Kicking back in Kunming and Leaving for Laos

Trip Start Sep 02, 2006
Trip End Sep 01, 2007

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Saturday, October 21, 2006

Well this is a seriously short entry as I was scarpering for the border. 5 weeks in China was enough time for me and I needed to see somewhere else.

Before that I left for Kunming by train, and I had lots of fun and games getting a ticket as there were 4 queues to get tickets, so I picked one. A few minutes later another one opened up and everyone rushed to that one. I peaked across and saw that this line was (allegedly) only for certain special people - armed forces, high ranking members of the Communist Party, children with exceptional grades plus 'foreign guests'. So I joined the queue and got 2 from the front when they closed it. Even though it said it was open from 3pm to 6pm and it was only 3.30pm. So I had to rush and join another line and then 2 minutes later something was said over the loudspeaker and everyone started to change queues. Now I was totally bemused.

About an hour later I finally got served and I probably got screwed on the tickets as I am sure there was a train that left in 9am and took 22 hours and cost 160 Yuan however the train assistant(?)insisted on selling me a ticket which takes 8 hours longer, 100 Yuan more and was at a station 20 mins away by taxi leaving at 6am - joy!

Also you can imagine my joy when getting back to my hostel I passed a small advance purchase train ticket office about 50 yards from my hostel and it had no queue! I could have saved myself about 3 hours if I'd noticed that first. Mind you it wouldn't have made such a good blog entry...

The train trip itself was a mighty 30 hours and so-so. Most memorable part was watching the fat kid near me chomp his way through half a ton of sweeties and noodles. He really was a spoilt brat. Apparently there is a lot of spoilt children in China, partly due to the "one-child" policy and the parents lavishing gifts on them from their new found wealth. The common expression for these darlings are "Little Emperors".

Other memorable moments of Kunming and generally of China in total were:

(1) Sitting on a Kunming bus and listening to a 'Learn English' tape being piped through to everyone. Aldous Huxley would be proud of this I am sure - after all China is a "Brave New World".

(2) Walking past what I thought was a sign for a "Beautiful Baby" contest. I was pretty much wrong there. More like a "Who can pee highest up a wall" contest.

(3) Being amazed by how much everyone smokes in China. Clearly this is where all the tobacco companies are making their money as it's pretty epidemic. Especially in guys. Though I have seen a lot of young girls doing it too. Also when guys do it they do their best 'James Dean' impression and have the ciggy hanging from their lips.

(4) Being perplexed why they have people on the side of motorways sweeping up dust and debris as buses and trucks go hurtling past them. Now I hope they are getting a lot of danger money for that, though I would doubt they are.

(5) Enjoying the green and red bean ice cream in China. The green one tastes a little like peas but is really good. They also have a sweetcorn ice cream which tastes like a mixture of sweetcorn and vanilla. Again pretty damn fine.

(6) Discovering that the 'one-child' policy does not mean you cannot have 2 or more children but just means that for these children you have to pay for their education and healthcare. For the first child it's free. Also the 'one-child' policy does not apply for those living in rural areas or ethnic minority groups.

(7) Reading that half of the Chinese population earn less than one dollar a day and seeing so many people who clearly have nothing. For example, there are tons of people who earn money by going through bins so they can sell plastic water bottles for recycling. This level of poverty was not so apparent in the cities but spending a little bit of time in the more rural areas it is right there in front of you a lot of the time.

This made me feel so thankful that my life is very much a privileged one and understanding that if I take anything from my trip it should be the realisation that I should make the most of blessed position I have in life.

(8) Travelling through China over 5 weeks was a really great experience. If you get the chance you should do it as it's so interesting. I don't think visting China is a holiday per se, much more an experience. But one that is extremely worthwhile.
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