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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.