12 Aug

So, we arrived in Kunming quite glassy eyed and very impressed to be in a big city again. Rumours of stress-y, guidebook confiscating, “mititary state” style welcome at customs were rubbish, everyone was friendly and we were even given the pleasure of rating the serive of the lovely lady who collected set of paperwork #3 (she taught me to say ‘thank-you’, I pressed the ‘very satisfied’ button). We met a great Aussie guy at a bus stop, Phil who’s been teaching in China for about 6 months, and kindly attempted to teach us a few more common phrases – disaster but still trying. Apparently it’s easier to teach 13 yr olds English than the other way around (mind you, his students have 12-13 hour school days)

A very nice bus and brief stroll later, and we were at Camilla Hotel, our first dorm style hostel of the trip. Was clean and sweet smelling (that’s what you get for sharing with girls) and resplendant with HOT, strong showers. Two thumbs up. In general, Kunming has been a ripper intro to the country, and while, yes, the Chinese people spit a bit, and getting onto a bus is a bit like a Sass & Bide warehouse sale, so I’ve seen the opposite of the obtructive, uncouth bunch of folks some travellers had reported.

We spent a day wandering round the city, eating peaches, checking out quiet electric motorbikes, daily newspaper boards, beggars with incredible calligraphy skills, and some lovely parkland. A delicious treat dinner near the lake was awesome, with melt-in-your-mouth cracking pork stirfry, and a yummy king of braised tufu and crab dish, with all the flavour of the crab absorbed into the succulant fried tufu. Yum yum yum and with beer, rice, and steamed veggies, about $15. This made up for the dinner we missed playing cards and drinking beer with a cool American and his Swedish girlfriend. (I finally found a cool American. Seattle.)

Day 2 was a trip out to Xi Shan, a range of hills about 30 minutes out of town. again, great public buses got us there without a problem, and we very quickly managed to find the back route up the moutian, a nice 3 hour up hill hike that almost killed me. Wasn’t able to burden one of the many skinny mountain ponies for hire with my weight, though – they all needed a good feed and a run around on the flat. At what we thought was the top (but wasn’t), we were adopted by some great friendly Chinese who escorted us through Dragon Gate, the main attraction, actually a long string of grottos, shrines, and corridors carved into the cliff by monks in the late 1700s.

Inscription carved in the day:

Great talent witnessed by arduous work,

At the steep cliff, a divine terrace was chiseled.

Though the Buddhist caves were impossible to be airborne,

Chisel after Chisel will make it to the Dragon Gate.


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