A Travellerspoint blog

December 2018

New Year's Eve on the train


View Laos and Thailand, 2019 on baixing's travel map.

Dec. 31, 2019

I wore all the clothes in my bag which were four pairs of socks, a pair of long johns, three pairs of shorts, one pair of pants, two long sleeve shirts, four tank tops, two polo shirts, my raincoat, a scarf, a hat and don't forget my sarong wrapped around my head. It was -15 degrees and I waddled my way to the train station where I hoped I would ditch my shoes and wear sandals for two months straight.

Instead I spent two days on the train beside a noisy baby the whole way. I brought a lot of popcorn, almonds, raisins and oranges. That was what I ate the whole way. I didn't sleep too much because of the stupid baby. The train ride was pretty boring until we got to about the halfway point in western Hunan, where we travelled through a lot of mountains. To my dismay, they were all covered with snow. By the time we got to Kunming, it was early in the morning of New Year's Day, 2019. Pretty much exactly how I spent my New Year's Eve last year and the year before, in transit. On the way to Cambodia in the Guangzhou airport and on a ferry to Athens.

This time I'd be more mobile and spend two weeks or more in Laos and then the rest of the time lolling about Thailand. New Year's Eve is a manufactured festivity and no one really has that much fun forcing themselves to have fun anyway.

Jan. 1, 2019

We arrived early in the morning at the Kunming train station and I found the hostel very easily. Exhausted, I took a shower and washed the clothes I'd been living in for three days. It was still not warm enough for shorts, so I couldn't throw any of my warm clothes out yet. My sandals were heavy as rocks on the bottom of my bag. I tried to take a nap, but it didn't work, so I headed out to the central park, where red-billed seagulls were wintering.

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Every year, people just lose their minds about them, and they spend too much money on stale bread trying to feed them. I kept on going to Yuantong Temple, where a lot of nuns had gathered and were doling out these strange cakes to everyone. I thought that maybe they were meant for the fish, but I saw other people eating them, so who knows.
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Then, I tried to find the Yunnan Provincial Museum, but it had moved to a southern suburb. The old museum was turned into an art gallery and had some modern style Chinese ink paintings on display. I went home ready to sleep forever. I went to bed at 5 p.m. and didn't get up until the next morning, even though a bunch of Thai women were chatting away all around me.

Jan. 2, 2019
When I woke up, I went to the suburbs to find the provincial museum. I took the right bus, but when I transferred to the second bus, I decided to have some noodles for breakfast. I guess I took too long, because when I got back, the bus wasn't running anymore. I waited for a long time, and someone finally told me which bus went the right way. After all that, the museum was closed. I turned right back around and went to the two old pagodas in town, the East and West pagodas. Both of them had been gaudily repainted, oh well.
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Next, I walked to a supposedly up and coming arts district, you know the typical kind they have in Shanghai, Guangzhou and Beijing. Just a few more galleries and hand made trinket shops would be needed for it to be actually worth visiting. I sat and drank a tepid overpriced latte until the second art gallery was supposed to open at 2:30 p.m. It never did. The first gallery was full of a lot of what I thought was quite garbage, compared to what I really enjoyed the day before. There were a couple of dirty kittens play fighting at the cafe, so the whole day wasn't a waste.
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When I got back to the hostel, I met a woman from Mississippi studying Chinese because she wants to learn traditional Chinese medicine. We went to eat soup and more noodles, then I had to go to the airport to meet Reiko and Masao. Their idea was to join me on my tour for the whole two months. I got there too early, so I had time to figure out how they could get to the hostel at midnight. We had to take the airport shuttle, but also a short taxi, so it wasn't too bad of a problem. There would be no way they'd have figured it out alone.

Anyway, I went to look for some hot water because I was freezing. A nice woman at an expensive jade shop gave me some and she asked me a lot of questions about getting married to a Canadian man "for a friend". Apparently her friend was engaged to someone in Vancouver. Then, it was time to find Reiko and Masao. There were three exits and I was waiting at the wrong one, of course. In China they told me they weren't bringing any checked bags, so that's why. They showed up and there they were, with giant bags. It was the first of many disappointments in the coming days. I took them to the shuttle bus I had found before and we got home probably at 1 a.m.

January 3, 2019
We found the minority village and the minority museum were right beside each other in the south end of the city. So, we did everything they wanted to do in one day. Thank god though, because it was not that great. The whole thing was like a low budget Epcot Centre, except just for people in China. All the different minorities were walking around and doing their native dances. Even one guy climbed up a sword ladder in bare feet. You could explore lots of different houses from all different cultures, so I guess it might be fun for kids.
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I had some really spicy beef dish from who knows which culture for lunch and then we went to the museum next door, which I liked a lot better. The most interesting part was a huge scroll, depicting the layers of existence, including a graphically painful purgatory. There were also tons of ancient sculptures and carvings in different local languages as well as a huge bong made out of tin.

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We were tired when we got back, so we had some snacks and chatted with Donielle, the American woman I met the day before, then went to bed.

Posted by baixing 04:27 Archived in China Tagged kunming yunnan Comments (0)

Everything was closed in Dandong


View Jilin 2018-2019 & Greece trip, 2018 on baixing's travel map.


Friday
I had a pretty good sleep the night before on the bottom bunk of the sleeper car. Nobody did anything annoying the whole time, it was pretty amazing. Getting to the hostel from the train station was easy. It was on its own little island in the middle of the Yalu River (Moon Island) along with other more ritzy homes and hotels. I had the whole dorm to myself and a view of the Moon Island bridge. It was nice and quiet.

I thought it was a little late to go to the Great Wall, so I stayed in town for the day. My first stop was the "Museum to Commemorate US Aggression". It was a little difficult to find, tucked away in a residential area in the north end of town. I eventually found it, but it was a big mess. Massive renovations were evidently underway.
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OK... so now what...

I continued to the next destination, Jinjiang Pagoda, just two bus stops up the road. I climbed 200 steps to the top and what did I find there?
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More construction, or some sort of precaution for the winter months... It was meant to provide a clear view into North Korea but not for me.

So, I had some of the raisins I kept in my pocket and slowly made my way back down to the Broken Bridge.
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I got quite lost and walked back and forth, fixated on finding the bus there, not realizing I had covered almost the entire original distance and I would've been very close if only I had kept walking towards the river instead of trying to find the stupid bus!

Anyway, I made it to the bridge before it was closed, but I was too scared to take any photos. I had just finished listening to the As It Happens podcast in which they interviewed one of the Garretts who were detained in China for two years. They had been missionaries in Dandong and Chinese officials were suspicious of photos they had taken of this very bridge. They detained them on charges of spying. I'm not sure that was the only reason for their detention, but I wasn't going to make it one of my reasons for being detained.

The bridge only spans half the river from China to North Korea, because it was bombed during the Korean War. It had a unique mechanism on the inside which allowed it to detach and collapse into itself at a moment's notice. The newer bridge still stands and there is a little bit of traffic crossing into China. I didn't see anyone going the other way into North Korea though! What does it mean?
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I walked for a bit along the riverside park and then back through Korea town, where I had a bi him bap and called it a night, frozen to the bone.
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Saturday
I didn't manage to get out of bed until 9:30 a.m., so I headed downtown to catch the 10:50 bus out to the Great Wall. There is a rarely visited section that is very quiet, even on a Saturday. I was the only one who got off the bus and probably only one of maybe 15 or fewer people trudging up the steps that day.
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In my guide book, it said that there was a different path to take back to the entrance. It wound its way along the cliff and past a narrow part of the river they call "Just a Step Across". Naturally, I wanted to see that, so I took the little dirt track. However, I came to a part in the path where it appeared that a boulder had been rolled across the way, making it impassable or too dangerous to try and get around. I gave up the little trek. While contemplating my situation, I glanced over towards North Korea, which was about 50 metres from me. As I looked out onto the field I saw some cute ducks paddling in the little half frozen stream. But then I also saw some movement in the bushes. There was a dark shape moving quite quickly, creeping along the ground towards me. It looked like two humans trying to be stealthy. Were they refugees or border guards? I didn't want to stick around and find out. I didn't get a great look because I turned around and bolted back as fast as possible, the same way I had come. They seemed to make remarkable progress in the few seconds it took me to recognize their human shapes.
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NOPENOPENOPENOPENOPE, my brain screamed at me and my legs followed as quickly as possible back up the hill. My conscious intellect had nothing to do with it.

I got out of there safely and made the long walk all alone back to the bus stop, jumping and quickening my pace at every crinkle of hay and crack of twig various ducklings and chickens made in the farmers' fields beside the road. There was a bus ready to go , so I waved at it and thank god they waited for me. That was enough of North Korea for one day.

I went back to the hostel and out to dinner at a "steam table" restaurant. They threw a bunch of food in a steamer at my table, overcooked it and charged too much for the privilege. They brought me some "bacon" wrapped mushrooms, which they proceeded to steam. When I tasted it, I almost puked. Maybe it was bad meat, but it was most probably because it was the absolute most awful texture I'd ever put in my mouth. I never paid for that bacon and I'm never going to a steam table restaurant again.
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Sunday
I slept in a bit again, this time I went to a Korean restaurant where they recommended a big plate of huge clams for about $10.
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It was great and afterwards I went to a baker that sold a ton of stuff made with rice flour, where I probably spent $20 on a huge bag of various rice cakes and crackers.

Posted by baixing 02:00 Archived in China Tagged dandong liaoning Comments (1)

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