Our last stop in Laos was Luang Nam Tha, which featured the beginning
of cold weather (a British lad said 'I could cut glass with my nipples!')
and a bunch of small surrounding villages, each had a different
resident minority, including Hmong, Thai Dam and Lao Thai. Our hotel
featured huge rats - one ran across the sink as I was brushing my
teeth (sorry Katie!). In our hotel restaurant, our waitress moved
our french fries from one plate to the other by picking up each
one individually with her hands, although we didn't mind because
otherwise she was a complete doll!
After crossing into China, we decided to make up time by taking
a 25 hour 'sleeping bus' (oxymoron?) from the border city of JinHong
to the tourist city of Dali. These sleeper buses are a trip - a
mobile Chinese version of MTV's 'Real World'. Each side of the bus
has two levels of bunks that are intended for two people each. The
bus is filthy with people chain smoking and hawking lugies in the
aisle. We covered our bed with clothes and towels so we wouldn't
have to lie directly on it. Unfortunately, you can only stretch
your legs out if you're under 3.5 feet tall, otherwise you have
to remain in fetal position. After 28 hours on the bus, we felt
we knew everyone well enough to give them names. The guy who always
stared was called 'creeper', the guy in front of us who chain-smoked
'smoker', the guy with nasal issues 'picker' and don't forget the
guy behind us - 'stinker'.
In Dali we froze. On Chinese New Years, we took a last minute
bus into the closest city and ran under the closing gates of a shop
to buy hats and fleeces, which we haven't taken off since. I've
been wearing my fleece and hat in bed! Chinese New Years itself
was (is?) a bit of a hazard, with explosives going off randomly
for almost a week now. Safety standards are dismal. On midnight
of the night itself, people poured out into the streets to witness
(and in the case of most, participate in) an alarming display of
negligence… Most of the firecrackers explode on the ground (as opposed
to in the air) and hop around as they do so making an incredible
amount of noise, the ones that shoot up are generally held in the
hand and shot just above "Chinese" head height - a little alarming.
The sustained noise of firecrackers bursting continued for at least
an hour. It's amazing that no-one within our sight was killed.
In Dali, after Robyn pulled a long black hair out of her french
fries and put it on our waitresses' serving platter (she picked
it up, looked at it and dropped it on the floor), we headed to the
'Naxi' (another minority) village of Lijiang. Lijiang is famous
for it's extensive, rambling and cute old town. Unfortunately, we
arrived in a blackout and it was even colder than Dali, being on
the edge of the Tibetan Plateau.
After a couple days of wandering Dali we did an overnight hike
though a huge gorge called "Tiger Leaping Gorge" (you gotta love
Chinese names!) at the source of the Yangzte River. The hiking was
beautiful and it was sometimes hard to remember that we were actually
in China. Of course, we froze and we also got lost, but luckily
we could still find our way out since we just had to keep sight
of the river!
A couple days and markets later, we went back through Dali and
into Kunming.... In Dali, Robyn ordered poached eggs for (what felt
like) the 25th day in a row and was surprised for (what felt like)
the 25th time when she got fried eggs. The next day I begged her
not to order poached eggs for the 26th time, but she was finally
vindicated when she got what she ordered - she didn't order them
again for the rest of the trip.
Today we arrived back home - after 6 weeks, 10 books and 2000km's
and a 32 hour train finale. Tomorrow we start a five-month work
break (break from traveling), before the summer in Tibet. Hope some
of you visit us before then!
Yunnan Party Cell
Keir and Robyn.
|25 hour sleeper bus ride from Jinhong to Dali. 'Picker'
is to Robyn's left.
|Freezing in Dali. Robyn is pointing to the torn paper that
covers the holes in our wall. We could see our breath in this
|Above the old town of Lijiang.
|Tiger Leaping Gorge.
|Pig farmer at a Yi market. The 'Yi' were slave traders
until the 1950s!
| A dentist does his work in the market. On the table are
his drill as well as some of the teeth he has extracted.