The plastic bag saves the day

Trip Start Jun 21, 2006
Trip End Aug 30, 2006

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Flag of China  ,
Monday, July 3, 2006

I write to you from Kumming in Yunnan province. The city is a sprawling mass which could be anywhere in the world and seems totally devoid of any Chinese culture, but the hostel it pretty decent and the weather is a lot cooler as the city is at altitude - first time I haven't had to change my t-shirt a couple of times daily!

We arrived early this morning having taken a 23 hour night sleeper train. Was a great experience as we had a friendly drunk Mongolian man in our berth who really liked my hairy legs, insisting on stroking them for a couple of hours (eek!), and a lovely lady who had a real thirst for English and to aid us in our mandarin. Sadly I was unwell for most of the 23 hours - don't know if it was the travel that made me sick, the (excess) beers during the England match or something I'd eaten. In fairness we had sampled a few local delicacies only a night previously, perhaps my body wasn't in agreement - but you know what they say "you haven't lived until you've had chicken feet, dog meat and pigs penis on a stick!". I knew it wasn't to be a pleasant experience when about half way into our initial 66 km ride to the train station I was holding tightly onto a plastic bag full of puke.......

Myself, Ben and Marv (who we have recently acquired at least till our next destination) all went to the so called 'Stone Forrest' 120 km east of Kumming. They say that nothing but the air is free in China and this certainly held true for this particular tourist excursion. The entry fee was just under a tenner which considering an average Chinese person may earn less than 2 pounds day, is insanity. It's a pretty impressive geographical phenomenon created from weather erosion leaving huge (10 metre) pillars. I think stone maze would be a more descriptive name as we were lost in there for a good couple of hours, but it was a cool experience to play some cards in the shade of a limescale tree!

China's current population is 1.3 billion people and it seems that most of these reside in the area just around Kumming's central train station - the place is manic with traffic, bikes and people everywhere. In walking the streets of Kumming the divide between the wealth of rural and urban chinese becomes painfully evident. In Yangshou's surrounding areas the people lives a hugely simple life totally reliant on their family and their land - Kumming is another example of capitalism gone mad in this so called communist state with shops, malls and markets at every turn.

We're off to Dali tomorrow morning on a 5 hr hard seat. From what we hear not a lot goes on there so should be a relatively short stop before we get up into the Himalaya foothills.
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