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Published: October 23rd 2010
28/6/10: We happily checked out from our hotel at 12:00 midday. We caught a bus to Gulin which turned out to be easier than what we thought. It rained the whole way to Gulin. An hour later in what looked like a new bus, we pulled up right out the front of the train station. It was all too easy to get around in China; so far. We checked out the street food and fruit stalls for meals on the train, we ended up buying some bananas; which I later dropped and bruised, lychees and some biscuits. We rain stopped and braved the stinking humidity before we realised it was air-conditioned inside the waiting room. We passed our bags through the security x-ray machine and waited in the huge room before boarding 1.5hours later. It was different to other train stations in that we weren’t allowed on the platforms until the train had arrived; we didn't even see any trains until we finally stepped onto the clean platforms. We travelled so much by train in India we weren’t looking forward to this 20hr trip to Kunming. Our train looked great from the outside and we changed our minds about travelling
by train when we walked into the carriage, it was so clean and new looking, it was even air-conditioned with carpet down the aisle, and best of all clean odourless toilets. We found our shared room and immediately noticed fresh bed linen, blankets and a soft pillow- It was like being in first class, we were so excited. The train started to role and picked up speed, at full speed it was so smooth, the carriage stayed relatively still and only minor swaying and we couldn't even hear the clanking of tracks. When we looked outside we saw no rubbish on the tracks, it was spotless; again we compare everything with India’s trains. We would have to get used to the fact that the China trains were of a high standard and India trains were really really bad. We treated ourselves dinner in the train restaurant, it was great to have a meal and watch the world go by through the massive viewing windows; once again it felt like luxury. The afternoon went quick; there wasn't much to see out the window except for green wet fertile farmland. I spent the rest on the afternoon and night reading my book.
29/6/10: I woke up early but chose to rest my eyes long before I actually opened them. It was nice to be in my warm bed while the train gently rocked me back to sleep and the gloomy rain streaked down the oversized window. Our 20 hour train ride finished when we arrive at Kunming around 12:30pm. We were starving, we only had lychees for breakfast and even though they were nice it didn't fill an appetite. We walked through the station and immediately found a nice local place that served a noodle hot pot, it went down a treat. It was time catch the local no64 bus to our chosen guesthouse, Cloudland. We ended up weighting for 15min while we saw countless buses stop pickup passengers then leave again. When the same bus number kept reappearing we were out of luck so we tried unsuccessfully to catch a taxi. All the taxi drivers didn't want to take us; it was too hard for them to communicate, even when we showed the hotel address and pointed the direction on the map they pretended they didn't know where it was. This was totally opposite to India, we couldn't believe it, two
desperate backpackers in need of transport and they couldn't be bothered taking advantage of us. Just when we thought we might have to walk 5km with our packs on the number 64 bus passed us. The buses were running it was just that we were standing on the wrong corner. Within minutes of standing at the correct stop the bus turned up, we paid 2Yuan each finding a seat straight away. We were halfway there when the bus conked out at the bus stop. The driver tried desperately to start the bus, it didn't matter how much he played with the wires or looked at the engine it just didn't want to start. The starter motor grew tired, the bus driver yelled something in Chinese and everyone started to get off. All the effort of getting the bus and now we have to find another. Just as I was about to put my pack on the bus started to roll. I could hear a mob of people at the back of the bus yell “ee, ar, sun”(1,2,3) in a loud voices. We then heard “tway, tway tway” (push, push, push) as the sound of grunting and laughter increased with the
bus’s speed. The remaining women passengers started to laugh, we started to laugh with them. The bus driver popped the clutch and the bus came to a jolted disappointing stop. They regrouped for a second, the bus driver spoke in Chinese again, this time with more emphasis and the passengers all disappeared around the back of the bus again, I jumped out the front and held the entrance with a firm grip, I waited for the signal “ee, ar, sun, tway, tway tway” once again the laughter increased with the speed, I even found it hard to stop laughing; it must have looked so funny to the other waiting passengers. The driver chose wait until the bus had considerable speed before popping the clutch, the bus jolted as the momentum from us pushing transferred into the gearbox then into the engine. The bus jolted again when the fuel ignited in one cylinder then another then another until the spluttering engine finally came to life with a roar. We all hopped back on slightly puffed and laughing our heads off. I followed the map until we were close enough to the hotel to walk. We checked into Cloudland, paying 100yuan for
a double and shared bathroom, it was more expensive than we anticipated but we really had no choice. It was worth the money we paid. The rooms were nice and best of all we had free Wifi. If we were motivated enough there was a free ping pong and pool table to anytime we liked, being outside and in the rain we didn't bother. We dumped our packs and went for a walk to the closest main street we could find. We were starving, we chose a busy little local restaurant that had one of the most essential things in China for eating out; pictures of the food. It was a common thing for us to walk along the street until we spied a meal that looked appetising, often pointing over the shoulders of diners indicating the number of dishes we would like. After a great meal only costing 18yuan for three dishes or $3AUS we window shopped for awhile. Kunming was a big city but small on Chinas scale with over 1million people. To us it was just another city. It was now 6:00pm, we found some markets that were getting ready to close. We found a small two
dollar shop that had everything we needed and everything we didn't. There was so much great, cheap stuff. We ended up leaving with two stainless steel thermos mugs, a new hot wand, toiletries and other essentials. Everything we needed in one shop, if this was in India it would have taken a day to get all this stuff.
DEATH TO THE HOT WAND
Our replacement hot wand was a necessity; we mostly used it to boil water for Jacinta’s coffee and without her morning coffee she was cranky, it was a necessity for me as well as her. We purchased the hot wand for 60rupees or $1US from a little street vendor in Kolkata India. We knew of its value when we were in Varanasi only a few days later, it was so cold we spent hours heating us small containers of water until finally getting enough to have a hot shower. We had also used it to boil food including eggs and corn, even going as far as cooking full meals of noodle soup complete with vegetables, all in the comfort of our hotel room. It had its down side though; you gambled your life every time we used
it. Built in India; there was no standards or safety codes adhered to, this resulted in an item that was not only unsafe but a potential fire hazard. It was supposably 500 watts; if you compare this to the average light bulb of 40Wattes it will give you some idea of how much current it draws. The two stranded wire that joined the undersized plug to an over sized element looked like small speaker wires; I actually think it was speaker wire. This made the undersized wire so hot during use that you were not even able to touch it. The insulation that protected the wires must have been compromised, I once tested the water temperature with my finger in the early stages of boiling and a massive jolt of electricity travelled up my arm into my chest, my heart skipped a beat before I even knew I was being electrocuted. It was the last time I tested the water with my finger, instead, one weary eyed morning I decided to stir some boiling eggs with a metal spoon, BANG; it jolted me so hard that I shuddered, needless to say I was awake and alert after that. It was
now common practice to switch off the element while doing anything with this dangerous implement but once again I was electrocuted when the faulty power point switch, failed to switch off leaving me with adrenalin pumping.
Apart from all the negatives it still paid for itself, even it was almost with our lives. Death came, when I was hungry for some fresh corn on the cob, I immersed the corn in a plastic container and started to boil, the corn was bombarded with a sea of electrons; I almost felt sorry for whatever I cooked just because I knew what it was going through. I carried on with what I was doing until I started to smell an unfamiliar odour, I ignored it at first until it got stronger, I looked at my boiling corn to see a stream of white smoke coming from the plug, then a short spark blue spark that ignited the wire, I quickly turned off the socket switch and pulled the wire to release the plug from the wall, I burnt my hand, the wire was like a hot piece of spaghetti. I laughed to myself feeling neither happy nor sad of our loss.
The hot wand had served its purpose and probably exceeded its life expectancy long ago. Our new and improved hot wand was made in China; it even had a decent cord, but I will still never trust it.
Back in the markets and we couldn't resist buying some fresh in season lychees, they were so sweet and juicy, only costing us 20yuan for 2kg, being the size of golf balls they were a real mouthful.
30/6/10: It was wet and raining outside again, it was hard to get out of bed. Jacinta tested out the new hot wand; it worked a charm. There was nothing to do except to go shopping for the day. Jacinta needed some new shirts so we headed to Wal-Mart. Just outside we witnessed a man dressed in army clothes (although he wasn't in the army) chasing a young teenager on motorbikes around the roundabout. The army man forced the boy onto the outside shoulder of the roundabout until they collided in spectacular fashion. The sound of scraping plastic broken fenders and indicator lights caused everyone to look. They both got up, with the army guy grabbing the boy’s shirt, they argued for a minute until the army guy whipped out his mobile and dialed what I presumed to be police, the boy was left standing while in his clutches, he looked to have conceded defeat and all attempts to escape. We walked inside the complex, this was the first time we had been in Wal-Mart and we loved it; they had everything. Jacinta managed to finally pick up some shirts that she was so particular about. We got lost downstairs, there was food everywhere. I love the fact that you can walk into a supermarket and self cater your live prawns, crabs, crayfish, turtles, frogs, eels and fish from the live tanks. We both laughed when an older lady wrestled a large fresh water perch in her landing net, she manage to make a considerable mess on the floor when the fish trashed around in the net; now that's fresh. Happy with our wasted day we headed back to our hotel and waited until 9:00 to go to the train station, this time we didn't have to push the bus. Our train left and 10:30pm for Dali, it left exactly on time, I love China for its efficiency.
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