A half days's stay in Kunming
Kunming Travel Blog› entry 2 of 6 › view all entries
That morning we had to get up really early, because we needed to find out if we could fly to Lijiang or we still might neeed to get a bus somewhere. Or we would stay in Kunming and change hotels. This former military hotel was an... interesting experience. But one night under the itchy horse hair blankets was enough.
Breakfast was served in a large mezzanine overlooking the main hall. There was a half circular plastic bar behind which the cook was working. And a selection of freshly steamed buns, dumplings, noodles and rice was served buffet style. There was tea, no coffee. No bread, juice or fruits either. Only warm stuff. Simple formica tables, and virtually the only decoration was grey and green paint and a big round no smoking sticker, glued on the top of each table.
While my friend had gone down to ask about the bus schedules, the cook went out of his way to explain to me, his only guest, which dish was what. He used very simple words without a heavy accent, so I could in fact understand the words for egg, mee, rice, and also the words for vegetables, fish, pork and beef, referring to the stuffings of the buns and the dumplings. He insisted that i would try a little of eveything.
It was warm and most of them tasted good. While I was eating, I heard footsteps on the stairs, so i thought my friend was coming up. But no, it was the same soldier of last night. He looked around at the many empty tables and then he pointed at the other chair at my table. I nodded that of course he could join me.
He sat down with a smile and yelled something at the cook.
The soldier got his cigarettes from one of the uniform pockets. I was about finished with my buns, so when he offered one to me I accepted with a polite "xie xie ni".
We drank tea and talked to the best I could, with my few words of Mandarin, and we both smoked three cigarettes in a row in this pleasant no smoking restaurant.
It was total fun, and this officer was quite patient to let me find my words. We had an actual conversation about simple things like how many children, where from, where you are going, etc. About the smoking thing he was explaining something like Beijing is very far away from here.
When we had to go, we said goodbye with a cordial handshake and an explanation from the soldier to the cook: "Zhe ge Helan ren wode pengyou" (This Dutch guy is my friend).
When we walked out of the hotel, we crossed the enourmously wide street. The reason was the internet café on the other side. It was run by a young girl, who was shocked to have strangers in her shop. We asked about being able to use internet, do you have a western keyboard etc. But even before we finished our questions, she already would say "mei you" ("don't have") at any question.
In the meantime the butcher next door was hanging a dead pig with its rear legs on a tripod that was standing on the sidewalk. I realized that my camera was still in the room (we had not checked out yet), and regretted much not being able to shoot this street scene.
Since the only thing possible in the internet café was buying writing paper and enveloppes, this attempt was useless for us. We took a taxi to the travel agency, which was located in a hotel lobby annex mall at Beijing Lu. We were received as friends, not as customers. We got a tea tasting for free (including some "grand cru" among the teas), and we got introduced to every staff member. They could arrange a brand new hotel for us in Lijiang, the flights leaving today and returning after three days, a professional guide and a driver for us for a very attractive price. We decided to go for it. It was only 9:00 a.m. now and our flight would be at 3:30 p.m. with the need to only be there 30 minutes ahead (we had only carry on baggage). So we decided to get into town, then back to the hotel to check out, then pick up our tickets and then go to the airport.
Walking along Beijing Lu, we needed an ATM. At China bank, strange enough my friend's HK bank cards did not work, but with my Dutch bank pass (debit card with Maestro logo), I could withdraw money from every ATM I tried in China.
Down the road we walked by a store front food shop where it smelled fantastic. There were no customers in front, so we took a look inside. My friend asked something and before I knew it we were invited inside and they taught us how to make the filled little steamed dumpling cakes. They had big pans with four different fillings of which two based on vegetable, one was based on nuts and marroons and one was based on sweet red bean paste.
They taught us how to make the little balls of filling, how to put them on the pastry, and how to fold them so that it looked like little bags without the filling leaking out of it.
We did our best to learn it, but when we turned around we saw that all of a sudden there were at least 50 people trying to peek into the shop and look what we were doing. The owner and his staff were happy of course with this sudden massive attention, in the next half hour or so he sold very well, and he gave us a bag of all four pastries when we left.
We had heard that there had to be a flower market somewhere, and we took a cab. It was not far. We decided that we would buy a bunch of flowers for the nice lady of the travel agency who had done all these efforts to arrange our trip to Lijiang. On the flower market we noticed that everything was especially BIG, such as the wedding bouquets, but also the flower laurels for funerals. And the color combination were just, let's say.
We asked two sales ladies to make a bouquet of red and white flowers with some greens in between, and they looked at us if we were crazy. Why on earth did these strangers want such a miserable bouquet while they had all these hard colors? First they simplyy refused, as if they did not want to put their reputation at stake for something ridiculous that we were asking. But finally they did it, according to what we asked. However, from their faces it was all too obvious that they deeply disapproved our preferences for flower arrangement. To still make it look "half way decent" they wrapped at least three layers of plastic around it and at least five diffferent colors of ribbon.
The price was 50 Yuan. I gave them 100 and because all the hardship we had given them, and all the effort they had made, I told them to keep the change ("Bu yong"). They looked at me as if I was an escaped mental patient or an alien from Mars, then talked to each other, and when we left we still saw them run to the neighbour and loudly talking and pointing at us... We must have given them a true shock that day, but also some business.
After this experience we picked up some pastry from a French style pastry store in the same street, which would be our lunch, went to the travel agency to give the flowers and pick up the tickets. The young lady was very happily surprised and when we told about our visit to the market we all had a good laugh about the situation.
We took off to the airport, checked in very quickly and smoothly and got on board of the brand new 737 of Lucky Air, which name made us feel even happier on this interesting day. The flight was short, nice, even snacks and drinks on board, and when arriving in Lijiang, we saw a modern building, clear sky, beautiful mountains at the horizon, and our guide Mr. Zhang already waiting for us in the arrivals area. Within 15 minutes we were driven over beautiful modern roads to a huge brand new hotel just outside of Lijiang.
It started with itches from horse hair blankets in the night but all the rest of this day had already been an adventure...