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Reisverslag My summer holiday in Yunnan
7 november 2012
My summer holiday in Yunnan
It was really hot in Chengdu and after a few days I couldn’t stand it anymore, so I booked a train to Kunming in Yunnan. Unfortunately as I wanted to leave quickly all sleeper beds were already sold out, so I had to take a hard seat for a ride of 21 hours. But the good thing was I could leave the next day.
Opposite me on the train was a young mother with a 2 year old girl and next to me was a mother with a 1.5 year old boy. The girl was kind of shy, but the boy loved to walk through the carriage and couldn’t sit still for long. Luckily when it became evening he was given the breast and fell asleep quickly. Neither of the women could speak English, but I managed to speak some Chinese with them which was nice.
I hadn’t gotten a lot of sleep that night, but when I arrived in Kunming I was happy with the cooler weather. I took a bus and walked around the city for a bit, but because there was so much construction it was a bit hard to find the hostel I had seen on the internet. But after 1-2 hours I had found it and was able to check in.
Unfortunately Kunming wasn’t all that interesting. It’s just another big city and especially with all the construction of the subway and high buildings wasn’t very appealing at the time. So I booked a bus ticket to Dali which isn’t too far away, “only” 6 hours by bus.
Dali on the other hand was a lot better and even reminded me of Yangshuo. There is a bit of the same atmosphere, although it’s a lot bigger. I had found a guesthouse with friendly staff and my roommate was a Spanish girl and she had studied Chinese in Dali for half a year. Later in the evening when I was eating dumplings I met an American boy who came to Dali 1 year ago and was working and studying Chinese and was busy starting his own restaurant.
The next day I decided to rent a bicycle and cycle along the lake. At this moment I wished I had my own bicycle, but I had to rent a bike. Unfortunately it was already 11 o’clock and most good bicycles were already gone. I got another bike and when the guy fixed the brakes it wasn’t too bad.
Right next to Dali is a big lake and although it’s a little big to cycle all around it was nice to cycle along and go from town to town. I saw many old houses in Chinese style and there were several men fishing in the lake. Unfortunately after a couple of hours the saddle really began to hurt, so I decided to turn around and go back to Dali. Luckily the weather was very nice and by the end of the day I had a slight sunburn.
On one side of the city is the lake as I said before and on the other side is a huge mountain range. I took a cable car to the top and from there hiked along the mountain. The path was remarkable good and close to the cable car were a lot of people, but a little further away it was almost deserted. From the path you could look down on Dali and a little further you could see the lake, great view! It was about a 10km hike to the north and from there I walked back down to Dali.
I could have stayed here for the whole holiday, but I wanted to see several places, so I decided to go to Lijiang next. This was even more beautiful than Dali. Lots of small alleys and old buildings, but with all this beauty comes a lot of Chinese tourists, really…. A LOT! And as I don’t like to plan ahead to much I didn’t have a reservation for a hostel. So I walked around and around, but no hostel had any spare beds and the hotel were a lot more expensive. In the end I settled for a hotel and managed to lower the price a bit. The next morning I visited one of the hostel which was nearby and I could check-in there when some people left there room.
One day I was sitting at a square, reading a book, when and a little Chinese boy (maybe 6 years old) walked up to me and started talking. I was surprised, because he spoke English and very well too. He told me he had studied in America for 1-2 years. He sat next to me and had a look at my book. But then it started raining suddenly, so he ran back to his mother who was looking at us from the other side of the square.
After a couple of days relaxing I took the bus to Lugu Lake and after a 7 hour bus ride I finally arrived in Luoshui at Lugu lake. It’s a tiny town only there for tourism. And just as before in Lijiang there were also lots of Chinese tourists there. So I walked towards the lake where most hotels are. I quickly found a cheap hostel, but there were no rooms available… surprise!?! I actually got a bit fed up with traveling in the summer as I don’t like to plan ahead and book a room, but it seems almost impossible to travel like this in the summer in China when so many Chinese have the same idea and they do book ahead.
At the hostel were more people coming and asking for a room, but all received the same answer as me. Then a group of three Chinese (2 sisters and their mother) asked me if I wanted to join them to look for a room. I agreed as I didn’t see any other options here as it’s such a small place and the only rooms available now were the expensive ones. They told me their uncle would come later by car and he had found a hotel on the other side of the lake. So I sticked around waiting with them. One of the girls had actually studied for 2 years in America and would go back to continue studying next month, so her English was pretty good which made it a little easier for me to talk to them.
Early evening their uncle arrived with a friend and together we drove to this other place. Along the way we ate something at a restaurant and around 11 we arrived at the hotel, so we went to bed quickly.
The next morning they told me they would leave, so I planned to go to Lige (another small town around the lake) as I thought Luoshui would still be too busy to find a reasonably priced hotel. I got on one of the many rowing boats that sail across the lake and they brought me to Lige… or so I thought. Once I got off I walked around to look for a hotel and suddenly it looked quite familiar… I was back in Luoshui!! WTF, they brought me to the wrong place, probably on purpose as they didn’t want to bring a single foreigner to the other town. I was a bit angry, but accepted to situation and went looking for a hotel. Still most were full or had only expensive rooms available. So I thought “f@ck it”, I’ll just leave and go back towards Sichuan as it’s real close by from here.
But at the bus station there were no more busses leaving that day and for some strange reason the cranky salesperson didn’t want to sell me a ticket for the next day. By that time I was really fed up and just went back to town to book any available room and try to relax for a day and leave the next morning.
After finding a room and eating lunch I had calmed down and went for a walk along the lake. At the end of the street was a simple hotel with a Chinese person playing a Chinese kind of guitar. He smiled at me and I went in and joined his table. He gave me a glass of green tea and continued playing. A little later we started talking and after a while he asked me if I was interested in going on a hike this late afternoon to a village in the mountains as there was a local festival. I wanted too, but I had already booked this hotel room and it would be a waste to not use it. Besides that, I still wanted to leave this place and the bus would leave in the morning, so if I would go for this hike and sleep in the village, I would never make it back on time for the bus the next day. But then 2 Chinese girls walked in and joined the conversation. They were immediately interested in going on this hike and sort of forced me to join too.
The plan was to leave in half an hour, so I quickly went back to my hotel and asked there if I could change my room for one for the next day. They told me it was already quite late (17.30), so they couldn’t do this anymore. But they did give me half my money back, which was good enough for me in this situation. Unfortunately they were already fully booked for the next day, so I had to bring my whole backpack to the other hotel. Once arrived I left my backpack at their reception and as everyone was already waiting on me we left to go to this mountain village.
We were with 4 Chinese girls and one boy, all students around 21 and they were volunteering in a nearby hotel for their summer holiday, and also the 61 year old Chinese man (Mr. Wang) with his dog. The hike was actually pretty long and a tough one. It took us 2 hours to get to the village and I had only eaten lunch and was getting pretty hungry for dinner. But around 8 o’ clock I was the first one to reach the village and as I was curious I didn’t wait for the rest, but entered by myself. Quickly several children noticed me and came to me to see what I was doing here. Not to be impolite, but they all looked like little beggars, very dirty clothes and also their hands and faces were black of the dirt. But they were very friendly and one of the young girls (11 years old) spoke good Mandarin and asked me to come to her home. It was a simple house made of wood, no light, but there was a campfire inside on which they were cooking their dinner. I greeted her dad who was inside and I was given a seat on a small stool near the fire. Immediately I was given a piece of roasted pork from the fire and it tasted very good, especially after hiking this mountain.
After about 10 minutes I noticed the others had still not arrived, so I told the young girl I wanted to look for my friends. While I was walking out their house, grandmother arrived, and motioned me to go back inside and eat some more. I tried to explain I wanted to look for my friends and would come back later. While walking back I saw the others and together we walked through the little village. All local people were really friendly and greeted us with big smiles. Eventually we arrived at a family which Mr. Wang knew well and there we would sleep that night and eat our dinner.
It was a wooden house with one big room when you enter and also a fire in the middle which is used for cooking (and heating, although it must be freezing cold in the winter as there are lots of cracks in between the wooden boards). On one side of the room was a sort of big wooden closet, which had two pair of doors. Behind the biggest pair was the bed of the parents and behind the other door was an actual cabinet used for storage.
After being served some tea, two boys brought in a pig which would be our dinner (it was still alive). They slit its throat and dipped it in the boiling water on the fire, so they could clean the skin and remove the hairs. When the cleaning was done they chopped the whole pig up in small pieces. A few pieces were put in the fire to roast and the rest was cooked in a big pot.
A little while later it was ready and we had a big feast. We got soup that was served in a bowl with a beautiful hand painted spoon according the local minority style, lots of meat, some local made bread and of course rice. All together it was far too much and I’m sure they could enjoy the pork themselves for several more days.
When everybody had finished their dinner we went outside and a campfire was build, which looked very nice in the dark as there is almost no electricity for lights here except for 1 light bulb in the house. The two boys showed us some local dance and together we danced around the campfire the whole evening. Suddenly one of the younger girls came out of the home and she had changed into her traditional dress. She looked very beautiful and everyone was taking photos of her (while she was a little shy of all the attention).
Not sure what time it was, but it must have been after midnight when they let the fire die out and everyone went to bed. I was given a small room with Mr. Wang. We both had a wooden bed, but luckily with a thick, warm blanket and I slept wonderful that night.
The next morning I woke up at 7 and went outside while the sun was still rising and it gave a beautiful color to the village. A little later when also the girls had woken up we ate breakfast which was soup with the pork from the night before, so we had enough energy to hike back to Lugu lake. We said goodbye to the family, thanked for their hospitality and gave a little money to show our appreciation.
When we walked down, two of the local girls walked with us and they both carried a basket on their back, filled with huge mushrooms, which they would sell in the village. The hike back down was a lot easier and didn’t take more than 1 hour.
As this was such a nice experience I felt much better about Lugu lake, so I decided to stay for a few extra days and Mr. Wand arranged a cheap (and very simple) room for me, which was more like a storage room with a bed in it, but I’m not very picky and although there wasn’t even running water and electricity I decided to take it.
Later that day I met a Belgium guy who’s name was also Vincent (think it’s one of the very few times I’ve ever met someone with the same name while traveling). It really clicked and we spend the whole day chatting about China, what we’re doing here, etc while drinking a couple of beers at the lake, wonderful day.
Unfortunately he had to go the next day, but I met 2 Chinese girls from Chongqing and they had hired a driver to take them around the lake and they invited me to join them. Of course I joined, because who would refuse to join 2 beautiful girls!?! It was another warm day, but with the windows open and driving around the lake it was really nice. We made several stops to take photo’s and the first one was at Lige (so I finally got there after all). It was a tiny village, but the location was amazing with one piece of land stretching into the lake, but just staying attached to the mainland.
Later the girls asked the driver if he knew where to buy some apples and he offered to steal some from a tree instead of buying them. So minutes later he came back running to the car with his hands full of apples just picked from a tree besides the road :). The next stop was at a place from where rowing boats left to a little island in the lake with a small temple on top. Of course we needed to negotiate a price, but finally we got into a boat and left. The island wasn’t really spectacular, but it was nice to sit in an old wooden boat on the lake.
At the end of the day the girls were tired and went back to their hotel and when I arrived back at mine, Mr. Wang had arranged a hotpot, a Sichuan dish of hot boiling soup in which you put anything you want to eat, very spicy! We would do it outside besides the river and the students from the hike would also join. So we carried some stuff outside and started to make a fire. We had a big wok and they filled it with water from the lake… well, I wasn’t particularly happy with that, but guess they had done it before and if well cooked it must be ok, so let’s forget I saw that.
We started cleaning some potatoes in the water and once the fire started going and the soup was cooking we cut them in slices and put them in. And then the big plastic bag was opened and guess what kind of meat was in it……. frogs…. very big frogs! I had eaten them before in China and it tastes quite ok, but the only things is that there’s quite a few tiny bones in them. Anyway people happily grabbed a bunch of frogs and tossed them in the soup.
Finally, some beers were opened and we toasted for a great meal and happy times at the lake!! Minutes later the food was ready and people enthusiastically grabbed their chopsticks and starting picking the food out of the wok and putting it into their bowls. It all tasted very good and many people that walked by, looked at what we were doing. And as friendly as the Chinese are, they were all invited to join as and although most people refused, some of them grabbed a pair of chopsticks and joined us.
Unfortunately when we were about finished it started raining a little bit and we quickly cleaned up and moved back into the hotel. There we continued drinking beers, talking and some guys even started singing songs.
After about 4-5 days in Lugu lake I was done with it and had the feeling I would be happy to return to Chengdu. So I took a bus to Xichang which would normally take about 7 hours, but half way when we were driving through the mountains along a river there was a big traffic jam. From our side no cars were moving and the other lane was empty. Then I picked up some Chinese from people speaking and it seemed some rocks had blocked the road.
After an hour of waiting, slowly some cars came passing by from the other side and a little later we could continue. Once we arrived where the rocks had fallen down the mountain, there was just enough room for the bus to maneuver through, although I’m sure there wasn’t more than a few cm of room on either side without hitting the rocks that were still on the road. Also there wasn’t any bulldozer or other big tools which people could have used to move the rocks, so I’m guessing people must have moved the huge rocks themselves. An hour later then planned I arrived in Xichang and with the construction going on in the city it took another half hour before I finally arrived at the bus station.
In Xichang I met Jamie and we met some of her friends (she grew up in this city). We visited the local minority museum which was quite impressive. Then we took a boat across the lake and ate some barbecue. Later that afternoon we were invited by one of her old classmates to have dinner with his parents and also Jamie’s mother would join us. The friends from the afternoon also joined us as the girl was also a classmate from high school and in China the general rule is “the more the merrier”!!!
We had hotpot together, as this is by far the most popular dish here (I was back in Sichuan). During a meal with many friends, people generally don’t drink beer like people do in the west. Here when you drink you always have to make a small toast (or just cheers) and drink together. So the parents toasted with everyone, one by one and during the meal this kept on going… great way of drinking if you want to make someone drunk ;) (which I would learn later, the hard way).
After dinner we said goodbye to all the parents and we all went to a bar to continue drinking. A whole crate of beers was ordered (big bottles) and we continued drinking while shouting “ganbei”! We started with small cups (as normal in China), but suddenly we changed to big glasses as apparently they wanted to get me drunk as I was the new guy. The classmate and his girlfriend both could drink a lot, but luckily I could keep up, until another friend joined and he started drinking with me too. But then Jamie helped me, so it was sort of even again. Luckily a little later we left the bar, and went to a place to eat something. I don’t know how much I had drank that night, but it was a lot.
Two days later I went back to Chengdu with Jamie and still had a couple of weeks before the new semester would start at the university. It was still hot weather, but luckily not as bad anymore as in August.
I’ll stop writing now as it’s another long story. Next time I’ll tell about my second semester of studying Chinese at the Sichuan University.
Foto's bij verslag (45)
7 november 2012 10:52 | Door: Shemay
Heerlijk om je verslag te lezen. Zo, wat een verhaal weer zeg en wat een belevenissen. Ik denk dat je inmiddels meer van China gezien hebt dan menige Chinees. Het moet voor jou toch wel leuk zijn dat je nu iets gemakkelijker met de Chinezen kunt spreken (als ze ten minste mandarijn spreken) dan voorheen.
Elke keer als ik je verhalen lees, dan valt het me weer op hoe gastvrij de mensen daar toch zijn en je steeds weer hartelijk wordt ontvangen en uitgenodigd om mee te gaan of mee te eten. Kan me voorstellen dat je je daar prettig voelt.
Wat leuk dat je Jamie op de terugweg tegen bent gekomen en dat jullie samen konden terugreizen naar Chengdu. Is zij ook nog bezig met haar studie of is ze inmiddels al afgestudeerd? Jullie zullen wel lekker bijgepraat heben.
Inmiddels ben je natuurlijk weer hard aan het studeren en daarnaast ook aan het lesgeven.
Vin, fijn om te lezen dat het goed met je gaat.
Liefs van ons en tot mails,
7 november 2012 17:58 | Door: Lie Ming
Wat ben je toch ontzettend trouw om die leuke berichten te sturen,we zien dat het goed met je gaat en je hebt inmiddels meer ervaring met reizen dan wie ook het zit helemaal in je genen.Ook dat je zo makkel;ijk met een hele simpele kamer genoegen neemt,tuurlijk begrijpen we dat het prijskaartje dan anders is,maar toch een lekkere warme douche is ook wel lekker maar dat komt later wel weer.We zouden wel eens stiekum over je schouder mee willen kijken.Of is je volgende uitdaging een filmverslag maken??Of toch eerst studeren.of beide.
Zoals ik je verslag lees denk ik ook iedere keer,blijven deze mensen alleen maar vriendelijk of zijn ze ook een keer anders maar nee hoor ik kan het niet in je verslag ontdekken,en wat zijn die mensen gastvrij met eten,net als jou Opa eerst eten,en voor dat het bord leeg was schepte hij al weerop.dit blijft je,je hele leven bij.Je schijft dat je meestal bier drinkt,hebben de chinezen je ook al Mau Tai laten drinken?Wij hebben het 1x geprobeerd toen we in china waren,en het smaakte heel anders dan Opa zijn borrel.We hebben het maar bij die ene keer gelaten.In de familie is ook nog een baby geboren,Chihweh en Sofie hebben een dochter gekregen,en die hebben we laatst in Belgie mogen bewonderen op de babyshower,waar wel zoveel mensen waren gewoon(noem het maar gewoon)een heel groot feest.erg leuk.Bovendien wonen ze in een prachtige bungalow wat in Belgie heel gewoon is,in Nederland kan je er een flat voor kopen en niet eens lux ,even over de grens en het is hier al heel anders.En wat doe je op de terugweg even langs de taiteur lekkere dingen kopen voor thuis en dan hoef je niet meer te koken,want die Belgen weten er wat van,zo zie je maar ieder land weer anders.Inmiddels wordt het hier langzaamaan kouder maar ik blijf nog stug door golfen gewoon omdat het leuk is,als het maar droog is,doe jij buiten fietsen nog aan een andere sport of neem je tai chi lessen,dat kan ook in het park.
Nou Vincent er moet nu wel gekookt worden dus ga ik achter de pannen.Leuk om weer iets van je te horen.Frans bewonderd jouw doortastendheid en aanpassingsvermogen, ik ben best een beetje jaloers op je.
Groeten Frans en Lie Ming
12 november 2012 19:56 | Door: sigrid
Vin, wat een avontuur weer!
Leuk om te lezen. Veel succes weer met je studie! X