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January 8, 2019, Jinghong, Yunnan


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Reiko and Masao knocked on my door at 6:30 a.m. ready to go. I had told them to leave early, but I didn't really now what time would be best. We didn't catch a bus out of there until 8:30 a.m. anyway. The rain was still pouring and my pants were still damp from the day before. It didn't matter because it all just got soaked again.
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When we arrived in Nansha, we had about four hours to kill, but it was still raining. My plan was to find a restaurant for lunch and dry off, then buy some snacks and go to the bank. Masao had other plans. He took off and left us behind.

I just kept going on my way to lunch, I wasn't going to wait in the rain for him. I lost the both of them and got me some rice noodles again. I sat there for a while but then got kicked out because they wanted to close the shop. I went around the market and bought a bunch of oranges and guava. It's been a long time since I had a fresh guava. When I got back, Reiko was still waiting at the same spot in the rain. What? We all had our tickets, why not walk around and meet me back at the station? I was annoyed.

I put my things on the x-ray conveyor belt, but she started asking me something nonsensical and then my fruit bag got caught and broke as she tugged on my sleeve, miming something I couldn't understand. The bag broke and the fruit went all over the gross bus station floor. Getting more annoyed, I read a book in silence until the bus was ready to go. It was pretty much impossible to explain my feelings via Google translate, so I just didn't.

The bus arrived in Jinghong very late, maybe midnight, but our hostel wasn't too far, so we walked there in the rain. Masao navigated us there with his ever present cell phone. The woman had overbooked it and we had to stay in two rooms for the night. She gave Reiko and Masao one private room but Reiko said the bed was too small. So I took that room and they went to the dorm. Suddenly Reiko realized that more people might come in the dorm the next, so she changed with me and I had to move all my stuff back to the dorm again. Oh my god... Just stop... I was slowly going insane. So there I was, moving my bags into the storage room/overflow dorm room to sleep in it with the rats by myself.

January 9, 2019

I tried to sleep in, but I was awoken by the repeated slamming of a door. Something was wrong with Reiko's door, but did they try and find someone to help them? No, just slam slam slam. Good lord. I stayed in bed until 8 a.m. anyway, when I went to buy our bus tickets to Laos, leaving the next day. I came back with breakfast of eggs, rice and pickles. Yum. Only 60 cents for that.

We went to the tropical plant garden after that. Another debacle ensued. At first we started out OK, strolling around together at random. At one point Masao was 50 metres ahead of us, when Reiko wanted to turn right into a fruit plantation instead of left, to see some water lilies. So, she pulled out her phone and refused to walk another step. Really?! Masao is just down the road! I sauntered over to him and told him about Reiko trying to call him. Oh lord what a mistake. Now we were on a frantic goose chase for Reiko. We never found her, so I left them both looking for each other.

What a waste of time in a beautiful garden. Anyway, I had a good time by myself and saw some Bougainvillea, Frangipani, which is the official flower of Laos, rubber plant trees and lots of palm trees. To this day I don't understand why a fruit plantation would be more important than strolling happily with your husband in an idyllic garden. But I'm not married for 10,000 years either.
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I met them back at the hostel and took a nap. I found a random Chinese guy who wanted to go to the night market for dinner. It was 3 km away, but Reiko and Masao didn't want to walk. They also didn't want to take a taxi without me. ugh. Sorry I'm walking, do what you want. So they walked, but then we had to walk slow. More ugh. We had a really nice Dai minority dinner with the help of the Chinese guy. Women were singing old folk songs while they played guitars, serenading the diners. Ha.
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The Chinese guy took us to the night market, which was huge and completely manufactured and fake for tourists. More women were dancing in I guess a Thai or Lao style and everything was sanitized and spotless. Maybe I would even venture to call it Disney-fied. Shudder. Unimpressed, we went home to sleep because our bus left early in the morning.
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The Chinese guy bought us little wooden elephant keychains. That was nice. Almost too nice? I suddenly remembered I had left my US money out on the bed. What an idiot. I also couldn't remember how much was supposed to be in there. I tried to get back quickly, but it was not easy. When we did get back my door was open... WHY?! I counted the money, it was $125. Did that seem correct? I didn't know. I called my mom to ask if she remembered how much she gave me for my birthday. She thought $200, so OK it was probably alright. Nothing I could do now. At least it wasn't all gone. Phew. I couldn't sleep after that, no longer worried about the money, but thinking maybe I'd be the 14th Canadian detained in China over this Huawei trade dispute crap that's going on. Bleh

Posted by baixing 20:50 Archived in China Tagged yunnan jinghong Comments (0)

January 6, 2019 Yuanyang Rice Terraces, Yunnan, China


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We woke up early again to catch a little bus to Nansha. We waited an hour in the cold for the city bus. Oh well. When we got to the main bus station, the bus driver was seemingly waiting just for us and he guided us right to his bus. We took off immediately. He whisked us along a bumpy road through a valley with endless rice fields as the sun rose over the hills. I froze again all the way there, wrapped in my thin silk sleeping bag liner.
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In Nansha, the next bus driver pushed us onto her bus. It was another speedy trip up and around a windy road. When we got to Xinjie, another woman pushed us into her van and I thought it would be the same, but she tried to charge us too much. We argued and got it to half price finally.

We arrived at our hotel and found there was nothing to eat anywhere nearby. I still had some fruit, so I was OK, but Reiko kept looking for a restaurant. Then when she found two, she complained about the price. So, we didn't eat lunch that day.

She also refused to walk around anywhere, so I just sat there at Bada rice terrace and finally they both went back to the hotel.

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I wanted to wait there and watch the sunset. They didn't want to walk back in the dark afterwards. I stayed at Bada to watch it with a huge crowd of people. It was very nice and well worth the trip out there. The colours the sun and clouds reflected in the flooded rice paddies were lovely. No photo or painting could really reproduce it.
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Once I got too cold, I trudged back with everyone else and went to bed. Somehow, Reiko had cooked an egg with vegetables. They saved me some and I went to bed quite early.

January 7, 2019

The day before, I had arranged a driver to pick us up and take us to the sunrise at another rice paddy. We agreed on the price, but he tried to charge us 100 yuan for a one way trip. Uh no, last night you told me it was both ways. So we had to call back and forth with the hotel manager until he agreed.

The sunrise was indeed as mesmerizing as Lonely Planet said it would be. The clouds moved in and out of the valley and as the sun rose, it illuminated more reflective rice paddies in the terraced field. It really was captivating to watch everything brighten and become clear. I just hoped the taxi driver scams would end at some point, but I knew better than that. I knew they never would.
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When we got back, the hotel owner tried to explain how to get to some more nearby rice terraces, but it was completely lost on me. So, we just started walking down the road as Baidu Maps said to do. Eventually someone picked us up and we got a ride there, even though I didn't want it.

Wouldn't you know, it started to rain very very heavily? My friends had no rain coats or umbrellas. We had been talking about this rain for days. They always carried a big bag with them, so I just assumed they were ready for it. But no, they were not. I couldn't believe it. What on earth were you carrying in there, if not an umbrella??? They stood under a tree for a while, and then they ran towards a village which had an expensive cafe. I had already eaten a huge plate of fried rice at the hotel after we came back from the sunrise. That was because I thought we were going to be hiking all day. So no, I didn't want to wait there for the rain to stop. Besides, the Weather Channel said it would only get worse for three days anyway. I had my raincoat, so I walked back by myself cursing that stupid taxi ride we took in the first place. In the end, the walk was very pleasant in the spring-ish weather, even though I was soaked.
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When I got back, I just planned our trip towards Laos. The hotel owner was not helpful once again, but he called to confirm the information I had already found out by myself. So that was fine I guess.

Masao and Reiko took a cab back to the hotel just as I was about to take a nap. I explained the next few days' plans and then went to bed really early listening to podcasts all night.

Posted by baixing 20:35 Archived in China Tagged rice terraces yunnan yuanyang Comments (0)

January 4, 2019, Jianshui, Yunnan, China


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We had breakfast in the hostel. Reiko really wanted to use the five yuan off coupon, so I had a big bowl of banana oatmeal and we took off to the south bus station to make our way to Jianshui. The line for the bus ticket was crazy long and we managed to get out of town by 11 a.m. Not at all what I had hope for. Oh well.

When we arrived, we went straight to the old town to see Chaoyang gate. It's just an old watch tower in the middle of town with some old photos on display on the second floor.
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We tried to find somewhere to eat, but settled on a random tofu barbecuing place in an alley. These places are everywhere and they sell aged tofu grilled and crispy. I tried one piece and almost barfed. Reiko kindly ordered me some fried rice after that.
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It was too late to catch a bus home, so we walked back and picked up some fruit for breakfast along the way.

January 5, 2019

I couldn't sleep because of intense menstrual cramps, and neither could Reiko. She started making breakfast. It took us two hours or more to get ready.
On the way, we saw a bunch of old men selling caged birds in the square. It made quite a racket.
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We went to the beautiful Zhu family garden where we wandered around old rooms and walked behind a little decorative waterfall. Reiko bought a bunch of garbage there. Her bag would end up being really heavy at the rate she went.
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It got a lot warmer, which made me so happy. I had been cold for days at that point. We went to the Confucian temple which was pretty much empty of people and very peaceful. I really loved the giant lake that is called the "sea of learning". Apparently it's designed to look like Confucius' hometown temple. It was first built in the 13th century.
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After that, we had more rice noodles for lunch and I went back to the hostel to take a nap. I was woken up by some guy speaking three languages and having a grand old time talking to Masao in Japanese. He immediately invited us out for barbecue which I couldn't eat too much of because of the knife-like stabbing pains in my pelvis. I stuck to fruits and vegetables for a while after that, ugh.

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Posted by baixing 20:26 Archived in China Tagged yunnan jianshui Comments (0)

New Year's Eve on the train


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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)

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