3/17 – There was nothing else we wanted to see in Chengdu, so we are continuing south to Kunming. We enjoyed a leisurely morning, as our train doesn’t depart until 15:00 this afternoon. Same hotel breakfast ( I skipped the pickled cabbage and had an extra egg), and an especially good lunch of dumpling soup with leeks and chives. Jim had a spicier dish comprised mainly of chicken skins.
We gave ourselves an hour to complete the 10 minute ride to the train station, so, of course, circumstances conspired against us. Background: hotels in China ask for a cash deposit when you check in, then send a maid up to inventory the room when you check out, to make sure you haven’t stolen anything. Some hotels have items for sale in the room – razors, decks of cards, cans of soda, beer, and snacks – clearly marked. Most hotels provide an electric kettle and teacups, bottled water and a variety of tea, gratis. When we tried to check out of this hotel, we were presented a bill for 40 yuan for the sundries we had used – the tea, the tissues, the bottled water, and what we thought was a complimentary toothbrush. After almost a month in China, this is the first time we have encountered this. They also claimed we stole a towel, which others online had reported was a common ploy to extract more money from tourists here. I shouted and waved my good arm around, gave back the toothbrush and got the damage reduced to 15 yuan ($2.42), but it cost us 15 minutes in the lobby.
We hustled down to the main road, (Jim still lugging both our packs) but had a hard time getting a taxi to stop, and when we finally did, the traffic was bumper-to-bumper all the way to the train station. Passing through Security, I got pulled over because my passport number was not correct on the train ticket. The young woman showed me the discrepancy and I just shrugged. I didn’t type up the ticket – I didn’t even know they were putting our passport numbers on there! We had to march over to the supervisor, who examined my passport and Chinese visa very carefully and then let us through. We got to our gate just as our train was being called. Whew!
So now we are on the overnight sleeper to Kunming, in our comfy lower bunks of a soft sleeper with a door that closes, fresh linens (I presume), and a young man and a young woman texting away on their mobiles on the berths above. The afternoon is warm (mid 70s) and we can actually see the sun as we leave the city. Here are some views out the train window.
3/18 – After a bumpy night’s sleep, we arrived in Kunming at 9 am. The train station is huge, and we have to walk quite a way before we can find a taxi. Kunming is called Spring City in China, as the weather is always perfect – not too hot and not too cold. It is a favorite destination for Chinese tourists. Although there is some smog, the sky is definitely blue!
Jim booked us at a new hotel in the center of the city, which does not appear on any of our maps. The only clue I have is that one of the exterior pictures of the hotel on the Booking.com website shows a large golden statue of Jesus. Can’t be too many of those in the middle of Kunming! Sure enough, we spot the statue, and identify the tall building that must contain our hotel. It is an insurance company building, in the middle of a construction zone, but we know our hotel is on the 8th floor. We’re getting pretty good at sleuthing our way around without being able to read the language.
In the afternoon we checked out the options in our neighborhood – fruit shop, plenty of noodle eateries (not big enough to be called restaurants, just a few tables) of the kind we favor, but no market, super or otherwise, which is too bad, as our hotel room has a fridge and a microwave.
We has supper at a nearby eatery that provided a delicious full meal including soup, tea, two vegetables, a meat entree and rice for 15 yuan ($2.42). The proprietor came over after observing me eating with my chopsticks in my left hand, and tried to get me to take a new pair of chopsticks with my right hand. I thanked her, but was puzzled. I wonder if I am offending by using my left hand – I know I would be in India, but this is the first time I’ve been approached here. She could see the sling on my right arm – this was one of the many times a bit more knowledge of the language would have helped!