Posted by Evan on Tuesday, 15 November 2005 at 6:16 pm
After boarding the afternoon train to Kunming I collapsed into a deep slumber–not surprising considering I’d been up all night. When I awoke I found it was the middle of the night and everyone else on the train was asleep. Having come down from all the pot and ecstasy I also found myself desperately horny. After waking Betty she quite readily joined me on my hard-sleeper top bunk for a quickie, with 58 other Chinese people asleep in the carriage!
Towards the end things started to get a little noisy, however, the Chinese shy away from any form of direct confrontation, so anyone who was woken by our activities politely made no indication.
We spent our first day in Kunming doing fairly mundane things, like organising my visa and flight ticket to Laos, as there seemed little to do in the city–in actuality we spent a lot of time being indiscreet in our dormitory.
On our second day we decided that we’d visit the Shilin Stone Forest, before heading off to Lijiang. The Lonely Planet gives Shilin a rather mundane write up, but it’d been recommended to me by J, so we thought we’d have a look.
As I re-read the LP entry on Shilin I couldn’t help but notice that local legend holds that the forest was created when the gods smashed a mountain into thousands of pieces so lovers could find privacy–the forest is comprised of an innumerable number of sheer limestone protuberances that form a confusing labyrinth, up to 30 meters tall.
Being the sort of traditional guy that I am I naturally opted to try out the local customs by pulling Betty off one of the main paths and round a few bends, until we found a secluded corner. In all it was quite the experience, as we could hear the voices of hundreds of Chinese package tourists echoing all around us… and undoubtedly they could also hear us
After returning to Kunming we got on a sleeper bus heading north to Lijiang—a UNESCO certified world heritage city. Lijiang is a beautiful city filled with traditional architecture and cobbles streets. It wasn’t quite the backpacker haven that I’d expected, but nonetheless (or perhaps, all the more) it’s a very enjoyable city.
On our first day in Lijiang, Betty and I had a bit of an argument that highlighted the different gender roles in our respective cultures. Unbeknownst to me, when I suggested that Betty come to Yunnan with me, what I was really offering was to completely pay for everything. She hadn’t brought any money at all and we were a full day’s travel from Chengdu and planning to return separately. Betty’s solution to this problem was that I should beat her!
Notwithstanding her strange request we adequately resolved the situation—I agreed to keep paying for everything.
The following day we set off for Tiger Leaping Gorge, in the hope of being able to hike the gorge over two days and one night. It’s such a shame that we had so little time to spend here, however, as it proved to be one of the most scenic and beautiful places I’ve ever visited. Sheer mountains and cliffs plunging hundreds of meters down into a raging river form the backdrop to a pleasant and unstrenuous walk through fields of marijuana growing alongside the hiking trails.
The local villages with whom we stayed were superbly inviting and the food proved to be one of the innumerable highlights of our trip.
After returning to Lijiang, Betty and I parted company–she returned to Chengdu for work, and I travelled back down south to Dali.
Arriving in Dali is like stepping out of China and into the sort of backpacker mecca that South-East Asia is so famous for. Western restaurants and bars abound, although of a generally poor standard, and the place is full of tourists who’ve entered China from Vietnam or Laos and have no appreciation of the culture in which they find themselves.
Bearing in mind that this was the greatest number of white people I’d seen in ages, I found myself rather alienated from the travellers I met, and ended up spending most of my time hanging out in a small café, Caffeine, run by a guy from Sydney.
Caffeine turned out to be just what I needed to recover from the preceding couple of weeks—a tiny little slice of Amsterdam in the south of China, with better weather. While I waited to collect a package for a friend back in Chengdu, I spent five delightful days whiling away my time in relative solitude; playing chess, drinking great espresso, and smoking plenty of pot.
Of the two times I did go out neither time did I really behave myself. To cut an otherwise long story short, the first night out involved two bottles of Tequila, a group of gay French men, and an unconscious body on the couch (i.e. mine). From what I later learned this was probably the safest position to be in, as everyone else went outside to dance on the roof of the building—ending in someone falling head first off the roof and ending up in hospital.
One of the reasons that I’d gone to Dali was to drop in on a friend, Scott, who owns a bar there, The Bad Monkey. Unfortunately when I’d arrived his place was all shut up and no one had heard from him in several days. On my last night in Dali, however, he’d opened his bar for the first time in a couple of weeks.
When I arrived at the Bad Monkey I leaned across the bar and told Scott that he’d have to throw me out before the night was over. Fair warning I though, considering that later that night he hit me repeatedly with a blunt sword before tackling me to the ground and pushing me out the door. All in good humour, of course.
Check out the photo gallery.
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