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Published: August 6th 2007
It's spring Break and ALL of China has hit the ground running. Plane tickets are three times the usual. Trains are all booked. Hostels can charge ungodly amounts for a bed that lacks a mattress and a shower that lacks hot water (even though they claim hot water). Chinese merchants can get away with anything this week.....it's May holiday. Just as in October, the government of China declared May 1- May 7....holiday. I doesn't matter that the days are Tuesday to Monday....that is when holiday is...done. Most of my teacher friends had to work Sat. Sun and then Mon., an 8 day week, which really takes the hot air out of the holiday celebration, but luckily I played dumb, blonde foreign teacher and escaped the 8-day work week by booking my ticket and apologizing later.
So I'm off, a bit early, to China's most beautiful province (named that by me) to Yunnan. Sandwiched between Laos and Tibet, Yunnan is chalk full of clean air, clouds, mountains that dance in the middle of those clouds, cute people dressed in the ceremonial minority outfits, middle aged women offering you an opportunity to "smoke some grass" at every opportunity, plows pulled by oxen,
Rebuilt after the Cultural Revolution these semi-old pagodas were not worth the price of admission....here is the view from the road.
donkeys pulling carriages, bumpy tree lined roads, stars so bright you almost fall out of your seat in shock and little old men smoking their pipes as they tend to their latest crop. It's perfect.
I am currently residing in a small city called Dali. Quite far from last October's Bali and without Mary or any motobikes to rent, I fear it might be a bit less adventurous, but nevertheless. I arrived in Dali on a 5-hour luxury bus (luxury means they hand out water bottles) and stepped off and quickly avoided the predictable swarm of taxi drivers. I was gonna walk, I told myself even though I lacked any sense of where I was. My little "Let's go" map did not seem to overlap my current position, but nevertheless, I wasn't daunted. I gave myself a 7:30, better figure out where the heck you are time limit. I walked down a street i thought was apart of the map, but the constant stares of the locals led me to believe i was elsewhere. Dali is pretty big on the backpackers' map and I can tell by the way people look at me if they are used to seeing
Inexpensive Sleeping accomdations
at $2 a bed....this camplike dorm room was just right....meet me new friends. Guy in the corner is sick. Girl next bed sleeps late. Girl on other side has a 20 minute long face lotion process. Guy in other corner talks louder the later it gets.
white people. These people were not. Nevertheless, I continued to feel my destination was just around the bend. See, as i found out, there are two Dali's (the old one where are the tourist are and the new one, where i was) After about 40 minutes, i gave up, hailed a cab, throw together some chinese and was off on a 20 minute Taxi ride to the "old dali". All the while thankful that i'm not stubborn.
The ancient city of Dali was and is a tourist destination. But both days I was there, I rented a bike and got out of the city and shops and just 3 minutes away is the real China. Farms of soybean rice and wheat, tiny villages with old men smoking pipes and little girls fishing, wagons full of soybean crops pulled by the husbands and pushed wives. Streets no wider than 2 cows with no names and no direction. It was what I imagined China to be.......beautiful.
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