We got a taxi to the south bus station a 40 yuan 45 minute drive. The bus was meant to leave at 10.30 so we got to the station for 9am. At the station we had no idea which line to stand in and there were 21 of them and many people queuing. We eventually found the correct line but something was going on and people were trying to escort us to buses. In the fear of being conned we stayed in line. That was until there was an announcement and everybody made a bee line for the security check. That’s right! In China you go through an X-ray machine before you get on a bus, not that they check anything. In fact I don’t think they work. We were told we could get on a bus and buy a ticket as the computer system was still down so we joined the pushing masses. On the other side it looked like you could buy a ticket from the one working computer. Daniel took charge of my day bag and I went armed with cash in hand and pushing my way towards the hatch Chinese people yelling in my ear. After nearly having my head trapped in the window from the pushing crowds the police were called to manage the queue and I managed to purchase the golden tickets. The bus was to leave in 30 minutes so the next mission was to find it. After stating the name etc we were told to go to the other side of the station to where a bus was waiting. The man looked at our ticket and told us to take our shoes off and put them in a bag as we boarded what as a sleeper bus. I bus with only beds and to be honest despite the shoe removal it wasn’t that pleasant. Many others joined the bus some with tickets others without who bought them there and then. Guys selling tat piles on the bus and left and we are off. The bus isn’t even full. I just hope we make it to the right place and with enough time to get to our hostel. Let the journey begin. To be honest I will be glad of the rest on the bus as I feel like I’ve done a days work already. Let the journey begin. I feel like I may have to review my trip itinerary though if travelling is going to be like this as it may take a while at this rate! We left on time and told to fasten our seat belts which we would have done if we’d got any. We cruised along tooting and hooting in true Chinese fashion. I’m still not sure why they beep sometimes but all the same they bloody love a good toot on the horn. We made a pit stop for the loo allowing me to eat a banana, have a bit of water and pop to the loo. Squat toilets into a gully with no doors makes for a more public affair than one may intend. After passing many plastic green houses we hit more rural agricultural areas followed my roads lined with banana trees and street venders in traditional dress. Several hours later we are winding our way through rice terraces with the odd buffalo. We make it to our destination where we were to get a bus to the hostel a mere 1 he up the hill. We jump in a minivan after negotiating the price and duck when told to get past the tickets. I think it may be a tourist van trying to get some more money. Anyway he seems nice enough and then we get stuck. We moved vans and just sat with police going back and forth and people getting in and out of cars! Vans tuck tuck type vehicles. Still no idea what is going on. 2 hrs later having tried different routes and still no idea of what’s going on but still stuck. Daniel by this point is being sick out of the window. We turned the engine off and decided to sit it out. Squashed the back we tried to sleep but I struggled due to cramp and a dead leg. The locals got some pot noodles and when finished disposed of the carton out of the window. China is a personal rubbish dump and people don’t think twice of just littering as they go. After 5 hrs of being stuck we eventually get going and whizz our way around and around bumpy roads. By this time it is dark and we get kicked out in the village we were supposed to get to. We found the hostel after a bit of searching and asking around. Fortunately we had the hostel card with the address in Chinese. The hostel owner had stayed up for us and explained the traffic was due to new year and sheer volume of traffic. We hadn’t eaten for 12 hours and whilst Daniel wasn’t hungry I knew I needed something as had stomach cramps. The local restaurant was just about still open and we had some rice a soup and braised eggplant. It was great but we had to head o bed if we were to be up for sunrise to see he rice terraces. We had a good nights sleep and Daniel felt better in the morning so we made our way out to the terrace. They really were quite spectacular although we needed to be quick if we were to get breakfast and head back towards the bus station. Famous last words! All of the minivans were full so we decided to walk a bit further out of the village. After a few minutes a minivan driver shouted the name of where we were going so we jumped in with the locals and a live chicken in a plastic bag and wound up the windows. Stunning views out of the window of the mirror like water laden rice fields along with the odd buffalo butchery session or old guys smoking out of large bamboo pipes. We were aiming for the 12.30 bus but as I am writing in the back of the minivan, we’ve already been stuck for about 2 hrs. Let’s hope we get the one at 4 as it is a 7 hr journey back. Was it worth it? I think this is one I will look back on as an experience, but it’s not over yet. I will get on to tell you about the rice fields shortly I promise but for now this is keeping me sane! So we made it to the bus station at 1pm and fortunately there was an extra bus on at 3pm despite touts saying it wasn’t going to arrive so as to fill up their own bus that probably went on some convoluted route. The bus was on time and this time not a weird sleeper deal but normal bus. Hopefully we will back for 10pm and we can get a taxi to the hostel, have stood nights sleep and start on our 5 hr bus to Dali. This time we will have a good breakfast and head out as soon as we can to the bus station. There are meant to be buses every 20 minutes rather than 4 a day in the previous case. So the area that we stayed in is steeped in history of the indigenous people(Hani)!who have settled there for the last 600 years or so. They created over 12000 hectares of rice fields on the edge of hills which really are something and I’m lead to believe are the oldest in the world making them a heritage site but still used, which was lovely to see. The sunrise in the morning is gorgeous and the sun sparks off the water like magical mirrors.
Next stop Dali after a good nights sleep back at the YHA. We had met a couple of girls who had already headed to Dali so we booked in the same hostel and they provided clear instructions on how to get there. We got a taxi to the bus station after breakfast and there were no issues in getting tickets and we jumped on a bus and motored our way to Dali arriving around 3pm. We wondered the streets of the ancient walled city with 4 main gate entrances into the city. New Dali was a shit hole with new buildings sprawled everywhere but the old city, whilst tourist, was beautiful. Set amongst snow topped mountains and a blue lake it made for a nice few days. Chinese New Year was towards an end and things seemed to have quietened down a bit. Trying to book transport though from A to B still proves to be an issue with flights being expensive and trains fully booked. We visited the 3 pagodas one of them being the oldest in south west China ( 9th century) and then did some travel admin before heading into town to check out the famous back monkey pub. A pub that is run by people for the UK and brew their own beer. We had nice beer and a suprisingly good pizza. It was odd to be somewhere soo English yet very Chinese. An odd mix that seemed to work although there was definitely something fishy. Every western person we saw said they were from Canada yet no hint of French or Canadian accent and all spoke to each other in some other European language that neither Daniel or myself were familiar with. We had an awkward conversation with a holiday making Chinese girl who was brave enough to come over and sit with us. It was getting late so we headed back. I swear we were being followed by a group of Chinese guys so we walked quickly to catch up with others walking on the street and turned down the road to our hostel. Definitely being followed. When we got into the hostel we stuck our heads out and they had turned around and continued to walk down the road. They didn’t appear scary or intimidating but there was something not quite right so as always I took the safe route. Walk quick, get to where there are people and get to a safe place preferably with a locked door. We had a lie in and had breakfast before heading on a bus to a peninsular near the lake. We walked around a bit and had to ask for directions but eventually headed through a lovely local village. The Bai have been around for over 3000 years and was fascinating to see their Emily faces and warmer response to us. We stumbled across a funeral procession where the coffin was being carried through the street the locals in traditional dress carrying a picture of the dead and playing old reed instruments.
Really interesting as was the temple we walked into. Simply beautiful and lovely not to see anybody but locals who were singing and ringing chimes in the incredibly ornate but old temple with a central pagoda. We headed back via bus to the hostel and went in search if a Buddhist vegetarian restaurant that unfortunately was shut. Good news is that we found a lovely restaurant that served the best braised aubergine in traditional Bai style. Delicious spicy sweet and aromatic sauce covering two huge aubergine. We got back for 4pm and awaited our transfer to the bus which we had booked through the hostel. It was slightly more expensive but it was “different quality”. Fortunately this meant better and the journey to Lijiang commenced. Interestingly when we told the receptionist about the funeral she put her fingers in her ears and said she didn’t want to hear as she believed in ghosts. Well….I have some pictures so goodness knows what’s in store for me! More pictures later once I’ve downloaded them!