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When you look like your passport it's time to go home.

Blogging in Kunming

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I spent most of the day catching up with the blog. There is so much to say and so many pictures to upload. Which stories? Which pictures? These are all dilemmas of the itinerant blogger. I'm afraid to see too much during the day because then I'll have to write about it later. How warped is that? It's just wrong.

There are lots of stories I can write just about the people we met at this hostel. There are some very strange people at these places.

For example, there's this lonely woman we met who is originally from Oregon but now lives in Thailand. She's traveling to Mongolia alone. We sat next to her at breakfast. She is a fountain of information on China if you want to know, but I'll warn you, there's no spigot to shut her off. I feel bad for her. I take for granted that I have a great traveling companion. The woman has been all over the map. She is hard to look at for her face of wrinkles and sagging features. She must spend all her time in the sun. I couldn't help thinking that her face actually looks like a map. She was nice enough and we listened politely until our coffee cooled.

There's another couple staying here with a one year old baby. We first noticed the family when the father passed us in the hall on our way to our room. His baby did not have a stitch of clothing on. Later, at lunch, I saw him put the naked kid on the ping pong table. The table was hot from the sun and the kid made a yelp. During our two day stay here I've never seen the kid dressed. Maybe he doesn't have any clothes? They've really taken this thing kind of far. Other than that, the father seems fairly normal. I mean, he is coherent when you talk to him and he returns a hello when you pass him in the hall.

But I can't say the same for his wife. I have serious doubts about this woman. She plods shoeless around the hostel wearing a blank stare. She never smiles, nor does she ever greet us. All day long she just ambles about. I've seen her walk into the middle of the open eating area, stop, and stare off into the distance. After a minute, she'll wander off down the hallway. Once she walked in front of us on the way down to eat. But at the stair landing she suddenly stopped. We had to change our path to avoid knocking her down the stairs. Then she turned around and drug herself back up the stairs. Ruth was afraid of meeting this woman carrying a hatchet in her next nightmare. When Ruth asked the receptionist about the zombie girl (well, she didn't use those exact words), the receptionist just raised her eyebrows. She says they've been here for days and don't know when they'll go. We lock our door at night. Strange brew.

In the afternoon, when the day cooled down, we went out for a walk and to buy some more DVDs. Ruth found this awesome deal. She bought a DVD movie of Chicken Run in audio English/Chinese as well as subtitles in both languages. So we went out and bought seven more movies for about $1 each. They work great on the computer. We've already seen Chicken Run in Chinese.

So now we have movies to watch just as soon as we get board of touring China.

In Paris they simply stared when I spoke to them in Fench; I never did succeed in making those idiots understand their own language. - Mark Twain

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When the sun finally came up we went to the dining car. We still had several hours before we arrived in Kunming, so we had breakfast while we watched the landscape swoop past of orchards, farmlands and factories.

When the train pulled in we dashed out to catch a taxi. We didn't have any arrangements for hotel, we didn't know where we were going, we thought we'd wing it. Well, actually Ruth thought we'd wing it. I asked her:

"What are you going to tell the taxi driver when he picks us up?"

"I'll just tell him to go to Jinbi Square."

"Do you know how to say that in Chinese?"

"I'll practice with some people around here and if not, I'll just show him the map."

"Good thinking. Wait, where's my hat?"

I left Ruth by the exit gate of the train station and ran back against the mob to get my hat.

We flagged a taxi who dropped us off at Jinbi Square in Kunming among throngs of people, just as Ruth predicted.

The city felt like Guilin. It was hot. We threaded our single roller bag and my backpack to the square looking for the International Hostel we'd read about. We saw the hostel at Yangshuo and decided that it would be a clean place to stay.

But we couldn't locate it. No one understood us when we asked where it was or where the Intewang (Internet) was but we should have been asking for the Wangba (Net bar). After 20 minutes of wandering, Ruth found the place. I was drenched and hadn't had a shower in 20 hours. This was tough going.

The hostel near the square is located right next to the Himalayas. It's up on the third floor (more hiking) and is a decent place to stay. It doesn't have a phone, or TV, or toiletries. ("No phone, no pool, no pets" to the tune of King of the Road.) But for $20 a night who can complain. It's clean and large, the staff is friendly, they speak English and in addition to many Chinese travelers there are some foreigners here who speak English that we can visit with. It's also in a great location and within walking distance of the Green Lake Park. (If you do stay here, get a room away from the bar below and you'll sleep better. Also, always bring earplugs.)

After a brief sit and cool drink (we still felt ourselves moving from the train ride), we dumped our stuff in the room and went walking up Zhengyi Lu (Righteous Road) to the park. On the way we found a pet store with birds, fish, rabbits, mice, hamsters, snakes, lizards, beetles, and bugs. It was an unusual pet store. We also found a map of the city in a very unusual place, in the concrete walk. They have an inlaid brass map in the center of the square. Very cool.

Green Lake Park has lots of folks singing and dancing and playing musical instruments. It was very restful after a day of people, cars and noise. (A car nearly ran over my foot while I was crossing the street to get here. I slapped the trunk to push away and only later realized it was a police car.) I like it that there always seems to be a park in every major city in China. The Chinese understand the importance of being able to escape the crowds.

On the way back Ruth got a massage right in the center of town. Right out on main street are blind people sitting on chairs under trees. They call out: "An'mo" (4th, 1st Press, Touch; massage). For just 10 yuan you can get a 10 minute massage. While Ruth got the massage I found a restaurant called My Favor Cafe, not My Favorite Cafe, but My Favor Cafe. There it was in big huge light-up letters. Hasn't anyone heard of a proof reader? How about a grammar checker. (Of course, I'm one to talk.) But it was good food.

The hostel also has a roof top restaurant and view of the square below. Cool breezes roll through and billow the curtains. They serve draft beer and smoothies and they provide Wifi in the rooms. (Keep in mind that we can't drink the water. The beer is very weak, about 2-3% alcohol. We took a risk with the smoothie which was made with fresh strawberries.)

(I'm playing catch up today on the blog. Ruth has been going in and out of the room roaming the streets by herself looking at stuff. I've promised to go with her the next time she gets back. I have just an hour or so to upload to the Net. She really doesn't mind so much. In fact, she kind of likes to venture out on her own. She likes to get lost and then have to ask in Chinese where she is. People are mostly helpful.)

"Hey, Dave," (she's back in the room) "Have you seen my tweezers?"

"Nope. But you can use mine from my Swiss Army pocket knife."

"But those aren't very good are they?"

"Well, no, but they might work in a pinch." [grin]

Got to go.

The man who goes out alone can start today; but he who travels with another must wait till that other is ready. - Henry David Thoreau

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China 2008

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