Getting to Kumning - Dukes of Hazard style
Trip Start Sep 01, 2006
110Trip End Aug 31, 2007
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There was the obligatory stop for gas one minute after we left, but the driver soon made up for any lost time. I think he must be a fan of the Dukes or Hazard as we managed to get airborne on at least three occasions. And by the amount of slipstreaming he was doing he must be a NASCAR fan too. From my position in the back I could see the speedo and I can tell you that we rarely dropped below 100km/h. In fact, he managed to push it over 140km/h on several occasions - not easy during rush-hour. At one point he got to 145km/h at which point he decided to cut across four lanes in order to squeeze between a minor gap between a taxi and truck. Needless to say, it was not a trip for the faint hearted. I was told the trip to the airport would take over an hour and probably 90 minutes as this was rush-hour. Our driver did it in 35 minutes! I wish I'd got his number - if I use him next time I can have an extra hour in bed.
By contrast the flight to Kunming was pretty uneventful. Except the landing which the pilot made a bit of a hash off. In fact, just before we were about to land he pulled up and hit the accelerator. I think we were about to land short!
Kunming immediately seemed to be different to the other Chinese cities that I've been to. I soon realised why - the sky - I could see it! And it was blue and not that yellow colour that other Chinese cities seem to have. And it was quieter. There was not the constant sound of horns and cars were happy to take their time rather than assume that getting from A to B was a race. I even saw an ambulance with the lights flashing just cruise by (I'm not sure how the guy in the back felt about that. I'm sure he would have preferred a bit more urgency). Red lights still seem to be optional, but the cars slow down so pedestrians have a fighting chance of getting out of the way.
Kunming definitely has a different feel than the rest of China. Of the 102-ish ethnic groups in China 26 of them are in this province (Yunnan). They have all done their best to resist Beijing's will and they've done a fairly good job of it. Being at the far south west of the country has probably helped. And influences from the boarding countries of Burma, Laos and Vietnam probably helped out too.
The original plan was to head to Chengdu to get a flight to Lhasa. That's now changed. I'm going to head to Dali, Lijiang then Zhongdian from there I'll probably fly to Lhasa although there is also the option of an eight day overland route.
Kunming is also 1,900m up. By the time I get to Zhongdian I will be at around 3,200m. Hopefully this will help avoid any altitude sickness in Lhasa. Unfortunately, it also means that it's going to get colder as I go along. That was always expected. Mind you, it's still in the high 20s now.