The long journey
I slept surprisingly well on the train.
For the last couple of hours of the journey, we were whizzing through stone forests (lumps of stone everywhere!) and dry looking farmland, all in shades of brown – a total contrast to the luscious greenery that I’m used to.
About an hour before we arrived, the ticket man came back round collecting in the plastic credit card tickets and redistributing the paper ones we had to begin with. Totally confused!
The train was supposed to take 12 hours to reach Kunming and it did! Keeping to schedule perfectly, we arrived at 9.45am.
Kunming, the city of eternal spring. I can’t say it felt like spring. It felt like the middle of winter. Sadly, I don’t have time to stay too long. Just enough time to move from train station to bus station.
The huge sprawling city was engulfed in a dusty haze spreading to the surrounding mountains.
It was as if I had a disease. Not a single taxi would take me. I did have a disease (of sorts), I was white. They probably didn’t want the hassle of having someone who didn’t speak their language. True, but I had my destination written out in large perfect Chinese characters that wouldn’t have been an issue.
Eventually after 15 minutes one stopped and took me to the Western bus station. After almost 15 minutes in standstill traffic, we were zooming along the motorway. Weaving our way between the cars, undertaking, overtaking, no use of indicators and squeezing along the road markings – it was scary!
A little over half an hour later, we were there.
Inside the bus station was chaos. An organised chaos of 20 ticket booth lines each with about 20-plus people in line. I’ve never seen such a busy bus station! I joined the crowds. I bought a ticket to Dali in silence, by showing the Chinese characters for where I wanted to go. Leaving in 10 minutes time. Easy!
Through some scanning machines (these seem to be popular, but no one is ever checking them!) and into an equally crowded waiting room. Guessing from my Chinese ticket, I found my bus with no problems and soon enough we were off.
The bus took 5 hours to reach Dali New town.
We drove through a lot of pretty nothingness. Small villages cut into the side of hills, with terraced farming areas. The new town is 15km away from where I am staying in the old town.
The taxis were being a bit ridiculously expensive, so I ended up in a rickety, bumpy tuk tuk!
The drive was pretty – the tall skyscrapers suddenly turning into tiny, cute Chinese buildings covered in paintings and overshadowed by the looming Cangshan mountains in the misty distance. By the time I arrived, it was 5pm.
My hotel is so cool – it’s a Chinese style building built around a large courtyard with nice places to sit and a huge comfy bed!
China is a large fusion of East meeting West. The familiar and the terribly unfamiliar. Roads and transport that is so familiar, yet signs and processes so unfamiliar. Unable to speak any Chinese, yet I have managed to procure tickets, buy dinner and get to where I want to go in an almost mute silence. I’ve just followed the crowds, memorised a few Chinese symbols and smiled. I am stranded on a digitally and socially isolated island. Through Chinese wifi have no access to google or Facebook (known as the ‘great firewall of china’) and am able to understand noone. It is only once these two critical websites are taken away, do I realise the extent to which I depend upon them. If I had zero Internet access, that’s fine, I can’t access anything – there’s no Internet, that’s to be expected. But having Internet with no access to either google or Facebook is beyond irritating. I can’t do anything!