HALF-STEPPING FOR CHINA
Trip Start Apr 04, 2008
15Trip End Mar 31, 2009
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Where I stayed
The enigmatic "To preceding half step, a civilization stride," greeted me on the wall above the urinal in the Jinan airport men's room. English is not an easy language for many people, and undoubtedly so for janitors in north China charged with keeping floors clean in lavatories. It is not beyond the pale that they would think foreign men have as big a problem with wetting the floor as Chinese men do, so the Chinese was translated into this errant English.
After half-stepping to help civilization stride, I got on the plane bound for Kunming and found a handy little packet with my meal that said, "Wet Turban Needless Washing." I opened it and found a wet-wipe.
I'm not unhappy to be leaving Jinan after having spent the entire winter here (there) where it got down to 8 below zero Celcius. Now that I'm in Kunming (the "Eternal Spring City ") in southwest China to pick up a visa for Vietnam , I'm staying at the Camellia Hotel where the little convenience store has the following notice in English taped next to the cash register: "Join us for our living planet tomorrow! Economizing on resources, we do not offer plastic bags. Please pay 0.5 rmb extra when you need. Thank you for your cooperation!"
End of story, beginning of prosaics [sic]:
Air travel is cheap in China . Go to any travel agent and ask for discounted tickets over any three or four day period and pick the cheapest flight. You can always get 20% or 30% discounts, but sometimes 50% discounts. Ask for flights that change planes ("zhuan ji") and it gets cheaper. I flew from Jinan to Kunming for 900 yuan, half price, on a flight that stopped in Chongqing but didn't change planes.
In Kunming the Vietnamese General Consulate is walkable from the train station, but not from the airport. For 350 yuan they'll give you a 1-month tourist visa. You go back two days later to pick it up. There is one-day service for a fee.
If you head directly to Saigon from Kunming, a plane ticket can be had for 2500 yuan, and a one-year round trip open ticket can be bought for 3100 yuan.
But I'm not flying, I'm busing to Hekou which is on the border across from Lao Cai . For 124 yuan you get a 9 hour day-time bus ride that starts at either 9:40 a.m. or 12:40 p.m. I'll get into Lao Cai by 7:30 p.m. and hop the overnight train to Hanoi (maybe). I'll let you know what happens.