"A visit is recommended: Camel bar in Kunming"
Our bikes survived the transport without any damage and we were very glad to have our „Steel Donkeys“ back in our hands again.
Kunming, the capital of Yunnan, a city of 1.5 million inhabitants, is a modern metropolis with many tall buildings, but in the sidestreets and alleys are mountains of rubbish and of course the place stinks accordingly. Sometimes we got the feeling that the Chinese have been totally overwhelmed by the too rapid commercial growth, and the division between rich and poor is becoming more and more apparent. By the time the 2008 Olympic games open in Peking, quite a few things will have changed here in China, for instance in.some larger cites it is already forbidden to spit in public
We hat to wait an annoying seven days before we received our one-month visa extension so we took the opportunity to figure out our itinerary and to take a look around the city. Especially worth seeing was the Yuangong Temple and the Jadelake Park where one could watch the locals practising Tai Ji Quan (shadow boxing).
At the Myanmar Consulate, we were told that we could indeed enter Myanmar via an overland passage from China, however the borders of Laos and Thailand were closed because of drugsmuggling, so because of this and the somewhat tense political situation in Myanmar, we decided to pedal on to Laos, Cambodia and South Vietnam.
After we got hold of our visas for Laos, we rode off, fully motivated in the direction of Dali, which lies 400km west of Kunming, and is an independant region of the Bai people who are the ethnic minority. The detour was worth the trouble mainly because of the stupendous landscape we were passing through, the hilly path leading us past many rice paddies, vegetable fields, banana trees, stands of bamboo and cannabis plants!! The latter was pretty surprising because in China the punishment for drug abuse is death, and the Cannabis leaves would scarcely be used just for esoteric healing remedies!!
We pedalled on over land until suddenly we couldn’t believe what we were seeing : there in the middle of the road lay a young women, bleeding heavily from a head wound and standing around her, at a distance of about 20 meters was a group of locals who had no idea what they should do.
We disinfected the woman’s wound, and tied on a bandage. She was in shock and kept trying to stand up, so we explained to the bystanders that they should tell her to lie down and remain still until the ambulance arrived. Although the hospital was only a few kilometers away, it took ages before the ambulance came, without a flashing blue light, and no siren. The paramedics ambled casually to the scene of the accident then on top of that, when they finally wanted to open the medical bag, the zip jammed. Yes, it really is different here….
Along the whole way to Dali, we always experienced unbelieveable hospitality from the locals, however as we approached the capital city of the Bai, everything became more and more touristy; the women of this ethnic minority standing by the entrance gate to the Old Town, dressed in their lovely traditional clothes,only allowing themselves to be photographed for hard cash. We would have liked to see the authentic Bai going about their daily lives, but unfortunately everything is preconcieved for visitors and so has virtually lost it’s natural charm.
It was raining continuously, quenching all our desires to go sightseeing around the interesting neighborhood, so we just relaxed and Nathalie treated herself to a traditional massage. First, though, she had to inspect the massage salon a bit closer because when Kurt asked for the same thing, it turned out that the service he was offered was actually a camouflage for a certain other type of lucrative business J
Our next objective was the city Jinghong which belongs to the self-governing state of the Dai. On the way, we found mostlly quite basic accomodation in the various villages and because we were often hot and sweaty after reaching the top of a mountain pass in the moist-warm weather, we were always really thankful to take the opportunity to have a proper shower in one of the guest houses. One evening we heard loud music coming out of a barn so we went to investigate. Turned out it was a modern karaoke machine set on a pile of feed sacks. The people gathered there were happy to see us, serving us with tea, beer, manderines and sunflower seeds. They of course wanted us to sing, but we explained that this was well nigh impossible since we couldn’t read the Chinese script on the screen. Quick as a flash, they shoved a selection of English songs under our noses, although all ones that we didn’t know.
The further south we travelled, the more exotic were the types of fruit sold at the side of the road:: pinapple, papaya, passionfruit and starfruit, grapefruit, persimmon, sweet potatoes….simply delicious!!
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