A Travellerspoint blog

Day 149 - Buses Galore, Vietnam Planning & Trains to Kunming

Bonjour all!

So today was my second and last day in Dali and although I would've loved to laze about all day I had lots to do before heading back to Kunming in the evening so I was up quite early. I headed into the old town for a breakfast of dumplings and a fried onion bread thingamajig, then I returned to my hostel and packed my bag before checking out and storing it in the bar. Next on my list was to buy my train ticket to Kunming as I didn't want to have to go the whole way in a hard seat rather than a sleeper. I walked to the bus stop and after a one hour bus journey (not the best if you're feeling a tad worse for wear) I arrived at the train station and was glad to get off the bus and out into the fresh air.

I got my ticket to Kunming with ease and before I knew it, I was back on the bumpy bus to Dali. After enduring another hour of stomach-turning driving we arrived back in the old town and I headed back to my hostel. I spent the rest of the afternoon planning how to get from Kunming to Hanoi, finding out how much things cost and what times they run at and finding a hostel to stay at. I also finally managed to get through to one of my Grandmas whom I couldn't connect with the last time I tried. My parents were round at her house too so I had a good chat with all three of them which was really nice, then when I hung up I chatted to Tom for a while about his and Veronika's plans for Vietnam.

I was due to leave at eight o'clock to get the bus back to the train station and before I left I had wanted to copy all of my China photos off my phone onto a DVD to post home as I don't have one in my net book. I tried to do it on Tom's laptop but it wasn't having any of it so when the time came for me to leave, I said my goodbyes and made my way to the bus stop. After enduring another hour on the bus from hell I arrived at the train station and boarded my train then settled down in my sleeper bed (with earplugs this time for the noise) and went straight to sleep.

That's all for now folks!

Posted by UKtoCA 17:32 Comments (0)

Day 148 - Old Towns, Mountain Hikes, Food & Partying

Ni hao all!

So today was my first day in Dali and it was to be a fun filled day. My train got in at 7am and I got the bus to the Dali's picturesque old town which isn't actually all that old due to it being a reproduction of the actual old town which was demolished a while back. I walked for a while and managed to find the hostel and I was greeted by two golden retrievers; Goldie and Jinba who were very excited at meeting a new person. I checked in and put my bags down then sat in the spacious hostel garden and relaxed with a cup of lemon and honey tea which is my favourite one so far out of the teas that I've tried in China. I got chatting with a girl from Montreal and so we spoke about my travels in Canada and what we're both up to in China, then we were joined by a guy called Ethan who is in China to work as...you've guessed it, an English teacher. We all chatted for a while then more people came out and said that they were going into town to get breakfast so I said that I'd go with them as I was beginning to get a bit peckish by this point.

There was myself, a Chinese girl called Viv & a guy from Newcastle going for breakfast and we were joined by a German girl called Tina when we passed another hostel. We went to a nice bakery called Bakery Eighty Eight where they served Western style food and so I ordered scrambled eggs, bacon, a toasted bagel with butter, edam cheese, mixed fruit and freshly squeezed orange juice, all for the bargain price of £3. It was nice having Western food for after a month of eating nothing other than dumplings and fried bread for breakfast but I was still aware of the fact that it cost five times as much as a Chinese style breakfast would. (it was well worth it though!)

After breakfast we decided that as it was a beautifully warm day out that we would walk up Mt Cangshan; one of the imposing mountains that dominate the view in Dali, looming over the old city. We set off walking and we knew after a while that the overall fitness level of the group could be improved upon as just walking up to the start of the steps up the mountain proved tiring in the hot sun and I began to wonder why I didn't change into shorts before we set off. We paid to get onto the mountain (you pay for everything in China, even using the public loos) and we started the descent up by way of a set of seemingly never ending steps. It was nice and cool in the shade of the trees which was good as we needed all the help that we could get if we wanted to get to the top before passing out from exhaustion.

After a tiring but very enjoyable two hours walk up the forested mountainside we reached the halfway point which was to be our summit for the day as the second half is much more difficult terrain and we didn't have enough hours of sunlight to make the trip as we had set off quite late. When we reached the top and found a clearing, we were treated to a wonderful view out over Dali, to Lake Erhai on the other side of the city and across to the mountains on the other side of the 250Km2 lake. We wandered around and found a nice guesthouse/cafe where we met some other people from our hostel that had set out a while before we had. We were all cold after reaching the top and the wind cooling us down so we got some nice warming noodles and drank lots of free tea and chatted whilst we warmed up and refuelled.

After a while we decided to head back down to the bottom by a different path and so we set off walking there via an old temple which was quite nice but which was in need of a bit of renovation work. In contrast to the nice easy steps by which we came up the mountain, the path down was a slippery slope of clay, rocks and water and it took some navigating to get down without falling over. The guy from Newcastle wasn't so lucky and after a close encounter with the floor and a tree he managed to gash his finger open. Luckily two other people were passing and they had plasters so we cleaned it up with hand disinfectant then put a plaster on it and he was fine. We got down the rest of the way without any further injuries and we headed back to the hostel where I rested for a while and spoke with Tom & Veronika, a couple whom I met in Chengdu and who had been in Dali for a few days already.

When evening time arrived a few people from the hostel said that they were off into town to get booze for the evening so I went with them and stocked up on beer, plum wine & baijiu as the drinks at the hostel were very expensive. I had arranged to go out with Tina for food in the evening as I didn't fancy the overpriced barbeque at the hostel, so after having one beer at my hostel I went into town to where she was staying and then we walked around the streets to find a nice place to eat. All of the restaurants had the vegetables and fish that they cooked with out on display at the front of their premises and as Tina said that she fancied trying some mushrooms, we found a few places that had different types of mushrooms and we priced them all up then went for the cheapish but busy restaurant.

We got mushrooms with pork & chillies, eggs & tomatoes, aubergines & noodles and all of the food was nice although it was all very greasy. We spent all of the meal chatting about relationships in China and how for instance, it's normal for a Chinese man to carry his girlfriend's handbag and how Chinese women show 'affection' to their boyfriends by shouting at and publically berating them whilst hitting them with the handbag that said boyfriend was carrying not minutes before. After we had finished eating I returned to my hostel and Tina went to hers as she had a train early the next day so wasn't up for drinking. The party was already in full swing when I got back to my hostel and there was a big group of people sat around the fire chatting and drinking. The group consisted of Americans, Swedes, Chinese, Brits & Norwegians and we had a right laugh chatting the evening away.

When it got late we moved into the bar so that we didn't wake people up by talking and it turned out that one of the Swedes was a dab hand at the guitar. We spent the next couple of hours singing along to songs played on said guitar and after a couple more bottles of baijiu were polished off everyone was a bit worse for wear and we called it a night at about 1am and headed off to bed.

Be sure to check out my photos from today folks as the view from halfway up the mountain was incredible!

Bye for now!

Posted by UKtoCA 16:41 Comments (0)

Day 147 - Dan Dan Noodles, Viruses & Trains to Dali

Hey all!

So today was my last day in Kunming before heading to Dali on the night train. I had a fun couple of days in Dali but I won't go into it now, that's for a later blog post.

Today I got up early and tried to do some washing but it turned out that the hostel didn't have a dryer so that wasn't going to happen as it was nowhere near warm enough outside to dry my clothes over the course of the day. I spent a few hours catching up with my journal and my blog, then I met Noam & Hadar in the communal area. Noam told me that she had an SD card in her camera that wouldn't work properly and that she thought it was full of viruses. She was going to take it to a photography shop and get it sorted but as I wasn't doing anything I said that I'd take a look at it and it turned out that it was full of viruses after all. Luckily she had a backup of all of her photos bar one set of them so I just copied the one set off the memory card then formatted it and put the copied set of photos back on afterwards.

Noam thanked me for sorting it out for her and we all decided to go out for some lunch so we headed off to Dan Dan Noodles; a nice place just down the road from our hostel. I had shredded pork fried rice which was very nice and we sat around and chatted about our plans for the next few days and for travelling in general. Once we had done I returned to the hostel and tried to get a DVD to play on the TV but it would only come on in black & white. I tried everything possible to get it to play in colour and the hostel staff couldn't figure it out either so I gave up on the idea eventually. Skype had been working intermittently all day so I managed to call two of my Grandmas and we had a good chat which was very nice. Afterwards I called and booked my hostel in Dali then spent the rest of the evening chatting to Noam & Hadar and playing poker until the time came for me to catch my train.

A forty minute walk to the train station later, I boarded my train and settled down for the night in my sleeper bed then fell asleep listening to music. The music was required as I was in the first carriage of the train so all you could hear was the train horn going constantly and sleep wouldn't have happened without music or earplugs.

Right, I've got lots to do today as it's my last full day in China before I go to Vietnam so I shall be off now.

Bye folks!

Posted by UKtoCA 16:11 Comments (0)

Day 146 - Dive-Bombing Seagulls & Incense Asphyxiation

Ni hao all!

Today I woke up early with a plan to go and see Green Lake Park which is in the North of Kunming and then go to a nearby temple. I set off walking and although the park seemed to be quite a distance away on my map, it only took an hour or so to walk there and it was a nice sunny day which made the walk there quite enjoyable.

When I arrived at the park I was greeted with a huge still lake, the surface of which was like a mirror. Walking a little further into the park I found a small market, lots of ducks and swans who were enjoying being fed by people, women dancing with umbrellas that looked like giant versions of the ones that come in cocktails and even people doing tai chi with swords which can't be legal. (I wonder whether China have an offensive weapons act or not?) On my walk around I found a lake that was completely covered in algae and lilly pads which is probably how the park earned the "Green" part of its name. I also found a lake that was pretty much covered in seagulls which was ok until someone decided to scare them and they all took to the air and started dive-bombing the people who were stood around watching.

I ran for cover under a tree as I could hear the "Splat, splat, splat" of bird poo falling all around me like cluster bombs and I didn't move from that spot until they had all landed back on the lake again. I started to get hungry and just as I did, I smelt a wonderful smell coming from across the road from the park. I made my way across and was greeted by a food market which sold fresh crabs, salted meat, fruit & nuts, barbeque, dumplings and a whole host of other edible delights. I picked up some very spicy barbeque and some dumplings then headed back across to the park to eat them, then once I was done I set off walking yet again in the direction of the Yuantong Zen Buddhist temple.

When I arrived there were about twenty beggars outside all with varying degrees of physical deformations and it was quite saddening to see but also hard to watch at the same time so I quickly made my way inside. Upon entering the temple grounds I saw what looked like a building site and I hoped that it wouldn't all be in a state of disrepair. After walking for a little longer I found that my fears were unfounded as the rest of the temple site was in pristine condition and there was a collection of different style temple buildings all with different gold statues of various gods in and people were praying to them and offering flowers, food and of course incense to them. In fact, outside the main temple building there were what can only be described as huge furnaces of burning incense which were spewing out smoke so thick that it was hard to breathe, along with ash that made the surrounding area look like a volcano had just erupted nearby.

I spent a while looking around the temple before heading back to the hostel where I had a good chat with some of my family on Skype before the connection went too bad to continue using. I then started to write my blog but I met Hadar & Noam again and instead we sat around chatting over a couple of beers and me & Hadar were treated to an impromptu version of Baby, Baby by Brittany Spears on the new guitar that Noam had bought earlier that day. After a while we all decided to go out for food and I thought that places would still be open as it was only half past nine but the whole city was very quiet and all of the restaurants had closed for the evening. In the end I settled for an expensive, half cooked Zinger burger from KFC, Hadar got a McDonalds and Noam managed to find a street seller who still had some tofu left so everyone got to eat something then we headed back to the hostel. Me & Hadar played pool with a Chinese guy for a while and actually won most of the games (woo!) then when 1am came I called it a night and headed to bed.

Bye for now folks!

Posted by UKtoCA 20:50 Comments (0)

Day 145 - The Museums, Markets & Pagodas of Kunming

Hey all!

So today I decided to get out and explore Kunming and see some of the sights, with the first thing on my list being the Great Mosque. After a good breakfast of dumplings and fried bread I set off walking but what I found doesn't really deserve the title of "Great" as it looked pretty manky from the outside; an old-ish (like 40 years old) crumbling concrete building that was completely devoid of any colour bar the drab grey of the concrete. Visitors weren't allowed inside either so rather than stand around 'admiring' it for any longer I set off walking again in the direction of the Yunnan Provincial Museum.

On my way there I stumbled upon a market down a long alleyway which was doing a roaring trade. They sold a whole range of different things, from jade bracelets & statues to animals of varying types, including tortoises, possums and black squirrels, one of which was bouncing around in his cage obviously not wanting to be in there. You could also buy birds in every colour of the rainbow, multiple different types of Chinese flute type instruments, dried fruit and nuts, one of a kind pieces of art and even nunchucks, knives and binoculars. I resisted the urge to buy a flute even though the sound that they can produce if one knows how to play it correctly is simply sublime. Unfortunately I don't have any space in my bag, even for a flute and I have a habit of buying musical instruments and never learning to play them, such as the harmonica that I've carried around with me for the duration of my travels. I'll learn to play it one of these days, honest!

After having a look around the market I found a park and sat down to relax and people watch for a while. (read: get watched by people - the staring is still a bit un-nerving) I then made my way across to the museum and spent an enjoyable hour or so walking around the collection of Bronze, pottery & laquered wood artefacts that they have. They all tended to range from 25BC to 300AD and how a piece of laquered wood could survive until the present day and still look in perfect condition is beyond me. In fact, a few of the artefacts seemed a bit too good to be true and so I think that a few of them may actually have been modern day reproductions instead but they were still nice to look at. After spending a whlie looking around I left and walked back to the hostel and rested my feet for a bit before heading out to the East & West pagodas.

Both of the pagodas were quite impressive as they were huge structures which were set in gardens full of people drinking tea and chatting, playing Chinese chess, cards or mahjong, or simply sat having a rest. It didn't take very long to look around the pagodas so I then went to a noodle place and got sweet potato noodles with beef in brown sauce (not the HP variety) for my tea which were very nice and cheap to boot!

Once I had eaten my fill I returned to the hostel and it was pretty cold so I got in bed and stayed there researching Vietnam until it was time to go to sleep.

Au revoir!

Posted by UKtoCA 20:04 Comments (0)

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