Sunday 15th May 2011
16 days left traveling the world.
MP3 track of the day: Honor him – Gladiator soundtrack
Weather: Lijiang's skies seemed to be covered in clouds cooling the temperature, though none threatened rain.
With my bags packed I found myself stood outside reception before it was open. It was a pain having to check-out so early however I wanted to beat the tour groups to the 'Black Dragon Pools'. The sign on the reception door read 'open 7am' but it wasn't until 7:20am when a, rather annoyed looking, receptionist came to check me out and store my luggage. The front door hadn't been unbolted and, thinking it unwise to bother the receptionist again, I let myself out.
The 'Prague Café' - which was the restaurant I went to last night – opened at 7am and so I was able to devour a hot chocolate, with marshmallows, and a chocolate pancake without waiting. The cost was a little high but the food had been as good as last night. As I head north, towards the pools, I had a slight nervousness within my walk; the 'free entry ticket' Sim had given me was the one he'd used two days ago. It had a months warranty but it also had his name on it; I kept telling myself, if I got asked for 'ID' I'd just have to say that I hadn't got any on me.
I couldn't believe it; the time was 8:20am and, in the distance, I could see a yellow flag going through the parks main entrance followed by a mob of yellow baseball wearing Chinese people. Do these people ever sleep? I decided that, if my free pass didn't work, I wasn't prepared to pay £8 to fight my way through crowds. I stepped up to the ticket sales woman and presented my ticket; she beckoned me to go straight through … result. Once inside I walked quickly to leap-frog the tour group; there was a photo within my guidebook, taken from these pools, that I wanted to copy without anyone in the way. I continued walking around with a look of disappointment; yes the water was clear, yes the pavilion in the middle - with trees either side and a Chinese bridge leading to it - was photogenic but for £8 it wasn't worth it. With not much to see I walked along the few paths available taking photos of the clear waters in front of me. Eventually a path lead to the start of a mountain hike; after yesterday I wasn't really in the mood for hiking however, with not much else to see, I had time to kill. First of all I had to fill out a 'health and safety' form writing my name, time I started my assent, name of my hostel and my mobile, or passport, number. I filled all boxes apart from the last, reluctant to put my mobile or passport numbers down. I placed the pen back on the table but the assistant insisted that I fill out the last box; I put the first seven digits that came into my head and stormed off to start the climb.
Consisting of mainly steps the path had been well made though it was slippery. I started the assent not stopping for breaks; due to the amount of clouds within the sky the temperature was cool though I was still sweating. The mountain kept to go on and on; once I'd thought I'd reach the top another bit would appear from out of know where and, the stubbornness within me, would keep me going. I'm not sure when the guy first came into view but, for some reason, I seemed to have a Chinese bloke following me. I could see him, just behind to my left, contemplating a pass. I quickened my pace, took the inside line and kept looking straight; if he was to pass me it would have to be on the outside. His pace matched mine and, for some reason, I found myself in a race that I didn't want to loose; I passed people, keeping the inside line as much as possible. He seemed quicker on the steps though I outpaced him on the straights and, as we eventually approached the final pavilion I saw him stop, turn around, and head back the other way. We may not be that good at table tennis, we may not know all the secrets to Kung-fu but us Europeans know how to climb a hill. After that brief acknowledgement of victory I lay down totally exhausted.
I eventually got up to look at the view; with the town surrounded by mountains you would have thought that it would have been quite pleasant ... but it wasn't. With so many clouds the mountain tops were faded and the town below was built with little thought for aesthetics. I left the pavilion quickly, passing many red faced Chinese people as I descended. I walked slowly, my breathe returning and the sweat stopping. I found myself at a fork within the path; I knew that heading straight would lead me back to the park but I wondered where the other path went. The path seemed to climb a little so maybe the view was better; curiosity got the better of me and, even though my body protested, I started to climb once more. I wasn't climbing for long when I was confronted by a communications tower; the path seemed to head back towards the park and so I stood at the highest point realising that the view was no better. I turned around and went back down the mountain the way I'd come up. Once at the bottom I filled out the 'time back' box, on the 'safety form, with a satisfied nod from the attendant. I didn't spend much longer within the park; the amount of people had grown and there was only three small temples to look at. I left at 10:30am heading into town.
After visiting the supermarket I found myself within a small park eating chocolate and seeing what was going on around me. People were walking this way and that all having individual agendas to complete; all around me were small flower boxes with signs erected within them. As I went for a closer inspection I noticed that said signs were in Chinese as well as English. I laughed as I read some of the statements the Chinese authorities thought were so important that they had translated:
- 'Beanify our lives, purify our lives'
- 'Less foot prints, more aroma'
- 'Keep off hands and feet, preserve green'
I chucked to myself as I took a photo of each sign I came across. I wondered why signs like these were translated but train station names weren't. I finished my comical photography and went back to the 'Prague café' for another of their great sandwiches.
The time was 1pm and I found myself sitting within my hostels common room fully satisfied that all I wanted to see within Lijiang had been completed. I went on the internet and updated my blog, which took until the early evening. Afterwards I put my bags back into storage before an early tea at, you guessed it, the Prague Café. I made it back to my hostel at around 7:30pm and decided to head straight to the train station encase of any unforeseen problems.
'You're leaving now?' the receptionist said surprised. I replied with a smile and said that, even though I was three hours early, I would prefer to wait at the station encase anything went wrong. I turned to pass her but she blocked my way; she explained that, due to Lijiang having a small train station, with limited services, the waiting room wasn't usually open this early. She continued by stating that the station was in the middle of nowhere with nothing to do. She pleaded with me to sit back down and wait an hour, leaving at 8:30pm should be okay she said. I nodded and put my bag back down; I got my novel out and started to read whilst the receptionist went for tea.
It was 8:20pm and I was bursting to leave; I couldn't wait any longer therefore I said a quick goodbye before walking out the door. Night had fallen and only house lights allowed me to make my way; it didn't take me long to reach the main highway and I soon found myself at the point where bus number thirteen stopped. I waited and I waited; three 'number two' services went by and I was about to curse the receptionist, and all of her employees, for stopping me catching the earlier services when, finally, a bus with the number thirteen on it showed up. I blew a sigh of relief; the time was 8:45pm and in another fifteen minutes this service would have stopped.
The bus ride was uneventful; darkness consumed the surroundings however, looking at the dirt road the buses' lights lit up, I could tell that we were in the middle of nowhere. We kept going on and on; a few people alighted but most passengers, looking at the amount of luggage they carried, were heading to the same destination as I. At 9:15pm we pulled up at the station. A simple, but large, rectangular building stood in front of me with crowds outside. The receptionist was right, there was nothing for miles apart from a few stalls to my right, the train station in front, a basketball court and a high embankment to my left with a train sitting above. I followed the crowds into the station and resumed my story of Julius Caesar until called to alight the train.
The concrete stairs, up the embankment, were tall and I was glad that I had a rucksack instead of a trolley. Once at the top I caught my breathe and checked the sign stating the way to carriage thirteen. I'd never seen carriages like these before I could tell that there were two floors as there were two rows of windows. As I boarded my carriage I checked my ticket and realised that I would be on the second floor; once there I checked my ticket again to realise that I had the top bunk. I hadn't been on the top bunk, within a train before and it soon became apparent that the lower bunk was the better option. I climbed using the two foot rests provided and hit my head upon the roof. It was so low that I had to crawl along my bed and any chance of trying to sit up was none existent. Still that didn't matter, as the train rolled out of the station the time was 10::30pm and it was time for bed.
I arrive within Kumming at 7am tomorrow!