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Email: China Update from Kunming

«Kunming and The Stone Forest

Date: Sunday, 7 October 2001 20:22 PDT
Subject: China Update

Hello Everyone –

We are now in Kunming, which is in the southwest corner of China, very close to the Laos and Vietnam borders. Just to catch you up on the last couple of days since our last email, we finished our 17 hour ride on the hard seats to Chengdu. Suffice to say that we made it in one piece, but it was not a pleasant experience.

In Chengdu, we visited the Panda Research Base, which houses about 20 Giant Pandas and 10 Lesser Pandas (they look like red raccoons). We saw many pandas ‘up close and personal’, including babies that were two weeks and two months old. We flew from Chengdu to Kunming and then flew to Dali, which is in the mountains west of Kunming. We spent three days there relaxing and loading up on banana pancakes before taking the bus back to Kunming.

While in Dali, Sandy and I had the opportunity to visit the market in Wase. We booked the trip from our hotel for about $3 each. A man came by at 9:30am to pick everyone up. We arrived at 11:30am after a boat ride across the lake, giving us 90 minutes at the market. Wase is a real market for the Chinese locals (not the tourists). The market is open every 5th, 10th, 15th, 20th, 25th and 30th of the month (I don’t know what they do in February!).

On the way to the market and on the return trip, we saw the junks – small fishing boats with small square sails. There was little wind, so they were assisted with oars. Their villages are small – just a few tents on the side of Lake Erhai Hu (Ear Lake due to its shape). It is about 7km wide and 35km long – big!

The market was very interesting. We saw lots of fresh veggies being sold in stalls. We saw bananas and other fruit from the South. We saw live pigs and chickens for sale. There was also corn, rice, beans, peas and tobacco. They had some consumer items and packaged goods. We saw people getting haircuts and others getting a shave.

Since Sandy and I had missed breakfast, we looked for something to eat. We finally saw a woman cooking chunks of potatoes in a large wok. This looked pretty good so we bought one order. She put the chunks of potatoes onto a bamboo stick and then pushed them down the stick with two other bamboo sticks held in her other hand (like a V). This was so good that we bought two more orders (cost per order was 50 jiao or $.06). Overall, we found the market to be an interesting insight into Chinese village life.

Today we are talking a soft sleeper to Guilin, which should take about 30 hours. Hopefully it will be much superior to our hard seat experience!

Hope everyone is doing well!
Darren and Sandy