the province of Guizhou—where minorities account for 37% of the population—was among the last to be opened to tourism. Here, both travel and accommodations are yet to be developed beyond many unimproved roads in the countryside and grim hotels. Tour companies regularly recommend carrying your own silk sleep sack (Silk Dreamsack from TravelSmith.com, $59). It still requires an intrepid photographer with a strong stomach and patience to reach the outlaying markets and villages.
Overall, these provinces of hothouse-green mountains, brown rivers and velvety rice terraces are the home of seemingly countless tribes or ethnic minorities that still are inclined to perpetuate the costumes and traditions of their ancestors‚ but for how long? How long before blue jeans and Nikes take over totally? Constantly on my mind is how fleeting the future of these peoples may prove to be, almost akin to the endangered species that we all fear losing. What would the southern provinces be without the Gejia, Hmong, Bai, Naxi and others that turn out in marketplaces and festivals in their quaint and spectacular dress?
Today, every time I contemplate a relaxing vacation to an island beach, the mountains of the West or cobbled streets in Europe, I’m faced with the dilemma: Those places will be there for years to come, but how long for the minorities and tribes of southeastern Asia? The clock is ticking; the urgency is palpable.
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