Sam & Squareface takes in China where colour is more prevalent
02.11.2006 - 02.11.2006
Thursday, 2 November 2006
Shanghai - Yunnan
I expected better from China Airlines. The meal provided on the aeroplane was not appetizing at all. I saw many other passengers taking a bite or two only to close the boxes too.
Nevertheless, I'm contentedly grateful for the smooth journey, and we reached Kunming as scheduled.
Whilst Sam went to collect our bags from the conveyor, I approached the "tourist information" counter in hope of getting a ticket directly to Lijiang. As usual I got swayed by the glib tongues of Chinese women, who convinced me that my planned route of exploring Yunnan was going to be very costly and even dangerous. I left the counter after she insulted my attempt at backpacking and walked out to a rather deserted arrival hall. You see, I spent a long time haggling with the woman at the counter, while everyone had already filed out and were received by their respective hosts. It was too obvious that Sam and I were blur tourists and was surprisingly only approached by one honeyed-tongue. She was not in the position to negotiate the price, but she offered us a free ride to the city as long as we were willing to talk it over. Sure!
In the 6-seater van, we were introduced into some interesting facts of Kunming, with the most useful information being that the airport was barely 10 minutes from the city centre (In Shanghai, it takes about 40-60 minutes from the international airport to the city centre, which is why I was all for the free ride). Kunming is said to be the only city to have its airport so close to the city centre.
Anyway, after compromising on the best price we could get, we sauntered around the area since our night train to Dali was scheduled for the evening. My original plan was to travel from Kunming – Lijiang – Shangri-la, and back. I did not want to include Dali, but all tour packages include it because it’s sorta on the way to Lijiang. The tour package definitely costs less than if we were to poke around on our own, and Sam was quite sceptical about my plans too.
We sampled 过桥米线, the trademark delicacy of Kunming, or Yunnan in general. A big bowl of hot soup was placed on our table, followed by a bowl of noodles, and then many small plates of various meat – beef, lamb, and I have no idea what else. The waiter cracked an egg and deposited it into the soup and left. Having Chinese features, it’s common that the Chinese take us as one of them and expect us to know all their habits, antics, and idiosyncrasies. After observing what other people did, and then confirming it with the waiter, we first placed the noodles into the soup, and then proceeded to place the dishes of the variety of meat into the supposedly boiling soup (no bubbles whatsoever). Not bad, and maybe it’s good to be ignorant of what I was chewing on.
With toxic waste in us all the way from Shanghai, we resorted to using a 20-cent-per-entry doorless drained toilet found at the back of a big mobile phone sales centre. We took turns to guard our cubicles of course, and tried to avoid the many bare asses all around us. Although I had the urge to “do big business” (or as the Chinese would say “do a number 2”), I simply cannot perform when above a drain. We managed to use toilets at 2 rather luxurious hotels after that, walking more comfortably thereafter.
We continued to wander the streets of the city and tried out many different snacks from roadside stalls. We didn’t want to risk missing our train so we didn’t go further than the city area.
So after plodding around in the same circle, we decided to sit and observe some young girls who were begging for money. We saw them being chased away by the police, but they merely made slow motions to pack up but continued sitting there after the police left. There were about 3-5 such girls positioned about 3 metres apart on the same street, ranging from 7-12 years old, trying to get money from strangers by sitting on the pavement with boards with pleas for money for school, whilst these girls lay down on the pavement doing school work. The police officers came back and started to demand that they pack up at once, and that’s when Sam and I saw that the girls huddled together in a corner, all attired in a similar fashion. When we first saw one girl, and then two, we thought they were separate cases. However, when we saw them all together, then we started contemplating whether it was a case of a coalition. There is hearsay that many of these children beggars are “hired” and eventually the money that they have obtained will not end up in their hands. Ditto some handicapped beggars.
When we went back to the travel agency to get our train tickets for the 8pm train, we were then informed that our train leaves at 10pm instead, and it was only 6pm. The waiting time was spent with us watching these travel agents playing games on the computer in the office, and negotiating prices for other customers.
We were lucky we had a 4-bunk carriage, which we had to share with 2 men. I slept on the cramped upper bunk, and had to muffle my laughter when I saw the guy on upper bunk next to mine practically distorting his big physique to that little space. Sometimes it’s very convenient to be relatively small in size.
More pictures at Squareface's Shots