Sam & Squareface share their first experience with snow...as well as bad stomach conditions (vomitting and diarrhoea for a few days)
Sunday - Wednesday, 5-8 November 2006
Above sea level: 2200m-3380m-4100m-descend
Yangtze River, first bend (长江第一湾)
Tiger-leaping Gorge (虎跳峡)
As the altitude got higher (from 2200m - 3380m), somehow something in Sam's system snapped, and she started vomitting. At every single stop, and in the midst of every journey, she had a plastic bag in hand.
I was so scared.
She couldn't seem to stop puking, even after using her supposedly trustworthy remedy of drinking coke. The tourguide, the coach driver, and our fellow tourists could only look with sympathy as the two of us ran to the nearest drains everytime the bus reached some tourist destination. Sam ran to puke, whilst I ran to provide the napkins.
It was very stuffy in the bus, and the coach driver claimed that there's a policy that they cannot open the windows when driving up to Shangri-la. Other tourists refused to swap seats with us because they didn't want to end up like Sam, so it was a busload of happy faces with the exception of a black face (mine) and a frozen grimaced expression (Sam).
After several stops along the way to Shangri-la to view sights that we didn't have the mood (nor physique) to appreciate, we finally made it to the hotel. Heaters were not available until December, so we had to make do with the electric blanket. It was very cold.
I asked the tourguide whether I could take away my dinner, only to be rudely rejected and pushed to eat dinner at the hotel restaurant. I said I had food and walked off. She wanted to save on the refund, I bet (you can get a refund if you don't take their meals, but she claimed I couldn't this time round because it was a deal with the hotel). I went back to the room and woke Sam up to remove her contact lenses. Received a very bad attitude for that, so naturally after being so pissed and yet helpless, I went out of the hotel area to smoke and look at the scenery as it got darker.
After sitting there simply looking into the distance and watching minimal traffic go by, I approached a small shop to buy 2 instant noodle cups, just in case Sam felt like eating, I thought.
The shopkeeper was a great guy, and I relieved my frustrations over the bitchy tourguide on him. I also discussed about the lack of an open mind with some of the tourmates, as they kept talking about how they miss their various food back home when they've only been on the road for how many days?! Sheesh. Anyway, the shopkeeper and I talked about various things, a little about the Cultural Revolution and Buddhism (he wore a badge of the present Buddha on his chest) over the 云烟 cigarettes I gave him and the 石林 cigarettes he offered. I couldn't be more thankful when he gave me a little salt wrapped in tissue to mix with water for Sam. He said it was a good remedy for adverse altitiude reactions. He also gave me a pair of chopsticks to eat my instant noodles with, which I returned him the next day with a thank you note: 扎西德勒(zha xi de lei) (thank you, in tibetan (藏语)). Sam and I managed to wave at him the next day as we departed Shangri-la for Lijiang. I'm truly thankful to him for lifting my spirits that night.
I had thoughts of taking a flight back if Sam was still unwell, but Sam seemed to feel better after a night's sleep, and fortunately so!
Because it snowed in Shangri-la! We went higher in altitude, from 3380m to about 4100m! Sam and I were geared with oxygen containers that really wasn't that necessary.
Tibetan (藏族) culture allows a man to wed several wives, as well as a woman to wed several husbands! The bride should be given either a knife (刀) or a 天珠, so it serves household practicality than our usual useless gold stuff, huh.
After visiting a Tibetan temple, where you have to step in with your left foot first, and exit with your right foot first, it was my turn to react to high altitude. I puked after eating, puked on the bus, puked on the grass, etc. If I were to make the same trip, I think I would be able to remember the places where I left a bit of myself haha. I recall the worse was in front of Dali train station. I didn't know my body could convulse in such a manner to force everything out from my system.
While leaving the mountainous region I wondered if the natives there knew what exists on the other side of it. Hmm.
We met the Taiwanese couple again that night in Lijiang Old Street and learnt that the Taiwanese guy was also suffering from altitude effects. Phew. We weren't alone in this.
Memories of the remaining of Lijiang is a bit blurry because I was ill, but I do recall that we were fortunate to see Jade Dragon Snow Mountain (玉龙雪山) having snow at it's summit, because it was actually too early to be seeing snow (but these days the world is having abnormal weather, 天气反常). There was some sort of ally between the tour companies and the coach drivers because the coach drivers kept convincing us to tell the tourguide to explore route B instead of A (in a secretive way), and since Sam and I hopped from one tour group to another, it was clear that it was a conspiracy since all the coach drivers said the same thing.
Anyway, after reaching Dali, Sam and I took our refund for dinner and headed to the only KFC in town, and boy did it smell good. I had diarrhoea thrice within an hour though.
I felt like a monkey climbing up to the 3rd-tiered bed, but that was to be my nest for the 8-hour train ride from Dali back to Kunming. I made sure that Sam was the last person I looked at that night and the first person I looked at on my birthday morning (she was sleeping on the 1st-tier though). heh.
After we got off the train and was walking on the platform, we realized we forgot one more bag and I ran to retrieve it. I had to ask the train inspector to open the door for me, and luckily I managed to get our bag back. It wasn't found under the table where we left it though, it was placed below the beds. Our biscuits and instant noodles were gone, but Sam's sunglasses (the most valuable thing in the bag) was saved.
Although the last leg of the tour was filled with Sam and me unfilling our stomachs, it was a trip worth making. At first we hated the Chinese tourists we travelled with after being separated from the Taiwanese couple, but I realized actually they're the ones who made the trip interesting sometimes. Like how they fussed over how we were the first to see “2006年香格里拉第一场雪”. Sometimes it's in those exclamations.
And I saw a colourful China.
More pictures at Squareface's Shots.