Published: June 8th 2008June 5th 2008
With our visas in hand we returned to the aiport for a second attempt at getting our flight to Kunming, this time it went without incident and we were on our way! Both very imprssed with Thia airways as we seemed to be getting drinks and food constantly, unfortunately the meal did consist of more cold chicken (still traumatised from bangkok chicken experience) but beggars can't be choosers so we greatfully ate whatever we were given!!
Quite scared when we arrived into China as seemed to be a lot of rules and people standing around shouting instructions we couldn't understand, we eventually managed to avoid all the dodgy people who tried to drag us into their taxis for an extortinate price and get to the offical rank. The trouble started when we showed the hostel address to the taxi driver who claimed to have no idea where it was, after a lot of deliberating with the taxi organiser we got in and off we went, amazingly we ended up at the right hostel and we only had to pay a fraction on the bangkok rate!
Our first destination in China was Kunming, it's quite a western city with lots
of familiar names fastfoods haunts like Maccy D's and pizza hut! This was a good job as none of the restaurants had English menu's so the first few days were a struggle. One big difference between china and anywhere else we've been is that noone appeared to speak a world of English in most of the places we visited involved a lot of pointing to books and shirade like hand actions!
As China was an add on to our trip we had limited time we quickly moved on from Kunming to the more picturesque town on Lijang. It was a 9 hour journey between to the 2 so we opted for the 'sleeper' bus, the concept is the bus is full of beds so you can travel and sleep at the same time...the harsh reality is the bus is crammed full of beds designed for the average tiny 5 foot chinese person and it's so bumpy you get thrown up and down on the bed making sleeping a near impossible task!! On the plus side we saved on a nights accomodation and it was certainly en experience! We were blatantly ripped off by the 'bus boss' who said we
View from our hostel rooftop
had pay extra for our bags...we later learnt from a chinese speaker that we were being charged a 'fat tax' for being overweight and using more petrol! Despite all the McDonalds we've been consuming of late this still seems a bit harsh!! Anyway as he didn't seem to be going away we had to give in and pay him and then he had the nerve to ask for some English coins as a 'souviner', we threw twentypence at him and thanfully he went away. We arrived in Lijang early the nest morning to have the same problems as in Kunming with the taxi driver being unable to find the hostel despite calling and getting direction to it! Eventually he was so lost we had to get out and ask someone from the hostel to come and meet us! The guesthouse was reallynice, probably one of the nicest we've stayed on in our trip, very homely and we got to eat with the staff and the other guests in the evenigs for a bargain price!
We spent our time in Lijang wandering around the old city the buying loads of random souviners such as cushion covers, aprons, calendars and wooden
frogs thats made a croaking noise, all very practical taking up valuable space in our backpacks - in hindsight the frog may have been a mistake! We decided to take the trip from Lijang to the popular destination of Tiger Leaping Gorge, this is a two day trek in the mountains with beautiful scenary. As with the other hikes we've done it was pretty tiring and there were points where I felt I wouldn't be able to go on - but made it in the end with a little encouragement from Han and the aid of a makeshift bamboo walking stick! As the word 'mountain' suggests the walk involved a lot of uphill which was made even more difficult by the soaring heat, I felt like we must of been burning off thousand off calories from all the sweating that was going on. There was one section of the trek named '28 bends' which leads to 'tiger leaping point' at the top of the hill, in reality this is more like 50 bends and seemed like it was never going to end!! Once through this section we stayed overnight at the bizarely named 'Teahorse guesthouse' which was a very welcome
sight at the end of the day! The second day we went down to the bottom of the geroge to see the stone the liger apparently lept onto to escape a hunter - expectadly as we went down this also involved hiking back up the gorge to the road which was another killer! Little did we kinow the scariest part was still to come as we had to get a taxi back to our bus which was also atiny cliff side load with onlya few stones as a barrier - made even more scary as the driver insisted on driving on the side closest to the edge so we were constantly thinking we might topple over, han was almost on my lap hanging on for dear life!!
After Lijang the next stop was Dali, luckily this was only a few hour journey so we didn't have to endure another sleeper bus, it turned out to be just as eventuful however as a truck bumped into the back of us. It doesn't seem as simple as in the UK when you just swap insurance details as total chaos prevalied with police and people all crowded round and lots of shouting.
Everyone on the bus got out to have a look so we thought we best do the same! It turned out to only be a tiny bump but apprently the bus couldn't go on so we had to wait an hour for another bus to take us the rest of the way. We arrivedinto Dali in the rain and to possibly the worst hostel known to man, not only did we have to walk through an alsation gauntlet to get to the room the toilets were too much to handle with rats and other such things lurcking, I have pics but won't put anyon incase anyone is reading this over lunch! On the whole we weren't as impressed with Dali as Lijang but it was certainly a hostel we won't be able to forget in a while!!
We headed back to where we began in Kunming for the night ready for our overnight bus to the Vietenam boarder. We both really loved China and looking forward to visting again, it's more than worth enduring the disgusiting toilets and sometimes nauseating smell for the good parts!
There are more photos below