A detailed account on my journey to China and Tibet during the period Sep - Nov 2002. Part 2 talks about Yunnan Province in China (continued).Other parts: Yunnan province (China):   Tibet:     East coast China: .
Published: Nov 2002
This travelogue was kindly typed from Stas' original notes in the notebook and slightly edited by Ada Ho.
travel, Chinese, Mandarin, hotel, hostel, train, bus, visa extension, hike, Stone Town, Liuqing Village, Gerwua village, YongNing, Lugu Hu, Ning Lang, PSB office.
In the morning I met Young at the Ali-Baba restaurant who had a breakfast ready for me. With Yunnan coffee which is as good as a good Euro espresso. Then we left to the Stone Town on the local minibus which reached the Stone Town only in the evening as it had many long stops on the way (for getting people on and off and eating breaks), so the road of about 5 hours took us about 10. Though since I was with the local guy I've only paid 30Y. I'd have paid several times more if I was alone.
When we got off the bus we had to walk for about 1/2h down to the Stone Town which is called this way because it fits on the small steep Mountain, which looks like a big Stone?. That's how our off-the-beaten track journey has started. We will go through many villages which hardly ever saw tourists. Meaning that people, especially kids, will come and silently stare at you, the same way you stare at the paintings at the art museum. Now imagine that there is only one painting in the whole museum and you have all the time in the world. In the museum you aren't allowed to touch the displayed objects, but here you will get touched sometimes to make sure that you are real.
We stayed in a very basic guesthouse, with no electricity (it was off for the last 2 months) but we had a nice dinner with eggs and some veggies, which Young has cooked by himself. Then we left to sleep early to get rest before the following strenuous way.
We had a Baba bread with eggs for the breakfast and then started walking. We have hired a local guide, who was showing us the way for the next four days. It costs 50Y/day plus 20Y/day for his food, and we also had to pay for his walking back which he does in half time. So 420Y overall, about USD$50.
Unfortunately my backpack weighted about 30kg and it was very heavy. We started by a very strenuous climb where I've slipped and twisted my unlucky left knee, though it was OK to walk. We walked for 7 hours with short stops to rest till we arrived to Liuqing Village where we could stop overnight but Young said that it's better to walk to the next village, Fulian, which was "only" 2 hours away. I was completely dead, but decided to go, so the next day we will walk less.
While walking we ended up getting there in 3.5 hours instead of 2. When we've got the guest house I've collapsed on the bed after 10.5 hours of strenuous walk through the stunning scenery, which I could hardly see, as I was watching my steps so not to slip again, and bent in 45 degrees because of the heavy backpack.
On the way we went through many villages again having lots of stares and all kids saying "hello" *after* you pass them.
That night I had a shower from the bucket and a good dinner of rice and some meat. Then I fell asleep and slept dead for about 10 hours.
We woke up late as we had an easy day, had a breakfast of fried rice with eggs and set to walk to the Jingsha river, which we have crossed by the ferry. The owner of the boat didn't hurry to take us to the other side. He said that he's hungry and first he is going to cook his lunch (actually his wife was the one cooking his man's lunch) eat it and then on the full stomach he will take us over the crossing, which takes about a few minutes over all. He even invited us to join his lunch for free.
Eventually we've got to the other side and after a short climb through the Labo Village, we arrived to the guesthouse where we stayed overnight. This guest house had a nice courtyard where we had our dinner. We had a chicken with lots of bones and no meat and some fish. As I will learn on the way, you are supposed to spit everything on the floor. Before this trekking I was eating in more civilised places. Now I get to taste the real China.
Of course the guest house had almost no electricity in the place. I think the only bulb that we had was of 5 watt. It really didn't matter if it was on or off.
Another interesting thing is that beds are very hard in China. In this guest house the bed was made of several wood plates covered by a thin cover. It was hard. In the middle of the night, Young moved out of the room to the porch to sleep in the sleeping bag; he was all bitten by lice. I've sprayed myself with repellent and was ok. The next day was supposed to be hard and long, so we woke up early, ate the standard rice with egg and set off.
This day was all climbing up. The weather was hot, which made the climbing tougher. After 4h we have arrived to the Gerwua village where we could stay overnight, but then our trekking will be at least one day longer. I didn't like the place, as it was literally in the animal yard with thousands of flies around. The next place, Baishutai, was 4-5 hours away, more exactly 4-5 hours up the mountain. Nevertheless after 10 plus hours trekking on the first day I thought that I can make it and I did. The second half was through stunning scenery of pine forests in the mountains, I've almost forgotten about my backpack. At the end around 18:30 we have arrived to a very small village Baishutai, which was comprised of just a few houses. We have stayed in one such a house with a great view out of window. Our dinner was cooked on the fire from the burning woods on the ground. It felt almost like a camping fire, though inside a house, which of course had no electricity. Not talking about things like shower. But otherwise the place was great. There was not a single village for many kilometres around this one. A few villagers have joined our dinner, though refused to eat. For them I was an entertainment. Before the dinner I went to the forest and to my joy picked quite a few mushrooms. Though to my surprise I was told that villagers are afraid to eat mushrooms, because they can't tell the good ones from poisonous ones. So much for living in the forest.
This night again was on the hard woods though no linens and blankets provided so I had to sleep in the sleeping bag.
This was our last day of trekking and it was supposed to be of 10 hours long since there were no other villages on the way to YongNing. Worse, just about we started to trek, the rain has started. Everything became wet and slippery. My all clothes including shoes became wet in about 20 minutes. We had to cross a bunch of streams which filled my shoes with dirt and water. Though everything was beautiful as we walked through the forest, and many mushrooms were popping up in front of our eyes. I could hardly walk past them, but my backpack was getting heavier as it was getting wetter.
Eventually we have found a small wooden building where we made a fire, ate lunch of snacks and tried to dry our clothes. I've changed, but had no spare shoes, so I've used the old trick of wearing nylon bags over the socks. It worked well.
In the afternoon the rain got weaker and eventually stopped, but the damage has been done -- the roads became hardly passable. It was very slippery and nearly impossible to walk down the hill. When we've got close to YongNing things got worse. We walked for about 2 hours in red mud, heels deep in it (about 10cm deep). Since the mud was sticky, it was more like gliding than walking. Finally we arrived to YongNing which is made of a single long street. Of course everybody was watching me as I walked, but I was used to stares, and was staring back.
This was a relatively big town (village?) and the guest house had a warm shower. I also had to do the laundry and clean up my boots from mud. Of course laundry in the cold water is not good, but again I was getting used to it. It was good to have a shower after 3 days with no shower and 5 days without normal shower.
After having a breakfast of dumplings, bread and noodles, we set off to Ning Lang on the mini-minibus, via the Lugu Lake, which was very beautiful, but hardly anything could be seen as everything was in the mist. Young got off at the Lugu Hu (Lugu Lake) and I continued to Ning Lang. In Ning Lang I took the bus to Lijiang, something that I didn't plan originally, because if I did I would leave part of my luggage in Lijiang. But things happen unexpectedly.
I went to the same GH I've stayed a week ago (old town GH), where my bed was waiting for me. It was still 5pm, so I went to try my luck with PSB and extend my visa. To my surprise the PSB office was open and the helpful officer extended my visa for one more month (after the previous visa expires) for 100Y in about 5 minutes. No questions asked. Just amazing (because I was told that in other cities it's either impossible to extend for one month, or it would take a week and/or it would cost much more than 100Y). After that I had a long sought after massage, read my email in the new Lijiang and visited a big supermarket which are hard to find in China, since there are gazillions of small crappy ones everywhere. Beware 99% of the products are outdated by at least half a year in the best case.
After shopping for snacks, I've tried the local show for locals for 10Y/person, I was the only foreigner in the hall of 100 plus people. The show was a total crap, all with prerecorded music and girls dancing a la MTV hip-hop in complete disorder. I haven't expected anything, just wanted to see. Of course, as everywhere, the men were all smoking and spitting non-stop. Shortly I left for a good dinner at Sakura cafe, which I ended with a chocolate cake, which I couldn't get in the mountains :)
The impression from the trekking in Yunnan villages is that men are lazy bums who squat and smoke all the day long, doing nothing. Women do all the work. TV is the fascinating thing, everybody turns their TVs to the full volume so you can hear it from far away. Food is scarce in these areas, mostly because many areas we went to are not reachable by transportation. So think of natural barter.