18/07/2011: Day Eight
Once again I woke up in a soft mattress bed and found it hard to remove myself from it. But, with the incentive of another, supposedly more fascinating, minority village I made it out of bed before I could be labelled as ‘lazy’.
up, showered and shaved (yes, I shave) I made my way on foot to the bus station, of course preferring to walk than pay for anything. Once I did arrive it seemed as though the buses to the village were less frequent than I first thought and I was required to wait over an hour for the next bus. Luckily I was told about this when I arrived so took the opportunity to wander around the nearby streets. In this time I stumbled across a market. It was dirty and fly ridden but it was clear the majority of the stall owners were minority people and the meat and vegetables that they were selling were the produce of their individual villages. I was a little put off from the meat by the flies but the Chinese didn’t seem too bothered…they can’t all be disease ridden then. In the middle of the market it seemed as though a house was being built or re-built. I have seen how quickly China is developing and from the effort these men and women were putting into their work I can see how this is happening.
Anyway, I eventually got on the bus after strolling through the car park looking for a bus that matched the chinese characters on my ticket, that of ZiJiang. Once aboard, some 15 minutes early, the driver proceeded to drive away. Despite the fact that we were early every seat on the bus was taken so there was no need to wait for the alloted time. For once I agreed with a Chinese policy.
On the bus I spotted Blonde hair. I had not seen a white person since I left Zhangjiajie on Day 4 (apart from a strange Frenchman in Fenghuang), so the blonde hair made me double-take. The long pony-tailed hair belonged to a 50 year old glaswegian man called Bob who lives in Goa. Automatically I was interested in the fellow. After exchanging the normal ‘where are you from?’, ‘where are you going?’ conversation we agreed to explore the village together. I was glad of the company.
When we arrived a notice on the wall of the village stated ‘the entrance fee is $100 but each person receives a 60% discount’…China. Anyway, it turns out that this notice is ignored and the entry fee to a VILLAGE is $100 (£10). One can only hope all of that money goes to the villagers, but somehow I doubt it. Luckily for me I had a student card so only paid a childs price, Bob was not so lucky.
The first thing we found when we arrived was a youth hostel, for him not me, and he dropped his luggage in the room before we began to explore the village. Unlike the village from yesterday, this one has many more tourist. Zijiang is renowned for having 1000 Miao houses and thus 5000 Miao inhabitants. It’s far to say the site of so many buildings was spectacular, even from afar. Once we got closer to the buildings it became even more interesting. We walked along the tourist street packed full of Chinese tourists and we could have been in any other place in China. As a result we decided to divert away from the people and enter the ‘real’ village. We strolled up steps and observed the frail looking structures that these people call home. The further we got away from the people the more interesting it became, to the point where we came across some women practising their embroidery and a man repairing his dampened home (these house don’t appear to be built to last). Walking a long time and admitting that we did not know where we were heading, nor did we want to return down the same route we carried on going. It was soon after that we came across ‘the lovers area’; a small mound enveloped by overlooking trees which appeared to be a place where the Miao teenagers date, if such a thing is allowed to happen. I was aware that I was in the company of a ponnytailed scotsman at this point, but wasn’t that scared. From this point we were able to work our way back down through a different, more green route.
Bob decided he wanted rice and only rice so we went in search of this. I made a point of buying some local street food (as I try to in each place) but could not finish what was essentially a ball of unbaked dough. we managed to find some rice and were joined by a local Miao lady who loudly ate her rice beside me with her legs wide open…locals eh.
I had been told that the last bus to Kaili left Zijiang at around 3pm. I was a little disappointed by this as I didn’t think I had seen all of the village. Although I was also not envious of Bob as I felt a whole day and night in the village would have been too much. When I got to the entrance I was told to wait 10 minutes by the lady who robbed us earlier. Instead of waiting I decided to get some photos of locals in their gear…and succeeded.
As I was waiting for the bus a local man approached and asked me something in chinese. I told him I did not understand and he took that as a direct criticism of his mandarin and got embarrassed (as its not his first language). Of course it was my lack of chinese that caused the misunderstanding. As a result he got some chalk and wrote what he wanted to say in chinese charectors….again that didn’t help. In the end I got on the bus and we went our separate ways.
Thankfully a bus did arrive at 3pm and I was able to hop on board and sleep all the way back (once again missing out on all the scenery). Thankfully, also, I was back well in time for my train and was able to return to my hostel to pick up my backpack and access their computer for information about a Kunming hostel.
As I was about to leave Rax, the hostel manager, approached me and offered a gift. It was a bracelet/necklace/ankle bracelet. It appears that the chinese like giving me jewelery now. I got the impression that Rax was more than happy to have a foreigner stay at his hostel and wanted to be a great host. He succeeded. I graciously took it and strapped it to my ankle.
In good time I was able to get the bus to the bus station and board by train without a problem. Once on the train and in my bed I was able to sleep most of the night in anticipation for my very early arrival in Kunming.
19/07/2011: Day Nine
I arrived bright and early in Kunming, but I wasn’t feeling so bright. The sleeper trains are good and exciting but I never seem to wake up without a stiff neck or limb. Can’t complain though, China train travel is 10 times better than that of England.
The one thing that is wrong with Chinese train travel though is that so many people use it. From what I have learned before I thought it best to get my onward train tickets prior to leaving the train station. After joining and completing a long queue (for this time in the morning) I was disappointed told that there would be no trains to Dali available for the next couple of days. I knew there were other options and this turned out to be a blessing in disguise.
I had written directions to the hostel and was able to walk quite easily to the bus stop, travel 10 minutes before spotting the sign for my hostel. All was looking promising. Once inside it was confirmed to me that they had received my hostel booking and that I could stay the night. However, when I enquired with them about bus tickets to Dali it appeared that there was a sleeper bus that left that night that I could board. Without hesitation I asked if they could book this bus for me and cancel my dorm booking, saving me money on a hostel bed in Kunming. This, once again appeared to be a blessing in disguise. I was also able to pre-order my train ticket Guangzhou for the 26th July.
With the onward transport all sorted I showered and was once again smelling lovely and wide awake. I wrote down a recommended places to visit in Kunming and went about trying to find them.
There is one thing that all westerners experience when they stay in China for long periods of time…bad China moments. Luckily for me they are few and far between, and for some they last days or even weeks. On this very morning I had one (although it lasted only a couple of hours). Kunming was very sunny so everyone held their umbrellas at my eye level, every person decided to walk slower than is humanly possible, no one showed the sense to move down the bus to let others on, people spat on the floor before begging me for money, and most of all there were too many people in cars they could not drive…it was as frustrating trying to walk down a slow-moving umbrella street as it was stood on a sweaty bus watching Chinese drivers try to cut each other up in order to delay themselves. anyway, any other time these things are a source of entertainment, but on this very day I found it incredibly annoying.
Luckily for me my bus stopped at a massive and beautiful lake. Here I was able to lie down and forget about my ‘bad China moment’ for a while. All was well when I walked across dozens of families having BBQ’s beside the lake. This area was civilised in a city of dolts.
Once I had seen all I could of the lake and the surrounding area I decided to take an additional bus to the West Hill, another place of natural beauty in Kunming. I arrived at a cable car terminal where I reluctantly paid the £3 fee for admission and got ready to jump in the next car. Since I was entering at the halfway point the car already had a family in it. They were over the moon to be joined by a foreigner, especially a man named Erik (an english speaking pilot from Gansu province). He was joined by his very young girlfriend, and his parents. He revealed that he was visiting Kunming through work but with his parents to meet his girlfriends parents, a big step.
As soon as we got to the top via cable car I expected to part from Erik and his family but they instantly invited me to join them for lunch. I, pretty hungry and eager for something like that to happen sat with them in a restaurant. His mother was a christian and quite interested in my views on god despite having no english to talk with me about it, his father seemed to be the real ‘man’ of the family in that he said nothing, smoked and paid for the meal. His girlfriend wore a top with an english sentence that made no sense, which is the purest indication that she cannot speak or read english. Anyway, we had a pleasant meal filled with veg, beef, fish, chicken and complete with rice. A proper chinese meal.
After lunch we walked to the top of the hill but didn’t really notice the sights as myself and Erik were quite engaged in conversation. His english was ok but he was very interested to know about english culture and portrayed a dislike of ‘Arrogant Americans’.
we got to the top and were asked to pay another $50 to go any further. Thankfully the family refused and we headed back to the cable car. Once back I was asked to pay another £3 to get on…was it not a return ticket??? And I had banked on today being a good day for my budget.
Nonetheless, I managed to say my goodbyes to Erik and his family and head back to the hostel for a rest before my overnight train. Despite my annoyances at the beginning of the day my day with Erik and his family had made my Kunming experience a lot better. Although Kunming is not likely to be on my ‘favourite cities’ list (should I ever make one).
I will end today with a taxi journey to the bus station for my midnight excursion to Dali.
20/07/2011: Day 10
Once again I appeared to be the last passenger on the bus despite being over 20 minutes early, but once again this meant the bus was able to depart earlier than scheduled.
Despite all travelling I have done in China this was my first sleeper bus, and I was pleasantly surprised at the efficiency of the layout. There were three rows of three-tiered bunk-beds stretching the length of the coach. My guess is that there were nearing 100 people sleeping on the bus. Despite not being the tallest person in the world I was a little too big for my bed. It was clear that by compensating a couple of inches on each bed more beds could be laid in. However, I was quite tired and happily slept the whole of the 4 hour journey.
Once we did arrive I feared that i would have nothing to do until the public buses started running. However, after a big fat man had got on the bus and done some shouting we were left to sleep in our beds in the car park until 6.30am. It was an act of generosity I was quite in favour of.
As 6.30am came we were booted off the bus and I was once again left to my own devices. I decided to buy my ticket to Lijiang and booked a bus for 7.30pm the next evening (expecting another overnight bus…I was wrong). I then got the public bus to the Dali old town and kept an eager eye out for the street which was supposed to hold my hostel. When I couldn’t find the road I decided to ask a local and spotted a woman over the road. I crossed the road with the intent of asking for directions but as soon as I said ‘Ni Hao’ her eyes swelled with fear and she sprinted in the opposite direction. I couldn’t hep but laugh with embarrassment and decided that I shall remove my glasses before asking anyone else for directions. As I turned a man took a photo of me.
It turned out that the hostel was only 5 minutes walk away anyway. I was required to wait until 8am to book-in and had to wait in anticipation as I had not booked a room. Thankfully there was a dorm bed available for me. It was then that I was told that the bus to Lijang will only take 3.5 hours. Arriving in a strange town at 11pm was not what I desired. So I made it a priority to have my ticket changed before the day was out.
Once checked in I washed myself and hand washed my clothes (saving me £1). it was only then that I was ready to explore Dali, a place I had heard such great things about. As I was aware that changing my bus ticket would limit me to just a day and a half in Dali I decided to hire a bike in order to see things more quickly. I actually quite enjoyed riding the bike, much like I had in Hangzhou in January. There were a couple of differences though; it was summer now and I was 2000m above sea level. This meant that on top of the baking heat I was also breathless quite often…making me feel quite unfit. After riding for a while and often getting myself lost I headed south towards one of the surrounding mountains. I found it quite a shame that I had such a limited time in Dali as there seemed a lot more to see than capable in 2 days. Upon my return from the mountain and up a steep hill I hit a dirt path that seemed void of any people, yet a pagoda was visible at the top. I walked the bike to the top (woman?) and came across a fence that told me the area was under construction and people were not permitted to enter. I, having climbed the path and sweated bucketloads in doing so was not going to let a fence stop me seeing the pagoda. Assuming it was safe to leave the bike unattended for a couple of minutes I climbed the fence and entered the area surrounding the Pagoda. I have seen many Pagodas in my time in China but a little act of rebellion made this one a little more exciting.
I then returned to explore more of the old city and was really happy to come across some really nice streets and it seemed to me that people had been justified in telling me to spend more time in Dali than in Kunming.
Whilst on my bike I had noticed several restaurants offering Yak steak…I made it my mission to find oe of these places again in the evening. I found one not far from the hostel and was surprised to see swedish families on my left and right. In fact, Dalis climate and traditional appeal make it quite an attraction to westerners. I still don’t know why there were so many Scandinavians there though. Anyway, this meant that for the first time in a couple of weeks people were not staring at me and it was quite funny to see men try to slyly take pictures of the swedish girls beside me, I think they quite enjoyed it though. This meant I could pick my nose without being watched.
I ordered my steak and the cynic in me decided it was just cow beef labelled as Yak to be sold. Of course I decided the restaurateur was honest. It was only around 8pm when I had finished dinner and returned to the hostel. I felt it was a little too early for bed and didn’t want to spend too much money outside. Then something hit me…my feet. For a long time now my feet have been mistreated. I have walked everywhere whilst in Foshan and continued this habit whilst travelling. This means that not only are they showing signs of wear-and-tear (flaky dead skin and numerous cuts) but they are also very dirty.
I then headed out to find the cheapest foot massage I could find, as a reward to my feet. I refuse to let anyone touch my feet as I am incredibly ticklish, so I needed a couple of beers before going for a message. Luckily I found a place that steamed my feet. It was really hot and didn’t feel like it was doing anything beneficial, but I took their word for it. After half an hour with my feet under steam the masseur returned with a towel to dry my feet. This is where it got embarrassing: as she dried my feet her white towel turned almost completely black…my feet were incredible dirty (I do shower at least once a say…I promise). I then left the parlour with the feeling that I had rewarded my feet for their hard work despite not feeling any obvious benefit from the experience.
I then hit the bed with clean feet and a sun burnt face, thankfully I had purchased a cheeky sun hat for the coming days.
21/07/2011: Day 11
In the knowledge that I would now be leaving Dali at 3pm I motivated myself for a very early start to see the remainder of the old town. This also meant that I had to concede that was not going to see the majority of the attractions in Dali. But the Tiger Leaping Gorge near Lijiang awaits.
My first stop was the famous 3 pagoda palace on the outskirts of the old town. I managed to find it quite easily on foot, whereas I struggled on my bike. Once I arrived I noticed that the entrance price was $120 for adults and $60 for students. The cashier accepted my student card but I still refused to pay the entry fee with my tightening budget in mind. Instead I decided to take a picture from the outside, which looked as good as those in the brochures. I felt rather schrewed about my decision not to pay.
As I continued walking I popped into a shop to buy some much-needed water. Near the fridge were some MP3 players. I promised myself one for my birthday to upload my chinese cds onto to listen whilst on the road. And these were the cheapest I had found…at about £7. I decided to buy one, justifying it by my refusal to pay for the three pagodas.
satisfied with my purchase I continued around the old town and stopped in a street with fewer people for a cheeky beer. I then went to a restaurant for some fried noodles where I was joined for lunch by once of the waiters. It was clear that he is interested in the people who enter his restaurant.
When I felt I had seen enough of the old town and my face had seen enough of the sun I retreated to the dorm to finish packing up and upload the chinese cds to my new MP3. I was surprised to see that it appeared to have had a previous owner. o well, still worked…for now.
The journey to Lijiang was supposed to take 3.5hours but I was lucky enough to get the worlds slowest coach with a driver that couldn’t locate his accelerator. This meant the journey took closer to 6 hours and I arrived in Ljiaing an hour after I told the hostel to hold my room until. Despite having information on public buses I decided I should probably catch a taxi to save time. £ consecutive taxis told me they didn’t know the place I wanted to go, but I assume that it was my pronunciation that they could not understand as when a local came to my aid a driver understood him immediately.
Thankfully I arrived at the hostel at around 10pm and they had held onto the bed for me. The hostess was incredibely hosptiable. It turned out she was a volunteer at the hostel and I guess she was desgnated there to practise her english.
Despite the late hour I was quite hungry and headed out to pick up some food. After walking a while it seemed the only food availiable was street food. I came accross a buffet style stand where I had to pick which uncooked scewers of meat I wanted to be cooked. As it was quite late I questions how long the meat had been left out….but ate it anyway. They tried to offer me the uncooked pig brain…I didn’t feel like I could stomach that.
When I returned to the hostel I made the decision that I would go to the tiger leaping gorge early in the morning (my desired destination) and thus leave a day at the end to experience Lijiang. My reasoning for this decision was that the weather had been good for the days I had been in Yunnan and I had been told that heavy rain would mean people were blocked from the gorge out of fear of a landslide. As a result I thought I should go as soon as possible as heavy rain tomorrow may prevent me from doing the trek at all.
22/07/2011: Day 12
Once again, as can now be expected, I had an early start. This time I needed to get to the bus station as soon as possible in order to reach the Tiger Leaping Gorge in good time. The Lonely Planet states that this is the best trek in China, and I was about to find out for myself. It turned out that my departure was before the reception at the hostel opened so I left my bedding, big bag and a note on the front desk. The note stated that I will return to the hostel after my trek ad asked them to look after my bag (including my laptop) and my deposit during this time.
Despite making the bus station in good time I was told that there were no tickets for the early buses. This meant that I had to wait for the 9am bus. Since the journey from Lijiang is 3 hours I feared that I would be losing valuable daylight trekking time. I needn’t have worried since I am now so far west that the daylight lasts a lot longer (we are still on Beijing time despite being in a different time-zone).
Without further issues I boarded the bus bound for the Tiger Leaping Gorge and was positioned beside a 17 year old local girl who immediately fed me several dried fruits that she had bought for her journey but evidently wanted to share. She could not speak English which gave me the opportunity to practise my basic Chinese. She later tried to read my english book and managed quite well. She had very dirty fingernails.
The journey was quite bumpy but did not seem to take the 3 hours I was promised, thankfully. Once I disembarked from the coach I realised that a group of Chinese friends had gathered beside it. I asked where they got their gorge map and they responded by asking me what trek I was doing. For the tiger gorge there are 2 treks. The low (easier) trek which is not quite as scenic, physically challenging, dangerous or rewarding as the high trek. I was pleasantly surprised to find out that they wer intending to do the high trek. I had been told that most chinese people tend to avoid this. I immediately agreed to join them on the trek as I was fully prepared to perform the walk alone, but I really wanted to share the experience was some people.
We started the trek, followed by locals on horses. I asked why they were following us and was told that we would need the horses when we couldn’t walk any further. At this point I was not sure if I was mentally or physically prepared for this kind of trek.
Shortly after we began the walk the sights became incredible. First glimpse of the gorge was incredible, but every step we took higher created and even better looking view. At several points the walk was close to the cliff face, which was slightly scary but added to the immense view of both the gorge and its surrounding mountains. After a couple of hours we came to the ’28 bends’. This had been described as the hardest part of the whole trek and it was easy to see why. The winding paths up a steep rocky hill made for regular rest stops in the burning heat. I could not believe that a couple of my companions refused to remove their long sleeve shirts out of fear of the ‘poisonous’ sun….but they didn’t get burnt. I was enjoying the company of the chinese a lot and found out that they were all from Guangdong and had met each other on the train from Guangzhou to Kunming. One was from Zhuhai, another from Guangzhou, Shenzhen, and Foshan. It was a strike of luck that we had all found each other.
Despite the tough climb I did begin to feel we were stopping a little too often. I am a lot fitter than I was a few months ago, but not quite as fit as I think I should be. But on several occasions I had to fake breathlessness as not to appear arrogant. Still, we kept at it and were eventually greeted by a Naxi family who had turned there home into a rest stop for hungry walkers. I was more than happy to consume as much rice as they would give me.
After lunch we came across one of the top viewing spots of the whole gorge only to find a local keeping a watchful eye that we took no pictures and asking for $8 if anyone took one. This was slightly frustrating but we decided not to anger him and forgot about the pictures.
As we were walking along the bends a democratic decision was made to use the horses that were following us. A fee was agreed with the owners and we agreed to take it in turns to use the 3 horses between 6 of us. However, I agreed to pay the fee but told them I did not want to use the horse. The tiger leaping gorge had been my target since I set off and I wanted to test myself by completing the trek on foot. The others acknowledged my desires but couldn’t help but feel that they thought I was a bit weird (or scared of horses).
Eventually we made it to the end of the 28 bends and the trek eased off a bit, becoming a little easier. A few more hours of trekking as the sun began to set made for interesting conversation, sing-songs and generally a fantastic time with nature (I’m 22). At around 8pm, 8 hours after we began, we reached our intended location for the night. This had taken a little longer than we were told, probably because of our several rests, but I was so glad it did. The fact that we stopped so often meant I was able to properly take in all of the sights and appreciate the area I was in. I believe that if I had done the trek alone I may have done it with my head down and with time on my mind. I loved the relaxed and patience of my new friends.
Once in the hostel myself and the 3 boys booked into a room with 3 beds. Instead of deciding who would share with who we pushed all three beds together and decided that it created sufficient room for 4 people. we then ordered some dinner and sat watching the static mountains with a nice cold beer. Bliss. The food was incredible, the company fantastic and the views breathtaking. Perhaps it couldn’t get better? It did. At around 10:30 when everyone had finished eating and had drunk a couple of beers the hotel turned off al its lights. Initially we didn’t know why but then one person looked at the sky. We all followed and saw something truly wonderful. The whole sky was lit up with stars…I have never seen so many lights in the sky. It felt like I was in a dome with glow-in-the-dark stickers on the roof. People claimed to see shooting stars but I just stood with my head in the sky watching the stars sparkle. For perhaps an hour we sat looking at the stars and saying very little that resembled words; ‘waaaa’ being the most popular. How could Guangdong have one star on a good day and the Tiger Leaping Gorge have hundreds? I’m not a star expert.
Anyway this was a perfect way to end a perfect day. The tiger leaping gorge was making me feel like I had chosen the correct final destination for my trip away.
23/07/2011: Day 13
We had agreed to begin the 2nd day of trekking at 8am. Naturally I woke up early and managed to shower in front of the mountains. The two girls in our company managed to do the same, but the boys were not so eager…one in particular. This lad, Richard, had drunk quite a lot of river water the day before and was beginning to feel its effects in the morning.
Despite this he managed to get himself up and by 8:30am we were back on the move. Today the walk became a little more dangerous; with several waterfalls and walks very close to the cliff face, just a slip away from a very high fall. On two occasions we were passed by a herd of goats. I felt that it would only take one to go a little crazy and kncok my off the cliff. Thankfully they were kind goats. Richard, however, decided enough was enough and we didn’t want to hold us up. After about an hour of trekking he told us he would return to the hostel to try to sleep off his illness. It was probably the best thing for him.
Soon the cliff faces disappeared and we entered a forest area. Here we came across 3 westerners that Had also stayed in our hostel. In fact, everyone we saw on the trek, of which there were few, were not Chinese. I seemed to be in the only Chinese majority group on the trek. At this point they were deciding upon a route to take. One was pathed, the other was not but had an arrow suspiciously painted on a rock. They decided to continue along the path but myself and my adventurous new friends decided to explore the other ‘route’. Initially I felt that we had probably made the wrong choice but I soon realised that it was leading to the same destination but through the undergrowth rather than on the path. We were officially ‘off the beaten track’ and I loved it. We didn’t see anyone for perhaps 3 hours and this made all of us quite exited about our walk. As we descended down the mountain in our mission towards the water of the gorge we had to watch our step intently. At one pint we stopped for a rest only for Jimmy to realise that he had left his hat some 30 minutes up the mountain. No one really wanted to be hatless in this heat and at this altitude. Stupidly (I am not Superman) I volunteered to return to our last rest stop to retrieve his hat. The girls were more than happy to rest and Dan, the only non english speaker didn’t mind a bit of shade. I began my ascent by running but the heat took its toll on me within minutes. Instead I took up a swift pace back up the mountain and had to take my shirt off to allow it to dry from the sweat. I don’t know if I have ever experience heat and a need for water like it. Perhaps 15 minutes after I left the rest stop I reached his hat sitting happily on a rock. It actually felt so rewarding to re-reach the location and find the hat. My own little mission. The trek back down with no bag or shirt was much easier than the previous and I managed to reach the others quite quickly for some water….oh I needed water.
We then managed to stop for some lunch which took longer than we wanted to cook. But thankfully the lunch stop was near the entrance to the final leg of the trek to the tiger leaping stone. I was interested to see that there were many chinese tourists around this area and didn’t know where they came from. it was revealed that there were coach trips to this part of the trek so that the people could get to the tiger leaping stone. This annoyed me a little as, as with all Chinese tourist destinations, there were too many people. We went from seeing next to nobody all morning to being held up by women in flip-flops on our final leg. I couldn’t help but feel sorry for them though as they were obviously unaware that the most spectacular sight on in this area is not the stone that a tiger once may (but probably didn’t) jump off to cross the river.
Despite this minor annoyance we eventually reached the stone. For some reason we were charged $5 to get onto the stone but it had been my mission so I paid it anyway. We had made it!
It was now time to make our final trek to the point were a bus could pick us up and take us back to Lijiang. First we had to cross a bride that a local was charging to be crossed. Jimmy, quite courageously, decided to leg it over the bridge without paying (it is ridiculous that we have to pay considering it is illegal for them to charge and that we had paid a maintenance entry fee when we arrived). However, the local chased him and found him, much to the entertainment of all of us.
We managed to reach the actual tiger stone despite the notice that read ‘Don’t come, Dangerous’. Naughty. and then we began our walk back up the mountain. At one point the cliff face was at a 90 degree angle and thus not possible to walk up. As a result a ladder had been dropped from the next ridge…25 metres higher. As someone whose not great with heights I found this slightly daunting…but didn’t want to show this to my companions. The ladder experience was fantastic, although I made a point of not looking down.
Perhaps another hour of walking in the baking mid afternoon heat meant we reached to top of the mountain in time for a bus back to Lijiang…tired.
It had been by far the best two days of this current travel and I am so glad that I decided to complete the ‘best trek in China’, and it did not disappoint. My reward: a nice shower and an early night.
24/07/2011: Day 14
I decided not to set my alarm as a lie in was what I really needed. However, my conditioned mind and body woke me up at 7am. In protest I made myself stay in bed until 10 and got a couple more hours sleep as a result.
Slightly achy I managed to get up and ready in order to head to the train station and buy my onward tickets. unfortunately there were no tickets to Kunming at my desired time and the only available tickets were at 9am the next day, meaning I would be travelling through the day tomorrow. I decided that as it was the beginning of my return to Guangdong that having the day in a train meant I could not spend more money. However, it meant a day less in Lijiang.
After getting the bus from the train station to a cash point and a bus from the cash point back to the train station I was able to buy my tickets. This meant I was now sorted for all my tickets until James and I will leave for Nanning. Exciting!
I then began to explore Lijiang with my map and was pleasantly surprised by the place. I decided to buy some Yaks yoghurt and drink it as I people watched. ONce I finished I was approached by a man who collects bottles (for a living, quite literally) who looked as though I had made his week by giving him a class bottle. perhaps they are worth more than the plastic ones but I have never seen someone so happy to take litter from me before.
I had been told by someone in my hostel of a more traditional market in the south of the old city. I like these places and decided to check it out. I was quite happy that there were fewer tourists there (Lijiang is a major tourist destination). Here I sat and had a dumpling lunch….I love dumplings. It was around this time that I realised I had lost my phone, the phone that had been a loyal servant since my first arrival in China 10 months previous. It had some great messages saved on it, photos, music and most importantly the contact details of all my chinese friends. I didn’t panic too much though as I will be leaving China in about a week and all my chinese friends have QQ.
As the evening approached I met with my friends from the gorge. Thankfully we had decided on a time and a place before I lost my phone and this meant we didnt have a problem finding each other. unfortunately we had failed to notice that we were a day early for the minority festival that we thought would be occurring in the city. We were expecting to be dancing around a bonfire by midnight. Instead we walked around the busy streets throughout the night and then made our way to the highest point of the city where we could see the roof tops of all the old buildings, the snow mountain and see the lights of the city. A great sight. We climbed a fence and watched the city whilst listening to some traditional chinese music. It was actually quite emotional to think I would be returning back to Guangdong only to begin my departure from China. I made my decision there and then that I must return to China….I have not done anywhere near all I want to. China has so much more to offer.
I then rturned to a dumplig restaurant near my hostel. I had been there previously and the owner was more than happy to see me again. In fact, I think he had bought a crate of beers in the hope that I would return. I finished the night with the old man watching a cookery programme whilst eating my dumplings.
At the end of the night we said our good byes and I returned to the hostel for my last nights sleep in Lijiang.