Jinghong Travel Blog› entry 5 of 13 › view all entries
August 28th, 2007 – by: seattlejon
Information about the bus ride from Kunming to Jinghong was pretty hard to find before I left. All I knew was that such a bus existed and that it is a sleeper bus. The accounts of the bus trip ranged from bad to really bad. One travel blog described the beds on the bus as coffin like and how convenient that was considering the roads and the driving style of the bus driver. Travel time estimates in my book and online were 18-24 hrs so I was prepared for this to be the most challenging part of the trip.
Well, like everything in China, the roads in Yunnan are improving practically every day. Since the information I read was gathered, a modern highway was extended to Jinghong dropping travel times from 24 hrs to 9 hrs.
The Kunming bus station isn't so well organized so I just went and said Jinghong to the ticket taker. She abandoned her post to personally lead me to my bus and hand me off to the bus hostes. There was a problem though. The bus hostes wouldn't let me board the bus right away. It seemed like someone else had already been given my seat. Uhoh. Fortunately, she is probably so worried about the difficulty of explaining the situation to me (language barrier) that she puts me into another bed on the bus. It's just musical chairs though, and I'm pretty sure that when the music stops, someone isn't going to have a bed.
Sure enough, about ten minutes later, an argument starts outside the bus about 10 minutes later. I think this is probably the guy who's bed I'm in, so I try to make myself invisible. Eventually everything seems to get worked out though, and the guy leaves. The bed is mine.
There isn't much luggage space inside of the sleeper bus, so I had my water bottle, glasses case, and book sitting in my lap. A nice guy next to me indicated that if I lift up the matress behind me, there is a small compartment. Useful to know if you ever ride in one of these busses.
The trip was actually too quick since we arrived in Jinghong at about 6:30am and I would have liked another couple hours sleep. I wandered around the small bus station and found a taxi driver.
This was my first time ever going into a city without having confirmed accommodations in advance, so I was a bit nervous.
He took me to a nice looking 2 star hotel. He walked me up to the desk (to get his commission of course) and we started talking to the receptionist. She showed me a pamphlet with a 3, 2, or 1 bed room and told me the prices (?, 120, & 100). I told her I'm only one person, so I'll take the 1 bed room. "Sorry, no one bed rooms available," she says.
Geez, if there aren't any available then why did she show the picture and tell the price. One twenty is a lot more than the 80 I was looking for so I start to leave, but the taxi driver tries to convince me by saying some stuff I don't understand.
The one bed room is actually quite nice. Good cable TV, AC, wood floor, good size bathroom, western toilet (this will be important later). Of course the bed was also nice by Chinese hotel standards (like concrete by my standards). I unloaded my stuff, flipped through the tv channels, and looked at the city map for a little bit. Then I left to see about some breakfast and a boat ticket to Thailand.
On the way past Peacock lake outside of my hotel, a big class of high school students dressed in camoflague jogged past in a long line. They seemed a lot happier than I would have been running around in camo at 7:30am. With their "heeellooooo"s still ringing in my ears I went off to find a traveller cafe.
The streets of Jinghong are really beautiful, especially compared to most city streets in China. In the center of the city, all of the streets are lined with palm trees and there are pleanty of flowers and green grass.
I finally arrived at Mekong Cafe...or Rainforest Cafe, I can't remember which and I asked about the possibility of catching a boat going to Thailand on the Mekong river. He said it's possible and made a call. After the call he told me that there are only 3 boats per week, Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday morning. I was already too late for the Tuesday boat, and the Thursday one was already full with a tour group. I'd have to wait until Saturday, four days. That sounded like a lot of time to spend in Jinghong, especially since I still wanted to see Chiang Mai and had to be in Bangkok by Monday.
"Isn't there any other way?" I asked.
I'd heard that cargo boats used to be the only way.
"Well," he said, "there are cargo boats, but you can't take them anymore. They're too cheap."
I guess the speed boat company must have made some deal that gives them a monopoly on passenger transport so that they can charge over $100 for the short trip.
I considered for a bit and discussed the possibility of reaching Bangkok in time with the proprieter. He said that he thinks it will be possible. The information I have indicates that it should be possible, but it won't leave me much extra time if I miss a connection. Since I don't seem to have any other options, I ask him to book the ticket. I also order a chocolate bannana pancake and some ice coffee.
Peacock Lake Panorama
Afternoon Exploring Jinghong
After breakfast, I set out for the Jinghong Botanical Park.
All the signs in Jinghong have Chinese with Thai right under it, so I decide to give Thai food a try. I look up the word for "best" (zui) in my Chinese phrase book and I get a taxi and tell him to take to the best Thai restaurant in Jinghong. "Just one person?" he asks.
The place he takes me to is pretty good, and I end up going back there every evening for dinner. The first time the waitress was pretty cool towards me, but by the fourth time she was coming back and asking if I needed more rice etc.
Botanical Park Panorama 1
Botanical Park Panorama 2
Botanical Park Panorama 3
Anmo Shifu Nuren
It was a long day and I was a bit sunburnt from the park, so I went back to my hotel early to rest and watch soccer.
Lady: Hello. Bla bla bla bla, bla bla bla bla. Bla bla bla bla?
Me (Thinking in English): Okay, she's either looking for someone who's not here or offering something I don't want. I opt for the former
Me: Not here.
Lady (sounding confused): Bla bla bla. Bla bla?
Me (Thinking in English): Okay that obviously wasn't the right answer.
Me: Don't want. Thanks. Bye.
Lady: Bla bla bla bla bla........
I hang up the phone.
Glad to have that taken care of, I settle in to watch some more football. But ten minutes later...
What could this be? I go to open the door. Standing outside the door is a plainly dressed Chinese woman probably about 40.
Lady (with a big friendly smile): Hi. Bla bla bla?
By now, I'm finally starting to figure out what's going on. I can be a bit slow sometimes.
Me: I don't want. Thanks. Bye.
She starts making massage gestures with her hands, clearly asking if I would like a massage. She also starts pushing in closer to the door.
Me: No. I don't want, thanks. Bye.
I start closing the door but she keeps pushing on the other side. Pushing pretty hard. I keep repeating "I don't want" and lean on the door to get it to close. Sheesh.
After this incident, I see a little advertisement by the phone with a list of prices. What could this be? I decide to look up the Chinese word for "massage" and sure enough, the advertisement is for a variety of kinds of massage, available from 1pm-3am. Last time I checked, two star hotels don't offer massages at 3am.
The phone call repeated itself the next three nights, since I learned the word for "massage" the conversation went something more like this:
Lady: Bla bla bla bla bla.
Me: I don't want a massage. Thanks.
Lady: Bla bla bla bla massage?
Me: I don't want one. Thanks. Bye.
This conversation did not result in a personal visit so I guess learning the word for massage paid off.
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