China II: Week 16

The work is over and the fun should now begin. I have just under 3 weeks until James arrives in China. I intend to use this time to travel West to the province of Yunnan and hike the Tiger Leaping Gorge near the ancient town of Lijiang. I hope that there will be adventures, mistakes and triumphs along the way, but my main aim is to see a different side to China than my last travel session. My original plan was to visit Tibet, but this must be put on hold for a year or two as the Chinese government has closed it to foreigners.

Here goes;

11/07/2011: Day One

It is here! Travel time! If my calculations are correct I will have 58 days on the road, and I intend to make the most of it as I have worked bloody hard over the 15 weeks.

On my first day there was one small hitch; I was yet to be paid for the month of June (i.e. my spending money). So, without further ado I made my way to the Sunshine Elite school for my pay. It was ice to be greeted so welcomely when I returned and everyone seemed interested in my plans ahead….which remain incredibly vague even n my head. I had feared that the school (and particularly Frank) would try to screw me over with the pay, but I was pleasantly surprised. I received the exact amount that I had calculated I was owed, and therefore left happily after saying my final goodbyes to Kiran and Carol.

originally I had intended to head straight to Guangzhou for the train but during my trip to the school I noticed that my new, and very cheap, bag was incredibly uncomfortable on my back and appeared to be ripping at the shoulders already…don’t buy knock-offs kids! As a result I headed briefly back to te apartment to change to the bag that has been everywhere with me, a bag as loyal and reliable as a good friend.

It was now time to begin my journey, but I couldn’t decide f I was more hungry or excited. In the end my excitement took over and I bypassed food in favour of the metro to Guangzhou. Once I arrived at Guangzhou railway station I had to buy tickets. Buying tickets in China is usually risky business because you never know if there are going to be seats. However, I intended to go to Changsha in Hunan province via high speed rail, on which there are more than enough seats.

Automatically I began to queue for the self-service tickets but as it approached my turn I noticed I required a Chinese I.D card to buy a ticket from the machine, of course I don’t have one of these (I am not Chinese). So, after wasting a little time queueing at a machine I had to queue the traditional way, for a person. In fact this way was a little quicker (I think the novelty of using a machine to buy tickets lured in some of the Chinese). So there I was, carrying my backpack on my back and a ticket out of Guangdong in my hand….my trip was about to begin.

When applying for a train ticket to Changsha I had two options, a cheap 9 hour trip or a little more expensive train that will take less than 3. I am on a VERY tight budget for this trip but the opportunity to ride the worlds fastest daily passenger train could not be missed…so I went for the quickie. I took my seat on the train and observed the speedometer until it reached 320km an hour…flabagasted. Naturally I was in the focus of many of the passengers and many began to talk to me. I quite enjoy being approached by people…but at the moment I am fresh and eager, lets hope I still enjoy it after a couple of weeks on the road.

The high-speed journey went without a hitch and I arrived in Changsha. The only information I had for the hostel I intended to stay in was ‘Xing Hua’ so I asked a taxi driver where it was and he said he would take me there for $10 (£1). After about 10 minutes we arrived at ‘Xin Hua’. It appears my Chinese pronunciation has got no better as time has gone on…Thankfully the hostel was only a short ride away so I made my own way there.

After checking in to the hostel there was only one thing I wanted to do; explore. A little too eager I left the hostel with a spring in my step and a love for China. Then I was brought crushing to Earth (almost literally). As I walked along the now dimmed path I hit a rusty pole with my leading foot. Of course a Chinese worker had left it there so he could eat his noodles…right in the way of the path. A restrained myself from cursing him, China or the World. undeterred, bloody and hungry I walked to a dumpling restaurant where I ordered 20 fried dumplings (a bit excessive but I was hungry). I managed to clean my bloodied foot and wipe the blood from my sandles with some tissue but was quite aware that I should clean the open, and quite deep, wound as the culprit was rusty. So after my meal I headed back to wash out my quite impressive cut.

I then returned to exploration whilst keeping an extra eye out for stray metal poles. I passed a street doctor who gave me a free plaster (probably because I am foreign) before coming across an interesting looking place.

outside were numerous men and women with jugs of green tea and cigarettes so decided to go inside, first to have a look. Once I was inside I was greeted like everyone had never spoken to, or even seen, a foreigner before. I was immediately given some tea and approached by several middle aged men having a break from their game of Chinese dominoes. I stood trying to work out how to play, and never got the hang of it. I was then joined by two of the younger people in the venue, a brother and sister. The brother gave me some traditional Hunan food, which I thought was some kind of drug once I put it in my mouth. He told me, almost too late, that I was not to swallow it but just chew. He later bought me an ice cream, I don’t know why.

o I spent my first evening in a Chinese working mens club drinking tea and eating traditional snacks…perfect. Before they could poor me my 6th cup of tea I decided it would be time to leave or never leave. I got back to the hostel and was met by a girl called Pollyanna. This girl is as cute as she is scatty. And by scatty I mean she ran everywhere at walking pace. She was keen to talk with me as she is to attend the Uiversity of Surrey in September. We spent the remainer of the night talking about this and she also intends to go to Lijiang when her British visa is sorted, I may meet her there…but I doubt it.

And so day one is over….i’m ready…what’s next China?

12/07/2011: Day Two

Day two and my first early start. I had originally planned to wake up early but I had the added incentive of someone relying on me to do so. Martina, a woman from Taiwan, had got word of my desire to head to the West bus station early and had requested to join me and to split the journey costs. So, after a quick shower and goodbye to my hostel companions I met with Martina for our journey to the bus station.

Once we arrived we bought our tickets to separate destinations and it appeared that my bus would be leaving 5 minutes afterwards, whereas she had a two hour wait. I got a bit lucky there. Anyway, I was now about to begin a 4 hour bus journey to the small city of Zhangjiajie. Thankfully the road was quite new and the journey was quite smooth. In all the journey probably took about 5 hours but I was in no rush and happily took in the fantastic scenery that Hunan has to offer.

Immediately after the bus stopped in Zhangjiajie I spotted a woman accusing a man of stealing her purse and received a lot of stares. I must admit that I was a little intimidated at first, but this was just the bus station. As soon as I left the bus station it appeared that everyone was very pleasant and welcoming. It also soon became clear that Zhangjiajie is very lucky to label itself a city…its tiny. I was able to find my hostel very easily.

Upon arrival at my hostel it was a little different from what I imagined from the internet image I had seen. The chalet picture made the impression that the hostel was in a rural outskirts it was actually a chalet on the roof of a four storey building. Still, it suited me and was nice inside.

After check-in it was about lunch time and I decided to get some proper Hunan food (accompanied by a bottle of water as I knew what to expect from the Hunan spice). It was easy to find a spicy noodle bar. If I learnt anything from my last trip it is that the dirtiest and cheapest places sell the nicest food…and this gave added support to this view. Although the noodles were very spicy, they filled the gap and only set me back 40p.

Given that it was the afternoon and I did not want to just do half a day in the forest (my next stop), I decided to explore the city a little more. My first stop was to look around a traditional chinese building that had been converted into several tea shops. As attractive as it was it wasn’t quite thrilling. I managed to stumble across another hostel who greeted me as if they had never seen a foreigner before (a greeting I am quickly getting used to). Via broken english, and recruiting one of their guests, they were able to tell me that the city itself has very little to offer and that I should just explore by walking. That I did.

I managed to walk around most of the city in 3 hours and could draw some comparisons with Torquay; it appeared that there is very little for the locals to do and so there are many bars. Those who get bored, get drunk.

I was not disheartened by this though as I was not in Zhangjiajie for the city. I was here to trek in the nearby forest…but that can begin tomorrow.

Zhangjiajie City

I then returned to the hostel to cool down, rehydrate and have a cheeky wash before heading for dinner. Here I met one of my dormitory companions, Charles. He is from Hong Kong and Zhangjiajie is his final leg in mainland China. I was a little jealous that he had just returned from Tibet…he was allowed in. Myself and Charles went to dinner together and he stated that he did not want to eat spicy food, which was fine with me. My compromise was that I didn’t want to eat Western food….so a rice hot-pot it was then. Charles’ english was good despite his apologies and we agreed to go to the forest together tomorrow.

13/07/2011: Day Three

Naturally, with a lot to do, myself and Charles got up early with the view to catch an early bus to the forest about 40km from Zhangjiajie city. Another chinese man in the dorm had stated his intention to join us, but did not confirm or deny this with us. We reluctantly left without him.

We caught the public bus to the bus station and bought our bus tickets for the forest. Once we boarded we found Joe, the other chinese man, already on the bus. Not only was this magic but was also very embarrassing as it seemed as if we had left him on purpose, we hadn’t :). Anyway, we were together again, for now.

Our bus arrived at the forest around 8am and we were very excited about the prospect of seeing what it had in store. The chinese claim the forest of Zhangjiajie provided the inspiration for the setting in the film Avatar. And it is possible to see how the Chinese drew this conclusion. In fact, being in the forest almost made me feel like I was in the film, Na’vi I think?. It was actually spectacular. Having lost Joe again we were eventually reunited inside and began our trek.

I have been looking forward to trekking in China for a long time now and I was at last living it, in unimaginable surroundings (unless you are an animator for Avatar). We walked about 10km around the lake and up steep hills, stopping regularly to take photographs. However, the visibility was not great, which we put down to it being morning. In some ways my companions were perfect for me as Joe was from Shanghai and could speak good English, whereas Charles’ putonghua was as good as his English…making English the chosen language for conversation…although Joe wanted me to speak Chinese as much as possible…which didn’t last long.

After some further walking we took the ‘Worlds largest outdoor scenic elevator designed for people’…a mouthful. This took us to the very top of one of the sandstone spikes that stick out of the ground (of which there are 3000…I need to remember this image!).

Once on top we continued our trek but were hindered by the weather and visibility. unfortunately by about 4pm the visibility was almost zero and we could only see white nothingness over the sides of the cliffs. Eventually, and soaked by the rain, we decided to call it a day find some accommodation in the forest. fortunately, and to my childlike excitement, we were offered a room for £2.50 each in the house of a man from a village in the forest. The catch was that we had to have dinner at his house and pay for it…we took the deal. As the sun began to set we waited for the man to cook the traditional Hunan dinner whilst myself and Charles learned a traditional Hunan card game that Joe had learned.

So after dinner and having exploited an old mans hospitality, myself, Charles and Joe sat in a warm room playing cards whilst the rain battered the window looking out onto the forest….a dream day. We were all so tired from the walking and fell into a deep sleep pretty early.

14/07/2011: Day Four

Having realised that the forest has more to offer than can possibly be explored in two days myself and Charles decided to make our best efforts to see as much as we could before we left today. As a result we made the decision to begin our day 2 trek at 5am.

At first I thought it was just a suggestion and that Charles wouldn’t go through with it…but we both jumped out of bed at the sound of our alarms (although we probably didn’t need it because the cockerels were already cackooing outside). Leaving Joe, who had requested to be left, to sleep we began our trek immediately. It was soon clear that we had made a great decision; the visibility had vastly improved, the air was fresh and there were no other people in sight. We must have walked quite a few miles by 8am and seen some pretty impressive sights. At this point a bus pulled up beside us and invited us on board. fortunately it took us to the destination that we were heading on our map and probably saved us another 2 hours of walking.

One thing I found incredibly impressive was a massive lake on top of the mountain…beautiful :P.

Anyway, the map that myself and charles had given now contour lines, and thus no indication of incline or decline. We soon discovered that our desired location lay half way down the mountain. We made the decision that we had enough time to for it and began our descent down the side of the mountain, but agreed on a time to return if we do not reach the location by that time (the reason why we had to return is because we had purposely left unnecessary luggage in the room at the top of the mountain, had we known that we would be climbing down we would not have done so). fortunately the trek down was swift and easy and we were able to reach a fantastic viewpoint uninterrupted by the clouds or the morning mist…we gave each other a cheeky, and rather geeky, high five.

Then it was time to return. We underestimated the steepness of the mountain when we came down and it is far to say the trek back up was a struggle. I suggested an alternative route up the mountain to see different sites, but as we walked up it became apparent that we had gone slightly off track. slightly embarrassingly for me were required to return back down once again only to climb up another route again. I was quite happy that Charles never complained though. In fact there was a sign near the top of the mountain that read ‘to not reach the top is to come in vain’…if ever we both needed motivation this was it.

Once again we reached the top of the mountain, and once again we gave each other a geeky high five whilst we caught our breath. We then got the bus back in the direction of the Wulong village where we relaxed over a bowl of rice. It was now around 12pm and we made the decision to make our way to the exit of the forest (which meant another trip in the escalator). Once we were out we took the public bus to Zhangjiajie city and relaxed with a drink for a while. It was only 2pm but it had already been a very long day.

My next step was to get the bus to another part of Hunan province, the town of Fenghuang (meaning Pheonix town). It is here that I intend my birthday. So, I only had a little while to rest before I had to find a hostel on the internet and bet to the bus station in time for the 3.30pm bus. Charles left for Hong Kong soon after me.

The bus journey have me the opportunity to sleep for a couple of hours, although the road wasn’t quite as smooth as I would have requested. We stopped after about 2 hours which meant I could buy corn on the cob and a boiled egg….filled the gap.

The bus took about 4 hours, and arrived in the town of Fenghuang at around 8pm. It was beginning to get dark and I had only a vague description of where my hostel was. I got a taxi to the area of the hostel (which I later found out was about 5 minutes walk from the bus drop off). Here i was greeted with the most spectacular view of lights, water and old buildings from a bridge…wow! From the bridge I called the hostel and they told me I should turn left down the side of the bridge and walk for ten minutes. After walking (with all my luggage) for 15 minutes I decided to ask someone else. They told me the hostel is in the other direction. Of course, the person on the phone had said left when they actually meant right. However, this gave me the opportunity to see the old town at night, and I was impressed. There was actually a sing-a-long with some buskers with about 50 people, the song of the moment in China and certainly one that I will always associate with this trip now.

Once I found the hostel I checked in and had a quick but cold shower before hitting the streets and a bar for midnight (my birthday). As it turned out I was bought a beer by a government worker and I sat with him and his wife (out of his league) who was also a party member. At around 00:30 I called it a night and looked forward to seeing such a spectacular looking town in the daylight.

15/07/2011: Day Five

It’s my Birthday!

My second birthday outside of England and I think it doesn’t need saying that exploring a small town in Fenghuang is a complete contrast to the last time (my 18th in Faliraki). It was certainly a more peaceful and heathy one.

Not wanting to waste a moment I woke up bright and early ad got in contact with Patty via skype. I had sent her a present for her birthday, on 20th July, but we had made the agreement that she would open it on mine. We spoke for a good hour and it was great to have a catch up as we hadn’t spoken for a few days.

However, it was important that I didn’t end up spending all day on the laptop so soon after I finished chatting I had a shower and headed out into the blistering heat (although it wasn’t quite that hot). I quickly decided that I prefered the view of the town in the day than in the night, it was picture perfect.

Fenghuang is an amazing place. It is basically an old and traditional town built along a clean and beautiful fast flowing river in the midst of the mountainous western Hunan. Despite many Chinese tourists gathering here there are still people washing their clothes in the river and children swimming naked downstream. There is a contagious peacefulness in the air which makes the whole place seem like some kind of ancient Chinese paradise. Poetic no?

I sat for a while by the banks of the river waving to the passing gondolas as they all pointed out the foreigner to each other. The river seemed so clean.

I spent a few hours exploring the old town and ended up lost on quite a few occasions. At one point I found myself on an alley full of caged ducks, and they were bloody big ducks. As I walked around I noticed a man pick one of the ducks to buy. The shop keeper swiftly grabbed it by the legs and used her less-than-accurate measuring device to weigh the animal. After it was weighed she made no hesitation in slitting its throat and waiting for the blood to stop squirting out before placing it in a tub full of water. Not nice to watch but compelling all the same. This did not put me off my food though and I decided to have some more Hunan food, which again knocked-my-socks-off (if indeed that is an expression for an incredibly spicy experience).

A lot of the day was spent in the gaze of other peoples cameras. It seemed that a lot of people were not very familiar with foreigners and were either staring at me, pointing or taking photos. It seems that it only takes one bold person with the courage to ask for a photograph to allow others to follow like sheep and form a very unchineselike queue for photos….mobbed. At one point, half way across the bridge, I had to point out that the actual attraction in the town was the town itself and not the skinny little foreigner.

After a while the heat got to me and I decided to return to the hostel for a quick wash and change before heading out again. Thankfully I managed to get hold of my very worried mother and reassure her that I was ok and enjoying my birthday.

I then went for something to eat and decided to seek out my food of choice…beef and rice. Thankfully the first restaurant that caught my eye sold this. As I sat down I noticed 4 giggling girls on the table next to me, clearly intent on taking a picture of the foreigner. I decided to smile back to reassure them that I didn’t mind them taking pictures of me. I really don’t mind, and actually quite like it. As they seemed quite friendly I asked if there was anything interesting that happens in the evening…and they suggested I join them. Who am I to refuse company on my birthday?

After leaving the girls for an hour or so (to eat more food because the birthday boy was not full) I met them in an acoustic bar. They had a beer waiting for me and we played a few drinking games before a couple of them decided they were too hot indoors. It was then that I revealed for the first time to anyone that it was my birthday and they insisted they got something for me. However, what they got was more for their entertainment than mine…they hired a traditional Miao minority male outfit for me to wear. Somewhat ‘reluctantly’ I put the close on and stood for pictures alongside my new friends. Now, if I was an attraction in my normal clothes being in a minority outfit (looking more like Aladdin) made me more of a target. Of course I loved it though.

I changed back and thanked them for my ‘present’ before we returned to walking the streets in search of some traditional Fenghuang food. As we did so one of the girls sang another rendition of the song the buskers sang the day before. I wish I had recorded it. The girls made a great effort to make a good evening of my birthday; and they succeeded in the most perfect of settings.

After eating some traditional sweet food and looking at some flattened pigs faces we all returned to our respective dormitories and finished a successful day and a birthday to remember.

16/07/2011: Day Six

Once again, and sticking to the constant routine of my time in China, I had an early start. This, the Boxing Day of my birthday (does that work?).

my intention today was to reach the small city of Kaili (pronounced Kylie) in Guizhou province. But this is not as easy as it seems. Fenghuang is a small town with poor transport links and the closest city in the direction of Guizhou is Huaihua; some 5 hours by road. It is only there that I could get a train to Kaili. It seems that on this trip much of my progress is being made by road…which is more than fine with me…provinding i get leg room.

Once I was up I decided it best to have a quick rush and get on the bus as soon as possible. Once I got to the station and bought my ticket. and once again there were 4 giggling girls waiting for the same bus. Only this time I was a grumpy morning person and not really in the mood for attention….can’t pick and choose right? Anyway, it turned out only one was confident enough in her english to talk to me and it also turned out they were on the same bus…great. As soon as I got on the bus I made it my intention to catch up on my sleep, but there were two things obstructing me from that; 1. the whole route was untarmaced and more like a rally ride, 2. the woman in front of me reclined her chair all the way so she was practically lying on my lap and my legs were forced into the alley…inconsiderate grrrr. I did, however, manage to get a couple of hours kip during the 5 hour excursion and I was eventually thankful of the English speaking girl who was able to direct me to the train station.

unfortunately there were no seats remaining on the train from Huaihua to Kaili so I had to buy a standing ticket. I didn’t mind the prospect of standing for 6 hours…it didn’t seem that long when I thought about it.

After a quick spicy lunch I returned to the station with some very red lips (my lips go red after spice) and through the uninterrupted sun. After a short while I boarded the train and found a comfortable pole to lean on with a watchful eye on my bag. Before the train departed I was approached by a large and scary looking chinese man who just turned out to be an eccentric. His name was Pepsi-man and he had the Pepsi logo shaved into the top of his head with the word POP shaved into the back of his head. He wanted to practise his english with me as loud as he could on a packed train, whilst everyone, EVERYONE, watched. After about 5 minutes he disappeared and returned shortly afterwards with an entourage that I assumed were his friends. Instead it had appeared that he had approached every young person in the nearest 4 or 5 carriages and asked if anyone wanted to talk english with a foreigner. These were the volunteers. I chatted with all of them for about half an hour and was actually really enjoying the conversation. On trains in China you get people from so many different places and of different cultures, they were all great and really friendly. One boy in particular introduced him self with; ‘Hi, I am Elvis but I cannot sing’. He was more normal than I first thought. As it turned out, Elvis was from an International School in Shanghai and was required to speak english whilst at school, and so could hold a very decent conversation. Pepsi-man thanked me fr our friendship by buying me a buddhist bracelet from a saleswoman on the train…I was overwhelmed by the friendliness of everyone around. There must have been about 8 of us in total and everyone was great, no matter how much english they could speak.

About an hour into the journey Elvis told me that he had a seated ticket and was only standing to talk to me. He then revealed that he had a spare seat beside him and offered it to me. What a nice man. I jumped at the chance and joined him and his friend on the tabled seat. As I sat down the man opposite began to talk in English to me and the girl next to him was keen to get involved (but knew as much english as I do chinese). Once again there was a group of 5 of us which made the journey a lot better than I had anticipated. This man, who I had the privilege of naming Paul, was a really interesting character who spoke good english despite leaving school at 15. I loved every minute of that journey and made sure I got everyone’s contact details before I left the train. Naturally they stayed to a major city, whereas I was one of only a few people to leave a Kaili…not a traditional tourist destination.

I hopped on the number 2 bus from the train station and got off when I felt as though I was in the city centre. After walking for about an hour and finding very little in the way of affordable accommodation I came to the conclusion I would have to take a hostel room at £9 a night…a huge dent in my increasingly tight budget. However, as I continued to complain about the price the receptionist discovered that the hostel could not take foreigners. The fact that it took her so long to realise made me think that not many foreigners come through this city (something I later found to be true).

Instead a man from a nearby hotel picked me up. He said his room rate was equivalent to £9.80…what!!??. However when we arrived I discovered that he had a dorm room at £4.50 a night…phew. The hotel was incredibly new and by the way I was treated I began to belive that no-one had ever stayed there before. I was given a guide book to the surrounding areas (what I am interested in), tea bags, a kettle, a flat screen tv and an en-suite bathroom. Whats more, I was not sharing my 4 bed dorm with any other travellers. This gave me the perfect excuse to have a proper wash and lounge in my underwear. It was the best nights sleep I have had in months (mainly because the mattress was not wooden). The perfect hostel made me look forward to my stay in Kaili

17/07/2011: Day Seven

I woke up in heaven? no just a warm, clean and comfortable bed. Once again it was quite early, but not early by the standards of the previous 6 days. After a warm shower and a cup of tea I was ready to tackle Kaili.

However, it was not Kaili the city that I was interested in. In fact the city seemed pretty bland. The reason why I chose this location is because of the minority villages in the surrounding areas of the city. About 95% of people in China are Han chinese. But the other 5% make up the minority ethnic groups. The Miao and Dong ethnic groups have kept their traditional housing and ways of life around Kaili and I wanted to see how these chinese people live, look and behave. Kaili was the place to be.

Determined to get to one of the less visited places I took a public bus to a place where I coud get a bus bound for Paile…a town about 20km away. I had been told that the Nanhua Miao village can be found along this bus route. As got onto the second bus it was soon clear that Miao villages were on this route as several minority women were dressed in their tribes attire, many carrying chickens. It appears that road links have made it possible for these people to trade in the city instead of remaining self sufficient. That was my assumtion anyway.

A forty minute bus ride through the most outstanding countryside saw me arrive at the village, that the bus driver was friendly enough to point out to me. I was surprised that no-one else got off the bus as well and I was left to my own device. I approached the village and didn’t see anyone for about 10 minutes. The village smelt like a farm (probably the manure) and looked amazing. It seemed as though it had een the same for centuries. Now and again people would come out of the homes, either to do some work (embroidery, feed the pigs, weeding or do renovation) or just to say hello to the foreign visitor. I felt most welcome.

The village was quite small and could be walked around in about 40 minutes. What made it even more of a specitcal was its positioning in the mountains and the river that ran just beside it (it appears I have started to appreciate scenery this week, how old am I?). I made my way to the river and watched some of the locals swim, wash and play before I went into one of the buildings where I smelt food. I immediately saw some chickens so decided to order rice with chicken eggs, as I assumed to eggs would be fresh. Here, as I sat alone, I was joined by one of the Miao men who i assumed owned the restaurant and he tried to talk to me in Putonghua which I tried to respond with varying success. It was nice to have some Miao company at lunch though.

I decided to not risk overstaying my welcome so left soon after lunch for my bus back. unfortunately I did not appreciate the scenery on my return as I slept the whole way back, to the delight of some of the villagers I am sure.

Once I returned it was too early to retire for the day so I decided to explore something in my guide….the forest. I climbed a massive hill to get to the forest that supposedly has 3000 different types of tree. I must admit that I have never been a tree man so this didnt really fascinate me. What I was more fascinated by was the men sleeping in hammocks next to caged wild birds in the middle of the forest. Casual personified.

Before it got dark I decided to then head to the train station to get my tickets for the following evening. I wanted an over night train to Kunming so queued for about 20 minutes only to be told there were no tickets. A little disheartened I stepped out of the station and had a revised look at my map. I wrote several alternative locations and returned to the queue. When I got to the front I asked if I could get to Guiyang city and transfer to Kunming train from there. After about 5 minutes of searching and with a large and unhappy queue building up behind me she magically produced an overnight sleeper ticket to Kunming from Kaili. The cynic in my suspects that she knew there were sleeper tickets all along and all I had to do was pressurise her…hmmmm.

Anyway, with another eye-opening day complete I returned to my comfy bed for the last time, and who knows when the next time I will hae such a luxury…..and that ends a fabulous first week.


  1. A pretty EPIC week and what a way to spend your birthday! My favourite line was: “After eating some traditonal sweet food and looking at some flattened pigs faces we all returned to our respective dormatories” – haha, you’re doing some amazing, but also pretty strange things out there Toddmeister.

    Keep living the dream x

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