June 18th 1984

posted in: The way back | 1

The bus journey back to Kunming was the prospect for virtually the whole day.  We were made nervous that we might miss the bus when the girl at the hotel desk took ages to open up, so that we could pay up + retrieve our travel permit.  Val tried to get a student discount by showing our Hong Kong ID cards, but she wasn’t having any of that, + we had no time to argue the point.  It hardly mattered in this case – the difference was negligible – but the slightly disturbing thing was that the cards didn’t have the air of authenticity we had hoped for.

The bus ride was as comfortable as one could hope for during 11 hours, but dull.  Hermann Hesse’s “Glass Bead Game” is hardly the stuff to transport me to a different world, so Val + I whiled away some time by discussing, in a facetious + frivolous manner, the worst names we could think of to give kids.  Judas was pretty high on the list.

At one stop, the town seemed to specialise in knives + scissors – they even had flick-knives – not the sort of thing for peaceful China.  We weren’t interested in that, but our small scissors had just broken, the ones we’d used for needlework, nail-clipping, hair-cutting, paper-cutting, so these ones came along at just the right time as vital replacements.

There was only one other Westerner on the bus, as most of our fellow-travellers were staying in Dali to visit a market in a nearby village.  Our one companion was a remarkably wet Australian girl, a “new” Australian it would seem, as her name was Guiseppini.  We had nothing in common with her, so had little to say.

Back at the Kun Ho hotel, there was no double room available, but we were given 2 beds in a dorm, so that was entirely satisfactory.  To make things easy, we went to eat at a local restaurant just across the road.  It proved to be a mistake.  The food was passable, just, but the atmosphere was appalling.  They used the ticket system, guaranteeing bedlam, it was absolutely packed, the conditions were quite disgusting, with food underfoot, + the noise was beyond belief, with a group near us screaming at each other, playing a rowdy game involving counting + holding up fingers.  We bolted our food as fast as we could wield our chopsticks, + left.  As some sort of compensation, we sought out the local ice-cream shop, but that was almost as noisy, + I had to leave.  I had the radio with me, + tuned in to the BBC, listening to “Brain of Britain” + Sports Report as we walked back.

And so, a day of travel and eating. Never did finish The Glass Bead Game, which I thought was a load of nonsense… but what do I know? And at leastwe had the comfort of the BBC to look forward to in the evening. Brain of Britain, a quiz competition, is still going strong.

  1. Pamela Blair

    I don’t know “Brain of Britain,” but I love watching “Only Connect.” We’ve now got “Connections” in the New York Times, very similar to one section of Only Connect. I can’t believe how much trivia Brits know!

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