June 14th 1984

posted in: The way back | 0
Chris and Val?

Another necessary early start this morning.  I’m not sure we’re being very sensible in pushing ourselves along quite so hard.  The organisational side of life in China is hard, strenuous even, + can only be borne with decent periods of rest between these harrowing travel experiences.  But it’s done now, + I’m sure we’ll survive.

Coffee + sponge was our usual breakfast, then downstairs with our bags.  We weren’t exactly sure where the bus station was, + had thought we might have to take a pedicab, but down in the lobby we discovered quite a few other travellers heading out to Dali, so we were able to get instructions for the local bus out there.  Arriving at the station, we found, as usual, that things were well-organised.  We were directed straight onto our bus, shown our assigned seat, +, with a great ringing of bells, the bus left promptly at 7.15.  We were in for a long journey, 10 or 11 hours, but it really wasn’t too bad.  Provided one is prepared for a trip like that, both physically, providing ourselves with books, snacks, etc, + mentally, they are bearable.  They’re certainly at least 97 times better than the equivalents in most of the Asian countries we’ve visited.  They’re not frantically overcrowded, there’s a decent amount of leg-room, + there are frequent stops.  Admittedly, lunch was pretty disgusting – the ticket system again, working seriously to the disadvantage of the non-Chinese speaker.  We’re rapidly going off ticket meals – just about their only advantage is that they’re cheap.

At another stop I chatted with a couple of fellow-travellers, an Irishman, who was alright, + a bloke from the north of England, who managed to get on my wick straight away with some sweeping + self-justifying statements about China – doubtless he had exactly the same opinion about me.

We were obviously over-eager to get out, all scrambling for the door at Chagwen, 20 mins before Dali, thinking we were already there.  It was quite a relief to discover we weren’t there yet, as Chagwen was an ugly little town, only leavened by a large white statue of Mao.  When we finally arrived at Dali, Val + I shot off sharpish.  We had a sketch map of the town, so had some idea where the hotel was.  The bus had stopped outside town, so there was a 15 min walk in.  We entered the town proper by a large + impressive formal gate.  Our map was not good enough to help us very much, which just shows us off for being selfish, I suppose.  After wandering about somewhat lost, we finally found the hotel, arriving there just a few yards ahead of our fellow-passengers from the bus.  Val was able to obtain a cheap dorm bed, but I had to be content with a more expensive bed in a 3 bed room.  It worked out very well, in fact, for Val was able to take advantage of the greater space + more pleasant atmosphere in my place.

The gate to the town

We made our way down to the town’s principal Western restaurant, the Garden, where we ate a fine, if considerably too large, meal.  That’s the problem with eating as a couple.  In order to obtain a sufficient variety, one is forced to eat too much.  We ate it all tho’.  In the evening, I listened to England being skittled by West Indies in the first test match.  Entirely predictable.  Apart from Gower, + sometimes Botham, I don’t think England rate as first-class any more.

An eleven hour jaunt might seem a bit extreme, but, as I explain, it really was entirely bearable. And Dali certainly seemed to be well worth it, being attractive, ethnic, different.

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