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Our world Travel On 10th May 2007 I fled the UK on a journey around the world with a long list of places to go. Got as far as the Philippines where I met my wife. We got married on 11th May 2010 and are now sharing the experiences of travelling the world together

Wuhan to Li jiang

CHINA | Saturday, 2 August 2008 | Views [1696]

Thu 31st Jul - Spending a day or so at the Pathfinder hostel has been great after the boat trip. The food is excellent and the athmosphere conducive to relaxing. The walls are decorated by the residents with funky designs....very hippie in parts. I thought I would get my laundry up to date whilst here, but there are no dryers and it rained, so my clothes ended up as wet as when they came out of the washing machine. Last hours spent with big fans trying to get them dry. The tribulations of travel that you have to deal with.

It is a bit away from the main attractions and went out last night for a walk to find the 'Golden Cranes' temple, but gave up after a while as I couldn't find it, but enjoyed the walk anyway. Enjoyed a walk along the river front. Not too exciting, but pleasant enough.

A chinese girl who as been sharing the room, will shortly be heading off to the UK to go to Edinburgh university. One of my favourite cities in the world and brought back memories of many happy times there.

I am booked onto flight EU 2710 departing at 18:45 and due to arrive in Kunming at 20:45. Apparently about an hour away from the hostel by taxi. Cost was 720 Yuan but they then add the Airport tax of 50 Yuan and the Fuel surcharge of 150 Yuan and a 50 Yuan booking fee, so it soon adds up. But the alternative of a couple of days by bus wasn't on right now, as it would be eating in to my visa time.

Decided to go to the airport early as always worth it in case of problems. Got the hostel to write down my destination in chinese as usual and the price to pay. The journey highlighted a couple of things. Firstly, only taxis with odd number plates could go north of the river today. Secondly, Tianhe airport is a long way and the traffic was horrendous. Took 1hr30m to get there and cost 100 Yuan! The airport is very smart and easy to navigate. Staff really pleasant and got through check-in and security checks easy enough. I always think it's stupid when they want you to throw your drinks away before you go through to the expensive departure area, but are happy for you to stand there and drink them! Usual big open spaces to sit and ponder, and a nice amount of time ahead of boarding at 18:15.

Didn't know until the plane arrived who the airline was I was flying with, as it wasn't marked on the ticket in an intelligable way. Turned out to be United Eagle Airlines and on an airbus A320, which are very comfortable. Less than half full and a nice meal included.
Kunming airport is very efficient and baggage came though as I arrived at the conveyor belt. Was outside the airport about 20minutes after the plane had landed! The taxi bay is right outside of the exit complete with officer booth and poper taxis. Was immediately approached by a guy offering a taxi and we negotiated a rate of 35 Yuan...bearing in mind I have no idea how far it is to my digs. Followed him and his taxi was a unmarked car, so refused and returned to the taxi queue. Got in a proper taxi with a meter and the journey only cost me 20 Yuan! There is a lesson in there somewhere?

The journey from the airport is superb if you're into bright lights, as the roads are lit up and many buildings have light displays. Arrival in the city center is amazing, and was alive with so much to catch your attention. Pagoda style arches, masses of colour everywhere, buses and other traffic vying for space. And the welcome sight of some great looking restaurants. A very interesting place indeed.
Dropped right outside of The Hump hostel, which happens to be right in the center of it all. What a fantastic location to choose. Got checked in ok and sharing an 8-bed dorm for 25 Yuan. Free wifi here, so time to catch up with stuff whilst having a meal and a great chat with Belinda back in the uk, who happened to be on-line. That was a nice surprise.
Off for a brief walkabout and this place is amazing. Many bars playing good live music and totally alive and kicking place. Really shattered though, so off to ed and will probably stay another night, just to be able to take a better look tomorrow.

Fri 1st Aug - Today was a bit of a mixed bag of things. Slept like a log after the noise died down and I resorted to ear plugs. Great place, just so damned noisy. Breakfast options were good as they cater for westerners. One thing you do not get in China is muesli, despite them offering it. What you get is a plate of fruit and a sprinkling of thinly flaked bird food!

Was going to try and organise some further travel but gave up after some struggles, but managed to catch up with other stuff and well as talking to a lovely friend in the uk who I miss. Went out to explore the immediate area before the limited amount of time I have here vanished. It is actually really interesting for a day stopover. The main Jinmabiji square where I am staying is enhanced by two lovely pagoda style arches and plenty of quaint roads leading off it to explore. Across the Jinbi road is one of the main shopping streets, but the real treat for me was further along that street, across from a massive bronze street map laid into the paving. The road narrows into a stall lined lane, all with hanging red lanterns and with the highest concentration to date of things I didn't recognize. China can certainly confound when it comes to what they can do with anything. Animal, vegetable, you name it, they can do a thousand things with it. Even in a restaurant, you can look at it, prod it, taste it, and you still have no idea what it is! They did look puzzled when I was taking photographs, but they know what it is.
Some other sights you see here and probably nowhere else....people having their hair dyed in the street ... blind massage centres on the pavement. They dress in white lab coats and you either sit or lay down for your massage. I also saw a number of limbless people doing calligraphy with their toes. Even a blind group of musicians, who were quite entertaining.
My watch broke about a week ago and couldn't find anywhere else until now to buy a replacement. I guess that everywhere they don't need one as they have their mobile phone permanently with them. Many street sellers selling pistols and guns and even bows and arrows. Not sure what the legal side of that is?
Also, after Japan where almost nobody has pets, it is odd here that so many people have dogs and cats...methinks they may be destined for the pot at some stage in their development!
Disappeared down some lanes and found a few lovely deserted courtyards and the most improbably narrow buildings I had seen in a while. The occupants must sleep on their side!

Thought I would get some more money on my way back to the hostel and that is when it all started to go wrong. No ATMs would give me any....panic! Flew back to the hostel and got on-line...my bank accounts had ALL vanished! Have you ever had one of those moments when you feel your world has just collapsed? After a while managed to contact the UK to find that they had sent some mail to the wrong address that needed a response. The mail was returned to the sender and so they closed/froze all of my accounts and cards. Took a while to sort and they admitted it was their mistake. Cards should work tomorrow, but no online banking for upto one week. Panic over...phew...! Managed to get some cash on a credit card, but that will cost me and they won't reimburse me for that cost.

Now, whilst this was all going on there was one of those rare moments of a solar eclipse passing over china...I was stuck on the phone and saw about 10 seconds of it....bugger!! Also, my stomach has been a bit dodgy all day and didn't want to stop the call whilst I was sorting out the bank. Couldn't wait to finish my call to do a runner....nature sometimes calls at the wrong time!

I am on an overnight sleeper bus to Lijiang tonight due to leave at 9pm. My ticket had arrived earlier in the day, so fairly relaxed although my system isn't...well it is...too relaxed if you get my drift. All sleepers leave from the bus station on Beijing Lu, so armed with instructions written in chinese to get me there. The first taxi I stopped refused to take me there, and the second one shot off in the opposite direction to where I knew the station was. Took me a while to convince him to stop and turn around. Easier said then done as the traffic was solid. Managed to get there eventually. The bus station has no english whatsoever, but fortunately armed with ticket got directed to a stand with the wrong bus at it. I had to physically get someone to walk me to the right bus, which was nowhere near the original bus stand!

Now, on the bus and in my chinese sized thin strip of a bed. Thought that would be it. Nope..a guy came on insisting I pay him 10 Yuan for my backpack. Fortunate again that I had read a notice at the hostel that this isn't true. He was saying it was due to the cost of fuel. I stood my ground and refused and he argued and argued and I still refused. He eventually gave up and smiled at me and said...maybe other people had more money than I did! Made me laugh...and him too. Then his english ability miraculously improved, and he was able to hold a fairly decent conversation with me.... And to then prove how clever he was...he came out with a string of stuff in six languages....makes m even more sick does that. I envy people with such language abilities. Amazing that isn't it? He had also told me that the bus was leaving at 8:30pm, which it did actually say on the front of the bus, so I couldn't really argue with him. Funny I said and showed him the ticket which said 9pm. I am the bus company manager and I know what time the bus is leaving...it actually left at 9:40pm! This country is such a struggle at times! He could speak in six languages, but couldn't tell the time!
As soon as the engine started, the swealtering box of a bus instantly transformed itself into a fridge with cryogenic temperature airconditioning. No wonder they supply thick blankets! If you ever plan on taking a chinese overnight sleeper bus, my best advice is...do so only if you fancy an adventure and can manage without sleep for most of the night!
The bus arrived at about 6:30am in Lijiang and although bumpy in parts, managed to get some sleep. There was a toilet stop at midnight which amused me as there were two identical looking buses and I came out of the toilet thinking that mine was driving away without me on it. It was late after all and I wasn't paying too much attention. Apart from that, no other stops.

A strange thing about China...it is a common event to appoach a taxi driver, show him your instrucions and they refuse and drive off. Gets annoying after a while, but you have to persevere. If they look as though they are considering it then jump in quick and haggle with them. My taxi cost 10 Yuan to get to the old town....bear in mind that there is a lot of it they cannot reach as too narrow for cars. I got dropped at a location and arms waved in the direction I was supposed to go. Turned out to be totally opposite direction to the correct way, but got there in the end. There was a benefit to this... The alleys were almost deserted at 7am, apart from some Naxi women in their traditional clothing. That cheered me up tremendously.

I am stayin at the Panba Guest House. Not too difficult once you go the right direction! Extremely friendly and cosy place although out of the main part of the old town. Settled in, showered, shaved and breakfasted and time to explore.....Li Jiang must rate as one of the most beautiful places I have ever visited. Stunning old architecture and plenty of old Naxi folk around to keep your camera on meltdown! Hundreds of Inns and hotels to choose from, all over the old town. My guest house is on Wuyi street, which leads to Sifang Square, as do most of the main alleys. This is a magic haven of olde worlde charm and a meeting place for the old folk to collect and chat. Off the square heading north are two lovely streets (Dongba and Xinhua), which are incredibly attractive and lead to Yuhe Square, where there are two large water wheels and many other attractions to peruse. On the way there, streams cross-crossed by wooden bridges and multi-coloured old shops strung with red lanterns outside, create a perfect postcard at every turn. Many shops are run by traditionally clothed folk and there are plenty of crafts to see in operation...papermaking, calligraphy (with weathered old men in old dynastic costume), copperware makers, silversmiths, wood carving, wood burning, soap stone carving...plus more. The aromas as you wander through the alleys are hypnotic...food of so many descriptions, perfumes, herbal medicine shops. The whole town is a sensory overload!
For the first time in ages I was able to do some posting as found some postcards (which are hard to come by) and bought my daughter's birthday present and got it posted at the China Post office just off Sifang Square...Lucky find that was. So much stuff available here, you could seriously put a dent in your finances!
Many boards are spread through the town showing a view across the roofs. The vantage point for that view is not too difficult to find. From Yuhe square, head around the back of the water wheels and follow the signs for Wancheng temple. Through the temple there is a caf¨¦ were I sat and had a Naxi pancake and Yunan coffee whilst overlooking the rooftops of the town. Lots of activity whilst I sat, with old women passing with stacks of bricks on their backs, and other old folk in dress. A really magic place.

Headed back to the square and stopped for a while to watch the world go by...fascinating in every direction. Done enough over the past few hours, so need to take a break and head back to Panba. Will take another look around later when its starts to get dark.

I happy to find that one of my bank accounts has reappeared since yesterday. Hopefully the others will follow!

Off out again later, taking a different route past the town wells. These are used for drink water as well as washing and are interesting places as the locals are around in their traditional dress. The street food stalls were also out in larger numbers than earlier in the day, as were the fruit sellers. They have a nice range in season at the moment...mango, mangosteen, durian, jackfruit, bananas, plums and what I can only describe as chinese coconut. It has a bright purple and red two one shiny hard surface and you can hear th liquid inside when you shake it. It also has the three dimples in the end like a normal coconut.
Stopped off in Sifang square again as the Naxi women were doing a circle dance which anyone could join in with. They must do this evry day to the music piped over the tannoy system. The square was crowded and such a happy atmosphere.

Tried some street snacks to whet my appetitie... potato cake with a chilli sauce followed by a pineapple pancake, which are everywhere. Must have been hungry as I then went to a traditional Naxi restaurant for a proper meal and wait for it to get darker. When it does, boy does this place get even prettier. With the lanterns lit and many restaurants featuring live music, it makes for a wonderful atmosphere, just the sort to wander around and soak it up.....

Back at the hostel after a long day, and reminded to relate a poem or more a moral that adorns the outside wall....it's called Slow Dance.....

Have you ever watched kids on a merry-go-round!
Or listened to the rain slapping on the ground?
Ever followed a butterfly's erratic flight
Or gazed at the sun into the fading night?
   You better slow down, don't dance so fast
   Time is too short, the music won't last!

Do you run through each day on the fly?
When you ask..How are you?
Do you hear the reply?
When the day is done, do you lie in your bed With the next hundred chores running through your head?
   You better slow down, don't dance so fast
   Time is too short, the music won't last!

Ever told your child, we'll do it tomorrow?
And in your haste, not seen his sorrow?
Ever lost touch. Let a good friendship die cause you never had the time to call and say...'Hi'
   You better slow down, don't dance so fast
   Time is too short, the music won't last!

When you run so fast to get somewhere, you miss half the fun of getting there.
When you worry and hurry through your day, It is like an unopened gift.... Thrown away!
   You better slow down, don't dance so fast
   Time is too short, the music won't last!

Very true and sometimes it is easy to rush...it won't last! I have learnt through my travels about the importance of the people I meet on the way and who I shared the experiences with...not to be forgotten.

Tomorrow I am planning to head off on a trek of the Tiger Leaping Gorge....more on that next time.


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