June 12th 1984

posted in: The way back | 0

We slept a little overnight, tho’ not nearly as much as we had expected, seeing as we must have been tired, + had a more comfortable seat.  We’d expected a 36 hr journey, so were pleasantly surprised when it became obvious we were coming in to Kunming, + it was still before 7.  It meant we missed our morning coffee, that was all – a small price to pay.

It took us some time to find the hotel we were looking for.  Val had the position down on a small sketch map, but that left out the vital information of how far away it was.  It wasn’t far, in fact, within comfortable walking distance, but we were expecting it much closer, + were trying every likely (or even unlikely) looking building, + being directed further on in each case.    We were afflicted by the already familiar feeling of hopelessness + despair, but luckily we were accosted by a young Chinese man practising his English, + he was able to give us slightly more precise directions than a pointing finger.  When we stumbled into the place, everything was once again fine – it seems to go like that in China.  The receptionist spoke English, + we were able to get a comfortable double room for a mere Y8.  We rested till about 2, both of us taking off our clothes, climbing into bed, + sleeping.  Surprisingly, sleep did not come all that easily; I imagine we were still too wound up. 

During the afternoon, we conducted various items of necessary business.  First of all we booked our train ticket to Emei Shan, thro’ the hotel reception, for a week today, thinking that would give us enough time to see all we wanted around Kunming, + visit Dali as well.  It seemed that hard sleeper would present no difficulty this time.  Next we booked our bus tickets out to Xiling, , a local scenic attraction, from an office a few yds down the road.  The Public Security Office was next, to obtain our permit to visit various cities which aren’t on the “open” list.  No problem here – a slightly time-consuming  but entirely painless operation.  And finally the Post Office, merely to send post-cards home.

Our time was our own now, + we strolled down to an area of town which is supposed to have some “minority” stores, with goods either for or made by, the ethnic peoples of the area.  I say “supposed” because we weren’t actually able to find any.  By chance tho’, we did find some local food stores with various goodies on offer: tins of dried milk, dried apricots, tins of fruit jam, some light + fluffy sponge cake.  This last is my usual breakfast – we reckoned that the jam would complement it nicely.

We tried to catch a bus back which would take us to where a good restaurant was supposed to be, but I made a mistake as to which stop we should get off.  This confused our directions considerably, + led to much fruitless wandering about, + eventually, extreme irritability.  We were about to give the whole thing up as a bad job when we were put right by some passing Westerners.  The restaurant was attached to a Cooking School, + our meal was OK, + certainly cheap, tho’ very greasy.  The best part was that we were served beer in huge soup bowls, quite a novelty.  Back in our rooms we recorded a letter-cassette for Val’s mum.  Not one of our best tho’, I think.

With another new city, another task of orienting ourselves, finding the right place to sleep, eat, see. At first. it is dreadfully confusing, but in short time we are fully at home. In the circumstances, a relatively painless introduction to Kunming.

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