City of Eternal Spring

Trip Start Mar 15, 2008
Trip End Ongoing

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Where I stayed
The Hump

Flag of China  ,
Wednesday, April 16, 2008

An apt name for Kunming, the city of "eternal spring", at least at the moment of my visit here, has had stunningly flawless weather. Jesse and I have been here, in the capital of Yunnan province, for the past four nights. Even with the weather this fantastic (hovering around what feels like 85 F during the day an 70 at night, with clear sun, blue skies, and no humidity), however, there's really no reason to stay here as long as we did. Why have we spent so much time in this place? Simply awaiting an "extremely urgently" posted letter from California containing a debit card that will save us great sums of money on this trip. The reason that kept us waiting arrived today, and thus, tomorrow (hopefully bright and early), we'll finally be makng our way north to Dali, another tourist infiltrated, but supposedly beautiful town.

However bland I may have made Kunming sound, however, awaiting poste restante in this country could hardly be done in a better city. People liken Kunming to the "Seattle of China"... I know, I know... saying ANYTHING is like "the X of something/someplace else" almost always embarassingly and disappointingly speaks for itself (a la "Jeju Island, the Hawaii of Korea", or "McGill, the Harvard of Canada"), but to give Kunming some credit, this urban sprawl is a far cry from Beijing. Littering in the streets is apparently strictly enforced with on-the-spot fines and trees are planted everywhere you look, keeping the air clean, and sidewalks wonderfully shaded (making walking, even under the sun, a delight). Further enhancing the cleanliness of this city are the electric motorbikes you see everyone riding. Their presence is so overwhelming that we've come to the conclusion that there must be some sort of ban on petrol bikes, or at the very least, a strong monetary incentive for people to choose this environmentally friendly, but more inefficient mode of transport. To up the ante, there's a supposedly considerable gay presence here (though I haven't been privy) and an intellectual air given off by the beautiful university which also has given rise to a foreign/expat community. All in all, the citizens of Kunming seem to enjoy life, and a higher quality one than those throughout the rest of China, at that.

In the way of notable things to do and sites to see, there's really not much. The guidebooks halfheartedly mention some museums (after touring Shanghai Museum, contender for best museum in the entire country, I hold very little stock in the quality of museums China has to offer), temples, and lake ("black and oil-slicked, but nevertheless orderly and manicured"), but these, one can clearly imagine without the need to actually see in person. Rather, Jesse and I chose to thoroughly enjoy the amenities on offer at our quite wonderful and spacious hostel. For the budget traveller, the Hump has proven to be a great place to take a breather from trudging through backwater China at breakneck speed, and to rest up before embarking on a similar endeavour once again. One of the best surprises of this hostel turned out to be, in fact, having a private bathroom en suite. We'd thought we'd be having to share facilities because of our "discount" rate, but upon entering our room, we saw the lovely bathroom greeting us with open arms adjacent to the door. Among the things one comes to have a newfound appreciation for while travelling through a (semi) third-world country: Western-style, sit-down toilets. For reasons beyond mentioning here, this little slice of privacy proved to really make our stay here worth every hygienic morsel.

One thing I have to mention about The Hump. As much as it served it purpose (very well), it turned out to be quite deviant from our expections. Not one review of the place failed to mention the noise factor due to it being a party center (according to LP, it was even raided by 300(0?) police at one point, and reopened with promises of "good behavior"... thus, what we were expecting was a totally open, party hostel with opportunities aplenty to mix, mingle, and meet some fellow travellers. Even upon arrival at ~6:00 am, we were greeted with the dimly outlined figure of a kid passed out in a chair on the rooftop terrace, remnants and regurgitations of the previous Friday night waiting to remind him of the party that had gone on with or without his knowledge. We thought for sure the place would be ever-lively in this way... but shockingly enough, this hostel, in the entirely too long time we've been here, has housed a traveller clientele, 80/20 in the Chinese/foreigner ratio. In what's proving to be a commonly running theme throughout our travels here, we're constantly being jolted with the unexpectedly high numbers of Chinese travelling EVERYWHERE in their countrty.
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