Tuesday 3nd May 2011
28 days left traveling the world.
MP3 track of the day: You sexy thing – Hot Chocolate
Weather: Every type of weather under the sun; the day started cool, then it rained for a short period before becoming sunny and bright. In the afternoon another rain shower occurred before becoming sunny again. The weather today was like a woman, unable to make it's mind up.
My nights sleep was fairly peaceful compared to other hostels; no loud music could be herd from the bar and, even though some travellers did come in chatting, they were still a lot quieter than the usual Chinese rabble. Even with all this peace I didn't get a good nights sleep, mainly due to the 'full blown cold' that had erupted late the previous evening. I'd gone to bed around nine, and had awoken around 8am, but still I felt tired, dozy and 'spaced out', which I knew would last the rest of the day. After eating breakfast I felt a lot better; I went into Kumming to get my visa sorted.
Today was a lot cooler than the same time yesterday and I'd wished I'd brought my coat. Still searching for a book store, I'd been given directions, to a big one, from the hostels reception; as it was on my way to the visa office I went by and had a look around their small selection of English novels, still no joy. I arrived at the visa office to find it open; remembering how Chinese embassies don't like camera's I'd decided not to bring mine though, as there was no security checks, I need not have worried. I had to wait until a Chinese family, of three, had stopped shouting at the two officers behind the counter until I was eventually summoned; the officers English was extremely good and I was able to communicate my request with ease. Seven days! I herd myself say as my eyes popped out; the officer confirmed that, if I wanted to extend my visa within Kumming, I would have to wait seven days. As I thought it over she told me that Dali (my next stop) could process visa requests within three; I thanked her for the information before taking my passport with me.
Once back at the hostel I had some things to take care of; I couldn't understand why one office (in a major city) would need seven days to process a visa extension whereas a small town would only need three. However that didn't matter, all I knew is that I needed to cancel two nights and book a bus to Dali for Thursday. The hostel reception were brilliant; not only was I promised a full refund but they booked my coach to Dali, gave me instructions on how to get to where my coach departed from and all this without a fuss. I was asked whether I would like a night or day coach; considering that I'm approaching the Himalayas I decided to take the day coach as I thought the view would be worth seeing. Once done I surfed the internet to book accommodation within Dali; as I would be arriving late Thursday afternoon I would arrive at the Chinese visa office, at the earliest, by Friday morning. This meant that, with three working days required, I booked myself into 'The Dali Hump' until next Wednesday. All this planning had taken the entire morning and so I'd missed my slot for going to the park; given that, whilst booking my accommodation, I'd seen rain fall from outside the hostels window I decided that this was no bad thing. As it was nearing the afternoon I therefore went for my afternoon plan, I would have a look around Yunnan's Museum.
Learning my lesson from this morning I picked up my coat and headed out. It soon became apparent that the coat wasn't necessary; the weather had changed and rain clouds had been exchanged for white ones with a large, hot, sun high above. After a quick lunch, and a twenty minute walk, I arrived at the museum to find it closed … and it would appear for a very long time. As I took a step into the museum's grounds I saw the building; it looked as though some well known terrorist had been hiding within the building and some special forces, from a well known Western country, had stormed the place and killed him. Rubble was scattered within the forecourt, scaffolding held up what remained of the structure and only a few letters remained of a sign that read 'welcome to Yunnan Museum'. At that moment a guard appeared around the corner and said 'closed'; I chuckled realizing that for myself.
The day wasn't going as I'd hoped; my visa wasn't being extended, I was moving on faster that I thought and I hadn't been to either the park or the museum. On the plus side, after many McDonald's hot chocolates, my cold was starting to shift. I got back to my hostel and flicked through my guidebook; due to the constant weather changes the park was out and so I decided to visit two Pagodas, located ten minutes away. I closed my book, picked up my camera and left my coat.
Unbelievably one of the Pagodas – the eastern Pagoda – was closed due to renovation work. This left me with the Western Pagoda which, being a single thirteen storey structure - that you couldn't go in - didn't take up much time. I took a couple of photos before heading to a small market I'd spotted on my way. One street, of thirty red tents, was all the market consisted of; having no English signs I wasn't sure if half the products were for eating, held medicinal properties or were to make your house smell nice. There was one stall which made it perfectly clear what it sold. 'fried chick' was the product and you could tell due to the chick being whole, under a coating of burgundy sauce; its wings, feet and head could still be made out.
I got back to my hostel around 2pm itching for something to do. It's not that Kumming hasn't got any attractions, it's just most of them are a days trip out of the city. Add to this that most of China's attractions costs money to enter means that, with a tight budget, you have to decided which ones will be worth the time and money. With no idea's coming I decided to head into town and look around some shopping centres; I'd just left my hostel and, once again, it had started to rain … I didn't have my coat with me.
Anyone who knows me knows that I would prefer to stick pins in my eyes then look around clothes shops. I managed to wondered around four shopping centres, with seven floors each, within the hour; the only thing I noticed was the strategic positioning of escalators. Some centres placed their escalators for easy access, some so that you have to look around the floor before making it to the next level. Either way the change in 'escalator position' became annoying; as I went from centre to centre I would, without knowing it, head to the position the escalators were in within the last shopping centre, only to find them flowing in the other direction. Talking about escalators just shows how good my day has been.
After a while I got bored and so, dodging the rain, I headed back to my hostel around 3pm. Tonight I shall while away the hours with my book and food (as I write there's a picture of a slice of 'black forest cake' positioned within my eye line, on the wall in front of me … I know it was put there deliberately) before getting another early night to rid me of this cold.
Today marks my 4th week within China and, whilst the previous complaints still hold, I have neglected to mention one of China's big pluses. The hostels are brilliant; clean, tidy and brimming with useful information they're a steal at, on average, £3 per night. However what really makes them good are the staff; able to speak English, smiling and always ready to help they are amazing. Knowing how hard it is to communicate within China the hostel will write down, in Chinese, anything you need and they always have cards pre-printed to help you get to attractions, transport interchanges or back to the hostel after a drunken night. Overall the hostels in China are some of the best I've stayed in within the world. Another bit of good news is that my daily average has fallen, once more, to just over £32.00.