The Other Hullabaloo

Trip Start Mar 21, 2005
Trip End Ongoing

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Where I stayed
The Hump

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Friday, March 10, 2006

At The Hump
Staying at "The Hump" youth hostel in Kunming, named as a jumping-off point to the Himalayas, I am now relaxing in China's big southwestern city--at least one of them--watching movies, meeting locals, and remembering the last two months in Laos, Cambodia, and Vietnam.

I just watched Kill Bill 2, starring Uma Thurman and David Carradine and directed by Quentin Tarantino. David Carradine is perhaps known best for his role as Kwai Chang Caine in Kung Fu the TV series. When leaving Martha's Vineyard almost eleven months ago, my friend Paul Zoltan Goldstein said: "I tell people that you're going to walk the earth, like Caine from Kung Fu."

Perhaps...and I still plan to be alive to reach Kyoto and Tokyo at some point to visit the sacred grounds of Rurouni Kenshin, anime, and the samurai, where Bill had his Hattori Hanzo sword forged...or to be alive to play flamenco guitar in Spain...or to travel around the Americas going to concerts of Latin alternative bands like Orishas, Los Amigos Invisibles, Aterciopelados, Control Machete, and Cafe Tacuba...or to read the Koran in an Islamic village...or to watch lemurs playing in their Madagascar forests and hoping they will survive.

But first, a little shout out to the new people I met along the way in Laos, Cambodia, and Vietnam: Funky Monkey, Madame Sassypant, Mr. Hummie, the Khmu Villagers, Lu, the Bayon boy of Angkor Wat, the Music in the Pines group of Hue, the Moat people, Hai and Ngot and their boat the Van Hai, Mann Kosal of Sovana Phum, the Guesthouse 70 family, and the people of Tra Vinh, among others.

As they say in Laos: "saybadee!"

The Other Hullabaloo
My last trip to Kunming focused on purchasing equipment for WWF projects. During that time, the commercial and modernization aspects of Kunming struck me, but this time was different.

This time, the new moon was smiling over Kunming, like the Cheshire Cat. Not that the commercial hullabaloo wasn't still there, but there was more to the city: art galleries, night clubs, backpacker guesthouses, new friends, Chinese lessons, second-hand markets, and more.

I must confess, however: after months on the road, I relaxed most of the time at The Hump, often sitting around watching a movie, surfing the web, taking a Chinese lesson with Amy, or just doing nothing.

On my first full day at the Hump, I met Amy, Cat, Owen, and a whole assortment of characters coming and going from Kunming.

I first met Cat when she sat next to me during breakfast: "'morning, how are you?" I said. That set of a flurry of conversation about Chinese visas, urban China, art, society, life, and more, all before most people were awake. Her focus was on integrating the arts and the human body, through yoga, sculpture, kung fu, new (not modern) dance, and painting. Like a true cat, she didn't like dogs, at least Chinese yappers.

Owen soon joined us. Underlying his calm demeanor was a true adventurer with a purpose. He biked from southern Australia to Kunming (No, his bike didn't float: he took boats between islands). After a six month break in Kunming to teach English and earn some money, the next leg of his journey will take him across the Himalayas and eventually into Europe.

Amy was from Beijing and teaching Chinese in Kunming, for a while. She eventually wants to open a health club, yet currently smokes a little bit, like many Chinese do. Her smoking may have been, in part, because of the recent break-up with her ex-pat English boyfriend. Her smile and fun personality made me want to take Chinese lessons with her. We took a good walk all over town together, and I learned more about China from her.

Owen, Cat, and I walked to the Cafe Nordica, where we met Guiseppe Correlione, an Italian photographer with dubious connections to the Mafia (at least he took pictures of one facing backwards--see photographs). A conversation about how modern life, being anonymous, and anonymity followed.

Anders Gustafsson, the director at TC/G Nordica said: "In modern society, the quest for identity is placed on the individual. Anonymity becomes the Janus-face of modernity: It can be an occasional luxury-haven for the rich and famous, and an escape-route for people trying to leave a troublesome past behind and build a new identity. Or it transforms into the curse of loneliness that plagues many urban dwellers that as been rooted up from their place of birth."

I became Giuseppe's 97th anonymous person and he became the 98th, when I took his picture. We shared the same camera, a Canon 20D, so I gave him the RAW files for his next exhibit in Bombay, India. For more on Anonymity, see: or watch Kung Fu Hustle or listen to Neil Young's Greendale album.

We also met Karl at the cafe and helped him with a short film, which you can view at: (the Cinema Paradiso clips). There are two versions and you can see Karl (very Sweedish looking), Cat, Owen, me, and others having a good time. Note: depending on when you read this, the clips may or may not be available still.

On another day, we went back for the Friends Exhibit--paintings by Kunming artists. Some of these paintings can be seen in the photogallery for the last entry: Who is China?

For days, we met for a beer or some wine or to eat some Chinese food or to watch a movie or to shop in the second-hand markets or just to talk. One night, Cat and I watched The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe which reminded me of Turkish Delights from the Mamoun's Falafel House in New Haven, Connecticut.

Watching the movie was great insight into the difference between Chinese and English. The Hump was a noisy place, so we needed to watch the movie with subtitles. Given that this is China, the DVD was a copy. With these copies, they translate the dialogue into Chinese for the subtitles, then re-translate into English for the English subtitles.

Somehow in this translation, "do" became "don't", Lucy was called "Road West" ("lu" means road and "xi" mean west) and Thomas was called "Soup Horse" ("tang" means soup and "ma" means horse). I can see why Chinese people might not understand western movies.

Throughout the movie we watched as people looked for Lucy, calling out in desperation "Road West! Road West! We watched as the witch turned Soup Horse into stone.

We couldn't stop laughing. Narnia will never be the same.

We also enjoyed several nights of lounge sessions, dancing, and cafes, visiting the French Cafe, the Metropolitan, Top Bar, and the Freedom Bar. Although the music at the Freedom Bar wasn't the best--pounding techno beats with no soul--they gave free drinks to foreigners! Basically, they wanted us to dance because most Chinese people haven't gotten the feel for dancing in clubs yet (or at least they're shy and inhibited). What they need is a Chinese version of The Beetles and maybe a less repressive government while we're at it.

Along the way, I found a guitar on three occasions, so played for a while at a couple cafes and at Owen's apartment. I was in my own world...for a while.

Thus was the other hullabaloo in Kunming.

The visa and work related issues never were settled...yet.
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