Monday 9th May 2011
22 days left traveling the world.
MP3 track of the day: Que sera sera – Doris Day
Weather: A lot cooler than yesterday - due to having more clouds - but still a 'baby blue' sky could be seen. During the late afternoon the clouds drew in and a light rain shower occurred.
Unbelievably I woke up to the sound of snoring once again; the thunderous noise came from the guy to my right and, once he'd started, others followed. I looked at my watch waiting for my eyes to focus on it's tiny face … 6:30am. Still it could have been worse; last night the room stunk of weed and I was almost certain Britney Spears was in the bunk opposite. Trying to sleep was useless therefore I got up and got ready, not caring if I made a noise as I closed the dorm door behind me. Once washed and dressed it was still too early to descend on 'Old Dali towns' police office and so I sat down, with one of the hostels computers in front of me, and read through all the articles - on the BBC sport website - in regards to the latest Formula One race. Eventually time ticked on and so I made the decision that it was time to leave the hostel; I went once more into my dorm picking up items that I would need and leaving my camera behind.
'Sweet Tooth' café wasn't open this early and so I decided to eat breakfast after I'd got my certificate. I walked east and, after thirty minutes or so, I found myself, once again, facing 'Tol Seng' prison. I walked up the stone stair case showing the note, that I'd been given by my hostel, to any officer who stopped me. Once on the third floor I stopped outside the office I'd been told to, finding the door padlocked. I'm not sure if one of the officers, who had passed me by on the stairs, had notified the police woman that I was waiting, or if she had arrived round the same time as I but I didn't have to wait long. A Chinese woman, of average height and build, stood in a police uniform with a neutral expression. She unlocked her office, beckoned me in and turned her PC on. I sat down in an old, burgundy, leather chair that reclined too much to be comfortable; the police lady put her lunch on her desk and logged onto the machine to her right. The woman entered my passport details into a database and, in return for my patience, I was handed a 'certificate of residence' which I thanked her for before heading back to my hostel.
I'd made a quick stop for another slice of 'chocolate chip cheesecake with a hot chocolate' before presenting my certificate to the receptionist at my hostel. She, in return, explained the next stage of the visa process which involved me catching bus number eight towards the 'new town' of Dali. The bus stop wasn't far and luckily there was a service waiting for me; I showed the driver a piece of paper which stated where I wanted to go and if he would let me know when I was there. At first the service was empty and I had a row of seats to my self however, as we moved through the town, the bus became full resulting in me surrendering my seat to a lady with a young baby (no one else was going to). She thanked me as I stood near to her trying to keep eye contact with the driver whilst allowing room for the endless queues of people who kept coming on board.
We drove through the outskirts of town where the driver indicated that my stop was imminent; I pushed my way through the crowds, thanked the driver, and departed the service. Letting the dust settle I looked at my surroundings; As I walked towards my destination part of me wished the office was within the town, as I was craving more McDonald's pineapple pie goodness (I have missed those). After asking numerous gate guards I finally found an entrance I was allowed to proceed through; in front of me was a large, bland, rectangle building with an antenna on top. The visa reception was manned by three people; with only one other customer I was served immediately by a young guy who spoke English. I provided my certificate, my passport and a photo and he, in return, asked me to fill out a form. He seemed pleasant enough and, as I wrote, we talked about boxing and Formula One. His joyous mood put me at ease and I could almost see my granted visa extension though, once I'd given back the form, he said that I'd have to come back on Wednesday. “Wednesday” I replied sounding a little shocked; “yes”, replied the assistant, “we need three days to check your details”. Having no choice I left my passport, thanked him, and turned around trying to hide my disappointment.
I did think about heading into the new town of Dali but instead I caught the bus back; the bus was a lot less crowded which gave me time to think. I was booked into my hostel until Tuesday and so another night was needed; this endless waiting was becoming a pain and time was slipping from me however I had no choice, I had to sit it out and wait. Once back at the hostel I extended my stay for a further night explaining my situation. I sat at the counter flicking through my diary; the earliest I could leave Dali was Thursday 12th May and then I wanted to spend four nights within Lijiang before heading back to Kumming to catch the train to Luoyang. I would probably have to spend at least one night in Kumming before embarking on my two night train trip; this would make the date Thursday 19th May. Three nights in Luoyang, with a further three nights in Xi'an, would leave five nights to get to Beijing and look around which, by all accounts, is cutting it a little fine. I dropped my laundry off at the hostel reception before heading out, still with the above predicament firmly within my head.
My destination was the lake front which, I estimated, would be a good hours walk away. I stopped within town for an early lunch, reading my guidebook and running through the predicament within my head. I was going to loose a lot of time travelling from Lijiang, through Kumming, to Luoyang (four nights) and I wondered whether a flight might be the best course of action. I would have to check the difference in price and, with that decision made, I closed my guidebook as lunch approached; I ate quickly and soon I found myself back on the streets of Dali heading east.
Of course, just like everything in China, trying to get to 'Er Hai's' river front proved difficult; I spent a while walking along Dali's main highway looking for a road east. After having dust blown into my face numerous times a road could be seen. The sign stated that it was 3km to the river and so I started to walk; within a minute or two I stumbled across a new housing estate. There was no one around and so I enjoyed the opportunity to take photos of buildings without hordes of people in my way. After ten minutes or so I realised that no one lived here; the buildings were all built, bus stops along the highway had been erected and the gardens had been landscaped beautifully and yet, peering through some of the windows, the rooms were left undecorated with no furniture. As I walked the site seemed to grow and the same story repeated itself; it did make excellent photography but it made me wonder why so made houses remained vacant. Thoughts of 'Silent Hill' came rushing into my head and, after a few photos, I left heading towards my destination. I kept walking noticing that - due to the road being straight - my destination never seemed to get any closer; buses passed me by, throwing dust within my path, as I looked out across the rice fields. Just like within Vietnam the fields consisted of the purest colour of green and, with the blue skies above, they made a pleasing site that you would miss being stuck on a bus. I saw many locals work the fields and many more sitting around drinking tea and playing cards.
Finally, heroically, I made it to a ticket barrier that prevented me from going any further. The ticket barrier was for the ferry that docked on the pier in front; to my right was a small stone bridge that lead to a stone path. Trees lined the rough pathway that I followed in the direction of the lake; the view, partially hidden by trees that lined the bank, was stunning and once more memories of Canada and New Zealand flooded into my head. I occasionally broke through the line of trees and balanced myself upon rocks to get photos of the view before me; I hadn't seen water this blue since New Zealand and, with the sky and the mountains in the background, it was a pleasant place to be. My only regret was that the path ended almost as soon as it begun; I'd only walked for five minutes when the path headed west back the way I'd come. I tried to find a way to continue along the river but there were no side streets, only the road I'd walked down. With no choice I reluctantly started the hours walk back to my hostel, once more seeing the same people working within the rice fields..
Before reaching the hostel I sat on a bench, along the main street with Dali, eating the chocolate and drinking the drink that I'd just purchased. It was nice to see people pass me by, in a world of their own, however I did get hounded by a guy who wanted to clean my shoes and a group of girls who wanted to take my photo without asking. Neither were successful. Once back at the hostel I got asked the bizarre question “... can turtles float?...” As my head tried to form some logical reason for said question I saw one hippy hold a turtle above a fish bowl. I replied that, considering the shell is quite heavy, I didn't think he would be able to float. “...But they can swim?...” was his reply to which I answered “... only some...”. With that the guy decided to give the turtle a bath by dunking him into the water three or four times; another hippy had just purchased two fish which she had put within a glass bowl. I couldn't fully hear the conversation but it sounded as though she was going to kill them in an 'artistic way to express herself'. I hate tree loving, acorn tea drinking, baggy trouser wearing hippies.
The evening soon came and rain began to fall. I found myself, once more, within the towns internet café; I did the usual stuff - checking emails and uploading photos – before investigating flight and train prices ... plus searching for accommodation within Lijiang. I'm not booking anything until I have my passport back with my visa extension; once that is done I'll start to get myself sorted. Tonight ear plugs!