Sleeper Train

Trip Start May 04, 2011
Trip End Oct 08, 2012

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Flag of China  , Yunnan,
Saturday, September 3, 2011

My trip to China would not be complete without at least one sleeper train. The ticket options for these trains include the most expensive VIP with private room, soft bed with only 4 beds in a cabin, individual lights and a door for the enclosed cabin; the hard bed option with 6 beds, no door, no lights and unless you are on the bottom bunk, you can't sit up in the bed; then for the hard core or desperate there are just plain seats. Luckily we were able to secure middle hard beds for the 18.5hr journey from Guilin to Kunming. In our cabin was a Naxi ethnic woman with her 4 month old baby who cried a good part of the night, one woman who remained in her bed from departure to arrival and the other beds were occupied by a younger Chinese guy who spoke super loudly with another woman in our cabin when he wasn’t playing his video games on his phone at midnight. It is common for everyone to sit along the window if not on the bottom bunks and eat their cup of noodles and chicken feet while sipping on tea.

The ride was more grueling due to the fact that I had one of my persistent migraines.  I suffered prior to boarding and not wanting to use all of my stash up I was trying to go without taking medication. But after two more hours on the train with the crying baby I was desperate. I woke again at midnight and opted for a sleeping pill which provided another nine hours of solid sleep.

We approached Kunming around 10:30AM but just before I received a text from my CS host (Ghang) regretting that he would not be available to pick me up from the station as planned because he would go to the country club with his family but not to worry because he arranged for someone else to come get me.

It was so nice to arrive and find Linda, an executive at China Mobile the largest telecommunications firm in China, there with a sign with my name on it. Unbeknownst to me Linda and Ghang had yet to meet face to face. As it turns out they know one another through a mutual friend and since Ghang teaches English and Linda is applying for her Ph.D. at some top American universities, she thought Ghang could help review her applications.  I later learned from Ghang that Linda graduated #1 in her class at Peking University in Beijing, which is equivalent to Harvard. Her current position is Vice CFO for the Yunnan province.

After Linda picked me up we stopped at the local flower market and then back to her place for me to shower before we met up with her sister and nephew for a delicious meal near the Green Lake district. Convenient since after we took a nice stroll through the park passing all of the various ethnic dancers perform.

Surprisingly around 3:00PM Ghang contacted us wanting to meet up. He met us at Linda’s home where we sipped Puer tea, the most famous tea from Yunnan and much like wine is more valuable the longer it is aged. Linda, the sophisticated woman that she is, has been collecting and aging her own tea. I don’t think it is unheard of to find some quality teas selling for over $20,000.

I was more impressed with the fact that Linda owns and plays the Chinese piano, it was a bit of pulling teeth but I managed to get her to remove the dust cover and string a few chords for me.

Still full from lunch, Ghang insisted on taking us all to dinner for the well-known dish called "across-the-bridge noodles." It is said the dish is created by a woman who would bring meals daily to her imperial scholar husband who resided on an isolated island across the bridge.  One day she decided to get creative with her hot meals and brought him a bowl of very hot soup stewed with chicken, duck and spare ribs on which a thin layer of oil floats, along with a side dish of raw pork slivers, vegetable and egg, plus rice noodles.

Kunming is another large city so I hung out at a popular café for a bit before trying to find my way back to Ghang’s. Basically Ghang’s wife is a lieutenant in the military, so although he owns a large apartment, which is where I stayed on my own, he resides on base with his family. So here I was on a rainy night with the address written clearly in Chinese trying to locate which building within the complex was Ghang’s. It was comical driving around with the taxi driver for a half an hour and even the security guard couldn’t shed any light on which was the desired building. I finally made it upstairs and to sleep.

The next morning Ghang came for me after dropping his daughter off at Kindergarten and together we hiked up Xi Shan the Western Hills. It was nice to stretch the legs, have a local lunch in the village up top before landing at the bus station to make my way to Dali. 
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Ahmed on

so tell me what was the best country you liked over all you had visited?

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