China (July 10th to July 11th 2005)

I suppose it should be noted that this wasn’t a backpacking trip. i was simply a tourist not that in 2005, there is much diference between the two. Anyway, I did very little but relax for the month.

Day Eleven-July 10th
I woke up wondering should I stay or should I go. It was 8.00am and as well as relaxing I wondered what I was going to do. I required at the hostels yesterday about trekking, trekking maps or camping equipment, all to no avail but I packed up and took the bus to the bus station where I purchased a 45 Yuan ticket to Dali (new Dali as opposed to historical old Dali). It was 8.30am and the mini-bus was going. I got a seat near the door so i was able to spread my legs out onto the space between the driver and the front row passenger. It was a six hour journey in pleasant circumstances on a bloody good road, so we arrived there at 4.30pm.


Taken on the 10th of July 2005

Like alot of towns in China (and indeed Europe) there is an old town and a new town. The old town here is of Tibetan people and all the houses are Tibetean wooden structures. The town, seeing tourist potential for Han tourists, is renovating all these houses and laying cobbled stone streets. In the centre of old town, is this cobblestone sqaure (and manatory drunk in the centre), where every night, locals dance away in large circes to music from loudspeakers. The new town is full of normal shops with Han Chinese Merchants.

Click on the picture to see it in its original size


Taken on the 10th of July 2005

Is it authentic? Seemed to be. I have seen the same practice in other towns, as work ends, the fun begins. All the dancers knew what they were doing, alot of intricate hand and leg movements, many in traditional dress. Yes, some tourists as well. Still it was enjoyable. I should mention that this square did not exist the last time I visited a few years ago. This town is going places.

Click on the picture to see it in its original size

Not to be confused with Old Dali City (a major tourist attracting city to which I had been before), Dali is a modern city surrounded by mountains. As soon as I got there (at one bus station), I took a 5 Yuan taxi to the long distance long station about 8-10 minutes away. The taxi driver had no English and no idea what I wanted. I tried every expression and pointed out buses, showed my (Vietanmese photocopied version) China Lonely Planet guidebook. Thank god, the city signs were bilingual and just pointed out city centre until I stopped the station. Lots of buses coming and hoing. Ah well.

There was no point staying around Dali, so I went (in hope only) to get a ticket to Jinghong near the Laos border. The only bus was at 7.30pm that evening for 140 Yuan. I took it. I deposited my bag in storage.

I had a few hours around this quite clean and efficient town with a background of mountains. I ate some nice street food of fried potatoes and these gorgeous pancakes. It was wasn’t the pancake itself but what was in it – gorgeous vegetables and spices. Hmm.

There wasn’t alot to do and it started raining around 5.00pm. I went back to the station was sited opposite 3 Chinese waiting for a bus (the same one as mine as it turned out). The two girls and a boy were dressed as pop stars. One of the girls wasn dressed totally in pink from head to toe. She had a teddy bear (even though she was in her 20’s) and wore sunglasses (it was pouring rain outside now) the whole time.

At around 7.00pm, I headed to the sleeper bus. There was no room below the bottom bunks for any bags (which is the norm) so I was forced to put the bag in the back booth with no lock. No backpacker feels safe about luggage, especially when they wont see it for another 19 hours (theft, rain damage etc). Anyway, I met two German travelers going on the same bus. Now, I get on with 99% of people but these guys …

Ha, everything was wrong. Imagine two german guys speaking english and everything was “fuckin wrong, man”. “This fuckin bus… ridiculous. fuckin Chinese mercantile class, stupid people” They wanted two sleepers together so they told a Chinese guy to move, even though it was his seat. They shouted at him to move. They wanted his seat. When some wanted to pass them, they put their feet (as they were on the top bunks) over the heads of the Chinese so the Chinese passengers horror. Nothing likes walking underneath someones boots.

I was happy enough to head to my seat in the middle top bunk at the back of the bus. I mentioned before, I think that you have your good sleepers (clean sheets, pillows etc) and you get what we got today. It was a converted normal bus so it wasn’t wide enough or high enough. You could barely walk the aisle and you could not still up on your bunk. The length of each bus was only about 5 feet so foreigners (I am about 6 foot) cant lie back down. You can only lie down with your feet up or sleep in a fetus position. But I dont think any of us slept. The rags they gave us to sleep with sank of fags and dirt, full of holes and I believe never washed. The pillow was as bad. The thing is, I need something to throw over me at night. Cant rest otherwise, but I had to.

The pop stars I saw earlier at the station brought pink blankets and pillow cases. She gave out stink about the socks of the guy behind her. She had a magazine which she pretended to read but within its pages, was a mirror so that she kept looking at herself every 20 minutes. You could also hear the Germans continuing to give out.

Day Twelve-July 11th
We stooped around three or four times for breaks and had one 20 minute stop to get something to eat. They (the chinese governemnt/people) are building a new road to Jinghong, which we could see the whole trip. Spanking new, to be finished in a few months and here we were on a terrible road, where the bus could not afford to pick up any speed before hitting a pothole, corner, oncoming traffic before slowing down.

I did not get any sleep last night. A few reasons. Because of the length of the bunks, it was uncomfortable. Secondly, the Germans had some crazy idea that the bus was full of thieves and miscreants that were going to kill us in our sleep and take our belongings. Therefore, I wanted to keep an eye on my day bag. Thirdly, my position in the back meant I felt the bumps and potholes more than those guys in the front. Lastly, the exhaust was broken so i so engulfed with smoke and petrol fumes all night.

Anyway we arrived at 1.00pm. damn, it was hot here compared to Kunming/Dali etc. It was humid and damn hot. We walked to a nearby restaurant for food and refreshment. I think China is great. You pass a restaurant and the whole staff and owners try and get you in.. not out to rip you off but I believe they think its pretty cool to have foreigners frequent your premises. I dont who why, but the Germans let it to me to order even though my Chinese is crap and the restaurant owner/staff had no english. I visited their kitchen we had within 20 minutes plates of fish, chicken, vegetables and pork. When the Germans wanted Coke, the manager sent a girl out to get fresh cold bottles. The same with beer, he could do enough for us. It was a great deal all for the pricey sum of 50 Yuan (5 Euro in total). Food and drink is so cheap here.

We were stuffed and grabbed a 5 Yuan taxi to get us to another bus station, so that we could get to Mengla before dark.

We got there at about 2.15pm (a 5 minute taxi drive) and purchased a 32 Yuan ticket each to Mengla. It was going at 2.40pm. Indeed mini-buses go every 20 minutes there so its cool. So the three of us purchased some fresh fruit and headed off in a packed mini bus. We took the back seat.

Yeah another 4.5 hours. I am to add up how many hours I have been on a bus over the past few days. It was cramped, hot and sticky and kept on trying to move my legs and get some movement. The two Germans were making plans for Laos and wanted me to go exploring in Northern laos. They heard from an American (warning enough) that there were tree houses close to the border where people lived. I have seen TV programmes about these type of tree dwellings in papua New Guinea but not Laos and didn’t think there would be due to lack of wild animals or flooding. Still they were convinced of this plan. Anyway, it wasn’t a bad trip and we arrived at 7.00pm on the dot.

I had not stayed here before and I wasn’t going yo take any more buses. I could have taken a bus to Mohan on the border. Anyway, we checked out a hotel (after a tout brought us up there) and we got rooms for 40 Yuan each with ensuite. Yeah, it was damp and dirty but hell, a shower. Strange though, they gave us two condoms each at check it.

Anyway, we met at 8.15pm in the lobby and headed down down to get something to eat. We found a a few street restaurants and the owners were were dragging into each. we settled on one and sat down on some street chairs and a table. A few beers and again fab food. We had a nice evening and had a walk around. A real border down at night. Of the main street. there were about 30% of the premises – Karoke Bars. Usually dark rooms with up TV and about 20 tables and chairs facing the TV. Lots of paid company. Another 30% were massage parlous and finally a few shops and restaurants. The whole town was shrouded in pink neon.

The guys were pressing me on my plans and I wasn’t sure I wanted to spend another few days with them. Finally we settled on the idea that I could go early if i wanted to but they would wait for me in the lobby at 11.00am if i wanted to go with them. We had a pretty early night as it was a tiresome few days. I watched some Chinese TV and cut my hair. Bed.

I dont know my plans for tomorrow either. I will decide whatever time I wake up. If its late, I will go with the guys. if its early, i might try and head straight to Luang Prabang.

China (July 9th 2005)

I suppose it should be noted that this wasn’t a backpacking trip. i was simply a tourist not that in 2005, there is much diference between the two. Anyway, I did very little but relax for the month.

Day Ten-July 9th
We arrived about 8.00am. I thought i Might know my way to the Tibet Hotel but somehow I got lost. Theres a nice new bus station here and its fairly efficient. I took a 5 Yuan taxi instead as it was starting to rain. I booked into a second floor room (shared bathroom) for 40 Yuan. Even though I slept on the bus, you never get off a sleeper bus in China feeling refreshed. No showers until after 6.00pm so I slept until noon. Nice.

I walked to the Feli (prayer Wheel) and its as nice as ever (entrance fee has increased from 2 to 5 Yuan in one year). Invited by some Chinese tourists to help push the large prayer wheel around. Happy to oblige.

I walked into town and got reacquainted with this nice town. Still, lots of construction but surprisingly not in the town but the old Tibetan quarter. They are building and renovating dozens of Tibetan buildings and have even created an old town square. they are putting cobble stones on the pathways and have opened Tibetan style bars, shops etc. I see the town becoming the new Yangshou for backpackers. Experience Tibet and Tibetan culture without having to go to Tibet. Some new hostels and backpacker bars have already opened. There is a lovely laid back atmosphere compared to chinese towns and lots of trekking possibilities. You can easily spent a week relaxing here.

By the way, for the first time I went to a backpacker restaurant for the first time during the trip. It was really nice. A bowl of rice, bowl or ginger/chicken and a plate of steamed vegetables all for 25 Yuan.

I took a bus to the Monastery outside town for 1 Yuan on a local bus (12-15 minutes) and it was nice and quiet. There is a voluntary contribution of 10 Yuan. Big changes here as well, as they are renovating and adding some new structures. Lots of novice monks and students about. I spent about 2 hours here wandering and contemplating (not too heavily). Yeah, thinking of how long I would spend in town and where I would go next. I didn’t plan anything (too busy) before I flew to china so all this is just stress.

Zhongian Monastry – China

Taken on the 9th of July 2005)

Nice Tibetean style Monastry in the South East of China.

Click on the picture to see it in its original size

Zhongian Monastry – China

Taken on the 9th of July 2005)

Monks Clothes left out to dry. I didnt see any electricity cables here and certainly no Satelite Dishes, but most of the teenage monk novices had mobile phones.

Click on the picture to see it in its original size

Zhongian Monastry – China

Taken on the 9th of July 2005)

Impressive structures and they were building more when I was there. Looking to expand.

Click on the picture to see it in its original size

I headed back to the old town and walk the old streets until I get to the square. Music is playing from a balcony and its amplified all over the main square. There hundreds of local people are dancing to this squeaking but strangely rymdmic music. A bit like some Irish dances, they go clockwise and then back with extravagant hand movement or move into the circle in a mad mosh and expand outwards again. There are so many people 4-6 circles are required. I speak to a Taiwanese Tourist about his visit for about an hour and he is keen to learn the art of backpacking. He loves the idea of traveling place to place on public buses alone staying in cheap accommodation. He is on a package tour and he is really enjoying it. He says solo travelers are brave, but I assure him we are not. One thing he is correct about as he talks about an Australian he met earlier on his trip, Western backpackers have weak stomachs. It seems she was sick for a full week.

While I am quite lucky (as I am always eating local and street food) and only very rarely get stomach problems, many Western get sick at the slightest smell of non-western food.

Anyway I stayed until about 11.00pm and headed back to the tibet Hotel to have a late shower.

Zhongian Monastry – China

Taken on the 9th of July 2005)

Zhongian Monastry – You can see the town in the background. Its about a 10 minute bus ride. Two monks on the bottom left relaxing.

Click on the picture to see it in its original size

Zhongian Monastry – China

Taken on the 9th of July 2005)

Another structural shot of the main building in the courtyard.

Click on the picture to see it in its original size

Zhongian Monastry – China

Taken on the 9th of July 2005)

Every where I went, monks were working. They were getting water from the well, carrying in with buckets, working with food. Gardening. No one was idle.

Click on the picture to see it in its original size

I also took a 5 picture merges of the Monastry. You can see them here and here .

China (June 31st 2005 to July 8th)

I suppose it should be noted that this wasn’t a backpacking trip. i was simply a tourist not that in 2005, there is much diference between the two. Anyway, I did very little but relax for the month.

Day One – June 31st
My flight from Heathrow to Paris was at 10.15 to arrive at 12.25. I got up far too early at 6.00am and took the 6.40 ish train to Victoria. From there its a tube to Hammersmith and a change to the Heathrow line. After failing to book in via my e-ticket, I checked in manually and had lots of time. There is very little to amuse yourself in Heathrow. TV’s stuck to BBC 24 and a few shops – thats it. Nothing. I walked around and waited and waited and waited. Finally, the Air France flight to Paris was ready. The French stewardess uniforms must be one of the sexiest in the world – well, in comparison to the staff at blue/yellow Ryanair and the green that the OAP stewardesses wear at Aer Lingus. It makes the flight that more pleasurable.

Paris airport is large but impressive and clean. You must take buses from terminal to terminal. In this case from 2 to 2F. We left Paris at 13.35 arriving at the new Guangzhou airport (Baiyun) at 7.20am the next day (July 1st). The flight was OK but I have never slept in any flight I have taken. I watched Constantine and I love Huckabees on the entrainment screen. Yeah, it was OK and we arrived in time – around 7.30am.

Day Two-July 1st
Guangzhou has a new airport and wants to become a new regional hub like Hong Kong (which is only a two hour bus Journey away). I could have got a flight there – but it would have cost 755 more. I suppose people know the name Hong Kong and want to fly in there. You knows anything about Guangzhou. Its a massive city with no real centre. Its a shining example of what China is becoming (like Beijing /Shanghai) and as such is heavily promoted. The airport is first class, the roads are first class, public transport, its spotless. A city that the Chinese would hope infers a very favorable impression.

The new Airport is very impressive. Its a massive steel and glass structure – straight outta Star Trek / Battlestar Gallatica. Still, the place was empty. I mean empty. We strolled from the plane to Customs to Baggage without encountering any other passengers. I didn’t se any other International Airplanes on the Tarmac – just China Souther. We strolled to the baggage reclaim and I collected the bags. The immigration official were waiting and its just a two form process (SARS form and an entry form) and I was on.

The airport looks even more impressive when you see domestic check-in. International checkin is tiny in comparison. It may be a hub but its just a domestic one. I wanted to get out quickly so that I could catch a bus to town but for the life of me could not find an ATM. I asked about and in this incredible spanking new airport, there weren’t any ATM that took International Visa and what’s more, in this spanking new airport, there was just one currency counter back where I came from (International arrivals).

i walked back to find a small two person counter with about 15 people in line. What a pain. Most of the people were Chinese shop workers looking to lodge money from their business.

Lots of people around the world giving out about te new airport. High cost of food, no Signage, No ATM’s etc. You can check out consumer opinion here.

Lesson 1 about china: Queues. There is no such thing. it doesn’t matter if you are at a railway station ticket counter, bus stop, ATM machine, Bank Counter etc. Either they are looking over your shoulder (near impossible), pushing past you to get in first or standing beside you – they have to sense of personal space. When at the counter changing 20 US, I had a guy to my left waiting next happily looking at the transaction and a girl to my right pushing her money in so as to get in next. I had another girl right behind me pushing me ahead. In other words there are people 360 all around and if you feel insecure for your personal belongings, well tough.

Anyway once I had some money changed, I checked out the 5 separate bus express routes they have from the Airport. They travel too all the major bus, train and large hotels in the city. The trouble about the city is tat they have half a dozen big bus stations depending on what direction (N,S,E,W) you are heading to. I knew mine to be east so I purchased a 20 Yuan ticket to town. the traffic was shitty, really bad and my plans to head straight to Yangshou were unravelling. It was painfully slow progress for the us and its 5 passengers.

At about 10am we reached a nondescript (the whole city is nondescript) building and that was it. I was unsure where we were although the bus driver with no English simply pointed a road out to me with a smile. No explanation, just a direction. Its such a big neon city that each road looks the same. Each was chaotic but I took his advice and after 10 minutes walk saw the main northern train station. My Lonely Planet (photocopied and purchased in Vietnam for 5 US) said the bus station was close and sure enough it was there. I waited at the counter for a while and said my destination was Guilin (about an hour beyond Yangshou) but found the next bus was noon (it was about 10.15am now). I had little choice and purchased a ticket for 140 Yuan.

I did little little over the next hour or so. I purchased some food and some drink. I wasn’t suffering from Jet Lag. I was just getting used to the humid heat and the mass of people again. its hard for people to understand – you go to the train station and there might be 5,000-6,000 people waiting – its just a mass of people and its similar on the city streets. The city folk in the designer gear, the country folk in their fathers over long jackets and black slip on shoes with white socks looking at the city with mouths open. No room on the pavements. Sniggers and exaggerated “hello’s” looking for a response and a laugh.

Anyway, I got on the bus and we headed off on this 10 hour journey. The scenery was brilliant – that beautiful green – rice fields and karst formation poking up from the ground but I kept nodding off and again and I had some premonition that the bus wasn’t going the place it should be going or that it would run straight to Guilin without stopping or letting me know it was yangshuo.Yeah, it was uncomfortable because every time, I closed my eyes I nodded off for a few seconds.. I would wake up, some people would ahve disappeared from the bus.. i wouldnt know where I was and try and concentrate again.

Anyway, We finally arrived and I was reassurance from a passenger that we were there. I walked to the same hotel I was a year and a half ago. It was 80 Yuan per night (8 Euro). The town was still busy and particularly walking street. Things have changed with alot more discos, bars and Chinese Tourists.

When i was here in 2003, there were no chinese tourists here, just Western backpackers. Chinese tourists stayed in Guilin when visiting the region. We could only find one Chinese Disco back then and no Western orientated bars.

I headed to the China Clim ( bar which hadn’t changed a bit). I was feeling pretty weird after the long trip from home to Heathrow, the flight and the bus journey here so i ordered a local beer (7 Yuan is the usual price in the tourist bars here – less than .70 cent) and asked for a snake shot (Snake wine). Its fermented wine contained within large jars alongside pickled dead snakes and assorted fruit.

Well the barman says to all and sundry (about a dozen Canadians celebrating Canada day with maples sewed their clothes) that I was the only brave soul to order snake wine for a long while, it would be free of charge (as much as you wanted) for 10 minutes. As I was at the bar at the time, I had two withe barman in quick session. I was surprised of the about 12-14 of the bar only one other girl had taken the barman up on his generous offer. An American popped in and we started a conversation. We was only 18 and teaching English in taiwan. He father was a professor in Northern China. We were soon joined by an English and two israeli Guys. We had some more shots and a few beer and it was now 2.00am. I dont remember their names (it was a month ago) but its all a bit hazy after that. We all went to another bar along with the barman, drank alot until about 5.00am. We then headed to the river. The barman went swimming and at that stage, water, beer … I was awake (well sort of) for about 48 hours I headed back. I dont know how I got back to the hotel but I passed it out. Luckily the doorman saw me passing and ran down the street after me. I crashed.

Day Three-July 2nd
I crashed. I mean crashed. I woke at about 1.00pm but could not move. Slept, but woke every hour only to realize I could not getup. The curtains were open, the noise from the street loud, the sun shining in but no. I didn’t get up until 6.00pm. I had a bit to eat at a local place (rice noodles soup). You can usually buy it for between 2-4 Yuan and its delicious. It gives but a real buzz especially when you put some relish in it so you got a a meal and an invigorating soup. I had a beer and headed into town to peruse the night market. They sell a lot of crap but dont oversell to passer buys. The place is packed with people. I try and find a Bank of china that accepts International Visa. I keep on pressing the wrong button for an English menu. I am just not with it. I walk around a good bit and have promised to meet the America Guy. i relax with a beer in one of the many outdoor places they have beer. I talk to a bar owner who says that Chinese Tour Groups only started coming here about seven months ago and advised me to go down to the river jetty at noon to see them come in.

I met the american guy and headed back to China Climb Bar. Had a few beers and a few snake shots and before you know it, it was 4.00am and I headed home.

Click on the picture to see it in its original size

The River that passes through – Yangshou – China (02-07-2004)

Click on the picture to see it in its original size

The River that passes through – Yangshou – China (02-07-2004)

Click on the picture to see it in its original size

The River that passes through – Yangshou – China (02-07-2004)

Day Four-July 3rd
I had plans today to see some rice terraces but I met a guy at a travel agent who talked me out of it. He said he was here 5 years and hadn’t visited the famous caves, the rice terraces because they were – crap. The caves are full of artificial coloured lighting (as some of the tourist orientated caves are in China for some reason) and the ethic groups will torture you to by their market bought handicrafts. We went to the pub and met two tourists from England who had backpacked down from russia – spent a while looking at their photos. The girl in the couple had been sick for a full week and and could not to anything. She had researched her type of stomach problems on the Internet and self prescribed buying the antibiotics over the counter without perscibtion which is normal here.

The day was gone and tried to buy train tickets to Kumning but none to be had until the 5th. I paid a deposit (100 Yuan out of a total 160 Yuan) and headed for a full body oil massive for 50 Yuan with Mrs.Li (well known in town) for 50 Yuan.

It was quite sore. I never had one before and really caused pain when he roller her fists down my back. I never rather light headed at the end. i met tourists who swore by her and had been there everyday of their trip. Some tourists spoke to me about their job teaching English four hours south of here, in a city of 4000,000 that nobody has heard of. Its quite funny that there are hundreds of these 1/2 million plus cities in China that no foreigner has ever heard of.

Anyway, I had a pretty early night.

Day Five-July 4th
I headed down to the jetty around noon to see the circus. It was incredible. About 30-40 very large boats steamed in from Guilin to unload tourists. About 50/50 in terms of domestic and international visitors. The town has changed alot. There i now a massive riverside market at the jetty that all unloaded visitors have to pass through. Its a 20-minute maze for these poor unfortunate souls to get into town (although they are some short-cuts out) so as these visitors are part of groups, they are led around by flag bearing guides. As soon as they get out of the market maze, they are led onto golf buggies (electric) which bring them around town. Its incredible to see a small town swamped in these large pink buggies ferrying the visitors from site to site.

The town is quite busy until 5.00pm when the boats depart or more usually they depart back to Guilin on buses.

I was supposed to collect my train ticket at 6.00pm but it wasn’t available. I went to a pub near China Climb called Black Parrot something or another. Anyway I met John, the english bar/owner who had been here for five years and just had a kid with a local paper. Over the next few hours, I got the life story. We were joined by a sacked Chinese nightclub owner and a gaggle of Shanghai girls he was trying to impress and an American (mid 20’s) who was on a tour group along with his sister. Anyway, it went on until 2.00am and I went out earlier to get my train ticket. Still, my train was 8.52am and it was an hour to the station at Guilin. I made my way home along the same road as the American. The bus girls joined for some reason. I was good, swapped details but didnt invite hime for a late night latte!

It was a good night. Stories of Chinese Babies having saline trips when they get sick, the future of the town, card games – it went on and on.

Click on the picture to see it in its original size

Computer Love – Yangshou – China (04-07-2004)

Click on the picture to see it in its original size

Druken Lullabies – Yangshou – China (04-07-2004)

Day Six-July 5th
I was up around 7.00am. Buses pass through every 15 minutes or so so I just needed to stand on the street. It was straightforward although it took a 20-minute detour up a hill and around some rough roads until we got back on the main road. I wasn’t feeling that good for my impending 22 hour journey. I was thinking about the barman last night talking about Chinese beer. its very cheap, but according to his five years experience, Chinese Beer has a 50/50 chance of giving you the runs (diarrhea). if you can drink a few bottles and don’t rush to the toilet, your sorted but it doesn’t sit with alot of people.

The ticket I purchased was a hard sleeper. The last time I was in this town i took a bus to Gulin to buy it, but bus tickets cost 10 Yuan each way, your better off paying the 30 Yuan commission to a travel agent in town to save you the time. Anyway, I was in the middle bunk with five Chinese friends from Kunming who were at a football match. They were pretty cool and no hassles. Chinese trains are excellent and no need to buy any food or drink before hand. Everything can be purchased on the train or at the station vendors along the way. The hot food (rice/Vegetables etc.) are especially good value.

Click on the picture to see it in its original size

On the way by way on Train to Kunming – China (05-07-2004)

Now, I have slept on hard sleepers before and have slept OK but this time I felt I was sleeping on a wooden kitchen table. The mattress was less than 4 mm thick and I thought I was sleeping on concrete blocks. i could not settle. i even got up and purchased a small bottle of Chinese Whiskey to knock me out but no – no sleep would come. I wasn’t stressed about safety etc. I dunno. Anyway we arrived at 7.00am, the next day, the sixth of July.

Day Seven-July 6th
As I have to Kunming before, I know the location of the hotel and its only a 10-15 minute walk. I am jaded tired and the city is starting to get busy. I didn’t sleep at all last night on the train. I checked into my room for 40 Yuan. You dont get a key, so you have to ask the floor attendant every time you see to open your door and this place is big. About 30 rooms on each of the 10 floors. I slept until 3.00pm.

I am in a delima on whether I will stay in china for the month or get a visa for Laos. As well as that I felt some stomach problems coming on..ah, yeah a rush to the toilet was called for and chinese toilets are not the best places to have stomach problems. first of all, you better have your own toilet paper, second; forget about privacy. In the toilet block you may be squatting beside 2/3 other guys (same in the women’s toilet) and they may be having a fag and staring at the foreigner as you are suffering and your stomach is convulsing. Thirdly, you have to remember not to lose your belongings in your pants as you squat. Many a traveler have lost their wallet down the bottomless pit that a squat toilet is. Lastly, as the sewers can not take toilet paper, you have to dump into a wast paper bin and dont forget to wash down your waste with a a few pans of water as you leave for the next poor unfortunate soul.

I took this from a Lonely Planet Forum Post. its quite funny.

ate: Every day (sometimes several times a day)
Location: China

I have to talk about the toilet situation. Toilets here consist of a
porcelain hole in the floor, with a little area behind the hole to
catch stray drips or whatever. So you squat and aim for the hole,
trying desperately not to allow your pants or anything but the bottoms
of your shoes touch the floor, as it’s always wet and you never know
what it’s wet with. You try not to breathe as the smell is really
really bad, but you don’t want to pass out and fall down, so it’s a
balance of holding the breath and gasping for air when you can’t stand
it anymore. You just pray that your sense of balance is good as you try
not to fall forward or backward, and you try not to touch ANYTHING.
Then you either flush if it has a flush, or take a big dipper of water
from a nearby bucket and manually flush.

Okay, so far so
good. The problem is when there is no flush OR dipper of water from a
nearby bucket, or when the women who have gone before you have
neglected to flush… what happens is that the bathroom creates an
intense and incredibly powerful smell of amonia and mixed pee that can
be smelled all the way around the corner. And there’s usually not a
door in the front of each little stall for privacy. There is NEVER
toilet paper, and I noticed that many Chinese women don’t seem to use
it. I don’t know what they do instead, if they drip dry or what. If you
are lucky enough to have a sink outside to wash at, there is NEVER

My absolute worst bathroom experience so far: a very
primitive bathroom located in a small town in the middle of nowhere…
one small dark room, with a floor which has wooden slats, where you
place your feet and do your business in-between the slats. If you are
daring enough to glance between the slats, about a quarter of an inch
below you can see all kinds of human waste, paper, trash, bugs… god
knows what else. No doors, no toilets…. just a bunch of women in a
small dark room, squatting and aiming for between the slats. That was
one day I wished I was wearing a skirt as many of the women were; I
didn’t wake up that day with the goal of letting a bunch of women see
my big white foreigner’s behind. But did I use it? Yes, I did!

I returned to bed for a while before heading to the Laos embassy. i to call into a five star hotel (luckily, they thought I was a guest) to use a toilet and feel the cold air or a air-conditioner. I didn’t make it. I did a little shopping as Kunming is the best place (in my opinion) to buy pirated DVD’s and music. There’s a shop in every street selling recent DVD’s for 6-10 Yuan (.60 cent to 1 euro). As I am on holidays rather than a backpacker route of self-discovery, I reserve to do holiday things like not visiting museums, attractions any buying with self-indulgence as many damn DVD’s as I like.

I go a local restaurant near the bus station but my stomach isn’t really up for anything heavy. I retire early.

Day Eight-July 7th
I felt alot better today. I am up early and do a nice bit of wayward, no map walking and have some some nice culianry experiences. I also decide of heading north and backtracking, I will head into Laos and decide from there. I walk to the Laos Embassy. the guy is pretty ignorant and I pay 450 Yuan for a visa to be collected next day. What I didn’t know is that you can now buy the visa at the border. Its updated in the new china Guide. I should have checked it out but how was I do know. Some do a little more research but on this trip as a experiment I am trying to use Internet cafes and the camera as little as possible.

The rubbish about the strict firewalls here and the need to register is not tue. There are Internet cafes all over the place and no need to register. Some people in the cafes are either in chat rooms or are playing computer games (all pirated).

Anyway I walk to the pus station and buy a ticket for a sleeper bus to Zhongian for tomorrow evening (5.30pm). By all accounts it may take up to 24 hours, but its hard to guess with buses. I have a nice evening walk around town. Not many tourists and there is no backpacker area or even a hostel in the city. I do go to the university area where there is a foreigner street with a few bars. You have some foreign students and some teaching English. Still, little happening and I have a pretty early night.

Day Nine-July 8th
I get up and leave my bags with the hotel. My stomach is pretty much back to normal and I enjoy the way, taking different buses all over the city. its only 1 Yuan a ride and they are pretty easy to understand, with stops automatically announced in English and chinese. I head back around 4.30pm and read Grapes of Wrath. Decent book. I had seen the film, but never read the book it was based on.

I go to the bus station and get a lower bunk bed. Its an excellent bus compared to many I have taken. I get a clean pillow and sheet and the bus doesn’t stink. Maybe its the city people, but they don’t even spit and smoke during the trip.

it was great, scenery, stopped for 20 minutes, got a 8 Yuan meal. no smells, no breakdowns and most importantly, I actually slept on a bus. Must be oneof the few times, i have ever did so. I closed my eyes and dreamt. Great