Monday 2nd May 2011
29 days left traveling the world.
MP3 track of the day: It's time for Africa – Shakira
Weather: Blue skies … did you hear blue skies! Not smog ridden or bleached white but summery blue skies with fluffy white clouds. The temperature is just about right too; it's around 25 degrees with a cool breeze ... the weather hasn't been this good for a long time.
I awoke to see that the mountains had moved into the background allowing fields to push in front. The view was still tainted by the train entering, and leaving, tunnels continually so I didn't stare out of the window much. I looked at my watch ... 7am; having gone to sleep at nine you would have thought that I would be reporting a pleasant ten hours asleep. But no; the three girls wanted the light left on all night and so I had to resort to my face mask once more. At 2am the three of them departed, waking me up. This was a mixed blessing; on the one had I was awake, but on the other my compartment was now mine. I shut the door, returning once again to the land of nod. When 7am did arrive I couldn't sleep any more; I got ready and prepared myself for a couple of hours reading before my train arrived within Kumming. At 7:45am the ticket inspector handed back my train ticket, which was a little bizarre; normally this act doesn't happen until the passenger – i.e. me - is close to their destination but here I was, with at least three hours left to go ... or so I thought. I packed my stuff and got ready, just encase.
An hour later the train arrived within Kumming and I departed, looking for my 'pick up'. This was a different kind of 'pick up' as we would be using public transport to get to the hostel; I didn't mind what transport we used my priority was finding a man, or a woman, with my name on a piece of paper. As I past through the exit gate there weren't too many people waiting; I couldn't see anyone with a placard, let alone one with my name on, and so I moved on and up the escalator into the fresh air. Kumming was cool and so I put my coat on; as I looked around I'd decided that I'd missed my 'pick up' and so, following the directions I'd written down, I started to make my own way to the bus that I required ... only to bump into a lady, with my name on a piece of paper, on the way. She said that she hadn't been able to see me; I told her that I think I had exited by a side entrance ... anyway none of that matter now and off we went.
The bus wasn't full but neither did I get a seat; as the temperature started to rise I was regretting putting my coat on. After twenty minutes we alighted, right in the centre of Kumming and only a minutes walk from the hostel. I was a little apprehensive about my accommodation for the next five days; with it being called 'The Hump' didn't help matters and my guidebook hadn't given it the best of ratings. Still 'hostel.com' seemed to like it and I was soon agreeing; the staff were friendly, my bed was huge and the dorm was clean. There was a restaurant and common room with, believe it or not, loads of travellers in. For the first time since Hong Kong white faces outnumbered orientals and other languages, apart from Mandarin, could be herd. With a pool table, and a table tennis table, I thought this could be just what I needed encase my extended Chinese visa took a while. I continued to read what seemed like an incorrect guidebook entry for this place; only when I reached the bottom did it say that 'the place was noisy at night''. With the bar on the same floor as the dorms, and free ear plugs given out if required, it seemed it might be … we'll just have to wait and see.
I put my stuff away, got ready and had a light breakfast before hitting the town. I hate carrying my guidebook around as it's so heavy however, with all it's information, it's a useful thing to have. I did purchase a map – which also covers my next two destinations – so that I could leave my guidebook at the hostel however, for today, I needed it as there were specific things I was searching for; first of all, I needed to find the Chinese visa extension office. Once outside I was going to turn east and head straight to the office, however I lingered in the square watching the 'Chinese holiday celebrations'. There was a dance routine being performed on a temporary stage, set-up between two old Chinese gates; I took photos of said gates, amazed at just how blue the skies were. Afterwards I moved east and towards my desired location. The skies were blue, the temperature was perfect and the crowds weren't too large. All-in-all I was really starting to like Kumming, even if there wasn't a lot to see.
After going past the visa office, twice, I finally found it … closed. Being the Chinese holiday I was expecting it shut however I hoped that there would be a temporary sign stating which day it would re-open. There wasn't; however there were the opening times and so I'll have to visit each day until I can get in. I moved on, my next stop was north towards Yuannan University where I had been told that there was a book shop holding lots of English novels. To reach said book shop I decided to walk through Kumming's pedestrianised central shopping area, to have a quick look, and to stop for lunch. I forgot about the holiday and so the area was rammed with people and, after a quick lunch, I proceeded north as fast as possible. On the way I did check a few large sports stores for Mclaren merchandise but alas, they were all full of designer clothes … not even a football shirt could be found.
Mandarin Books wasn't exactly how I pictured it. “... one of the best English novel book stores within the country ...” my guidebook stated and so I was expecting something a little larger than the two floor, small house sized, shop in front of me. True their range was good and, as I went upstairs, I saw two 'Emperor' novels on the shelf to my left. The problem with only having one, out of a series of four, novels to read is that finding that one book gets difficult; Mandarin Books had two 'Emperor' books but not the one I was looking for. I asked the attendant if they had any more and, as he went off to check, I ran my finger through the rest of their collection noticing that the books were expensive (I should have bought two books in Chengdu) and that they had a few novels from Haruki Murakami, another very good author. The attendant came back with his hands empty, I left the store not wishing to purchase another book encase I find what I wanted elsewhere.
Once outside I opened my guidebook noticing that it had marked another book store; I headed towards that location by-passing a park that I'll visit tomorrow. It took a little while to reach said book store but, once found, my hopes were raised due to it's size. Unfortunately the staff didn't speak a word of English so out came the 'charrards' again as I tried to explain what I wanted. She put up four fingers (not rudely) indicating the fourth floor; I thanked her and headed up the escalator. I don't know why but, every time I ask for a novel in English I always get sent to the isles dedicated to 'learning English'. Can't they tell that I can speak said language - due to the fact that I can't communicate with them - and so I don't need to learn it. I tried asking for help once more but I failed; I left empty handed.
I wasn't sure what I was going to do next; the time was 2:30pm and I was a tired. I had a look around the shopping area again, finding the 'Bird and Flower' market that lacked both, before grabbing an ice cream. I stared at my guidebook but nothing came to mind; with five nights booked I didn't want to rush. I decided to head back to my hostel as I've been feeling a cold coming all day (I stopped taking my malaria tablets two days ago and now I'm ill … coincidence); On the way back I saw another stage with a group of festival dancers shaking their stuff to 'It's time for Africa' (with 'Africa' changed to 'Kumming' in a rather bad way). With nothing better to do I headed into KFC, purchased a large drink, and prepared to join the huge crowds. I had just purchased my drink, and found myself a shady spot, when the dancers finished; with a roar from the crowd I clapped them off stage, sipping my drink, and waiting for the next act. The crowds seemed to disappear and it was only when I was alone did I realise that they were the last act. On the stage cleaners were sweeping and the police were moving people on; I looked at the promotion board to see it stated that the 'festival' ran from the 30th April to the 2nd May'. Maybe the holiday was over?
With this information I went back to my hostel; if the Chinese holiday did indeed end today then I should be able to get my visa extended tomorrow and my five nights booked here – to avoid said holiday – would be for nothing. Having said that, at only £2 per night, I don't mind missing a few and so I could move on early if Kumming proves to have little to entertain me. First of all I need to extend my visa, once that's done then I can plan ahead.
I got back to my hostel around 4:30pm and delved onto the internet (which is working here) googling for 'English book stores within Kumming'. I asked the receptionist to write 'I'm looking for story books (novels) written in English' and 'I want to extend my Chinese visa for another thirty days' into Chinese. The plan for tomorrow is to visit the 'visa office' before taking my novel (already half way through) to Cuihu Park; I'll take a few photos before, hopefully, finding a tea house where I can read my book until midday. After lunch I'll have a look around the 'Kumming Museum' before retiring. I'm looking forward to having a few lazy days but first I need to eat and then get an early night … my nose has started to drip like a tap.