Friday, September 26, 2008

Yeah China Yeah

I wouldn't have said that 16hours ago when we were wandering the streets of Kunming in the rain. The mission was to find a stove and a method of creating drinking water then the long distance bus station. We had been stoked to get through customs a breeze, despite last minute stresses caused by an out of date check in girl at Bangkok telling us we needed tickets out of the country. (Penny now has a rushed ticket from Hong Kong). but by the time taxis abandoned and snobbed us in a rainy rush hour we were half wishing we had been deported.

Kunming, the spring city of China, is massive. Apartment blocks cover the huge valley like didymo covers the stones of the Buller. Peter Jackson scale. The taxi driver didn't quite believe our ignorance of mandarin. After much gesturing he resorted to writing down some scrawled Chinese characters...haha, good luck. We eventually stumbled upon a store by walking round, and a stove and gas which will help warm our bellys on the cold nights when no chinese hospitality can be found. The lonely planet city map then guided us to the bus station where we boarded early upon a sleeper bus bound for Lijiang.

Sleeper bus's are great, they even gave me a space designed for a long person, and I curled protectively round Penny who even had a window. Even the Chinese man edging me from behind didn't stop a comfortable sleep making up for those hours of jet lag in Bangkok. It was just before dawn when we alighted. Lijang to quote the groovy old map I have beside me "is located in the crossing of Yunnan, Sichuan and Tibet. It was also the crossroad at the South Silk Road and Charma Ancient Road", just out of town and not yet visible in this grey day is Yulong Snow Mountain (or Jade Dragon Mountain) which "erects high in the sky with huge profile and charming purity".

Lijiang Old Town which we strolled around this morning is what I imagined Japan might be like but wasn't, and even has a touch of the atmosphere from Diagon Alley (the wizards shopping mall for any non Harry Potter fans). Early in the morning the air lies thickly on the quirky cobbled lanes riven by clear flowing streams. Arched stone bridges with worn slippery curves provide a perch for staring at the goldfish swarming below. Chinese lanterns beckon visitors into the courtyards of cosy looking inns. Mandarin characters look so much better on gateways and doorways than they do tatooed into the shoulders of fashionable westerners. We stopped briefly at the "loyalty and righteousness" gateway celebrating the alliance between local leaders and the Ming dynasty.

After missioning back to our hostel, Penny now naps, waiting for me to wake her for our afternoon bike ride, which should feature Tibetan Monasteries, lovely lakes and hopefully a 1000 year old lucky Camellia tree. Will be great to do some exercise anyway. Better go wake her up!

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