Kunming Ho!

almost. we arrived in lao cai. it was early in the morning. our bus tickets were probably on the other side of the border waiting for us. we found the cafe where we were supposed to pick up our tickets. we ate. we waited. finally they came. we took a taxi to the border. it seemed a lot farther than last time, but that could have been my anticipation. we made it! after a bit of a wait, they gave us back our passports and we went to cross the bridge into china. this is what the vietnamese side of the bridge looks like, courtesy of sharla:

isn’t it beautiful? so we crossed back into the china side. i felt so much more at ease. i don’t even speak chinese that well but the familiarity was welcoming. so we go wait at the bus station. people are always trying to pull $h|t. I can’t believe it. Some chinese guy, I don’t know whether he runs a tour company or the bus station or what tries to shuffle us into his office to take a ‘survey’ or something. I’m not down like this and I tell him no. He speaks a little English but I spoke to him in Chinese. But since he is somewhat friendly, I ask him where I can buy a recharge card for my cell phone. He takes me to his friend’s shop and we try to get it to work. Basically you have to buy a Beijing recharge phone since my cell phone is a Beijing number. The guy is relentless though. He tries to make me pay 100 kuai for a 50 kuai cell phone card, that we don’t even get to work. I felt like it was getting sketchy even though I was talking in Chinese to some of the other people around and I could strangely understand most of what people were saying. I tell him let’s go because I didn’t want to leave Sharla and her dad stranded. He tries to tell me that if I give him a tip, he’ll take me to another place that can get it to work. I tell him in Chinese to not worry about it, I’ll buy one when I get back to Beijing. I go back to the bus station and a little while later I see him chasing after other foreigners…
Eventually we leave and the bus ride is nice. It’s a long trip that takes until about 9pm. We arrive at the train station and I am so tired and jaded that I tell myself I would just go to a travel agency I know in Kunming and buy a ticket tomorrow. But we go into the train station which is still hectic, with people sleeping outside the station like refugees, even though Spring Festival is well over. I go inside and think about waiting in line, but look up at the board which is shows which tickets and which days are available. Of course it’s in Chinese but I figure it out. I was hoping to catch the train that night but it doesn’t look hopeful as pretty much everything is sold out. I go to a window and ask if there is anyway I can get on a train tonight (which would leave in less than an hour). Only soft sleepers are available and I didn’t want to shell out the cash… I ask about tomorrow… curiously enough all the soft sleepers are sold out tomorrow but there is a hard sleeper so I snatch that ticket up!
I go back to Sharla and her dad and we head to back to the Hump. We walk because it’s a nice night and we have been on the bus all day and they want to see a little of the land. So it looks like I’d be in Kunming for one more day… We make it to the Hump, unload our gear and go looking for food. Everything except McDonald’s is closed but we find some street vendors selling noodles. So for their first night in China, we sit at a make-shift table and have noodles. Our meal cost 6 yuan for 3 people. Absolutely amazing! Ah, and don’t forget desert. We ate some pineapple, a whole fresh pineapple for 2 kuai. Now that’s delicious food…
The next day Sharla and her dad make arrangements for their China trip. I sit and read into the afternoon, basking in the sun. In the afternoon they return and we go looking for lunch. Always looking… We walked to the lake near the University. It was much different than when Anjali and I were there a few weeks prior. Now there were hoards of people. Visitors of all types and locals. People were taking pictures, singing traditional songs in the park, playing music in bands too! It was like a carnival of Chinese culture. We even saw an old-timer Chinese man, in a green suit with a wrinkled and puckered face smoking a pipe. It was classic! We didn’t really eat because we never made it to the French Café to which I wanted to take them. We did buy these awesome smoothies near the lake. Ah, and we discovered where the International Youth hostel was located as well. From there we decided to check out a bird and flower market. We took a taxi- it was only a short distance away though it would have been easy to miss as it were in a hidden neighborhood. There we saw all kinds of birds, cats, dogs, flowers, handcrafts, vases… anything you could think of… a definite find- I was glad I ended up staying another day.
We finally made our way back to the Hump. We stopped at McD’s on the way back for a nice ice cream cone on a warm day. While walking through the square we spotted this billboard… only in China!
I put some new music on my MP三, read a little in my book and after a bit, it was time to go to the train station. I said farewell to Sharla & Co. and trekked myself back to the train station. I successfully found myself in a hard sleeper headed north on a train to Beijing…


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