Markets and Movies
My adventure started with my friend in the picture-perfect tourist land of Yangshuo and ended in the decidedly untouristed Boten. Yangshuo, being known for its strange rock formations lining the river from Guilin, is not wanting for tourists or foreigners. As we stepped off the bus, we had four people hounding us to stay at their hotels. We decided to go with one woman first and eventually ended up staying at her place. The Fawlty Towers. After wandering down by the river and changing some money at the Bank of China, we happened upon the docking area where all the tourist boats drop their droves from the Li River tour. There must be up to twenty boats a day each carrying 50-100 people. But most of the people file off the boats and through the trinket stands that line the river road before getting on a bus headed back to Guilin.
I browsed through a local book store in Kunming until I found the dictionary section and then looked up the word in a bilingual dictionary. I carefully copied down the Chinese characters that represent the word and then carried it around to my favorite pharmacist again. Luckily Kunming has a ton of pharmacys (and a lot of bookstores), so I could try out my gig at a variety of venues. However, the answer was still the same: blank stairs. I retreated to the English neighborhood and wallowed in my sorrows at Camel Restaurant, surrounded by people who COULD read the words on the menu that I was pointing at and even bring out the right item nine times out of ten.
At dinner in Jinghong Banna, my friend revealed part of her mystery: she is married. I wasn't sure if this stole my chance of a travel romance or if it made the prospects more interesting; besides, what was this girl doing traveling all the way out here, alone. Anyway, we dined on the side street where all of the backpackers hang out. But since this is the off season, there were hardly any backpackers around. We almost felt like we were imposing a bit on the cafe we chose, so my friend politely asked the waitress how late the Mekong Cafe stays open. She replied that the cafe had no particular hours; then the waitress offered to teach us how to play a local version of chess (yet not "Chinese" chess).
Mekong: Bridge to Southeast Asia
Not long after heading across the Mekong and into the forest, it felt like I had already entered southeast Asia. Somewhere along the ride, I changed the film in my camera and failed to feed the next roll properly. Thus, I missed out on pictures of some of the greatest sights in China. The villages in Zishuabanna Province are just amazing. I have always loved the stilted homes with the thatched roofs and all, but I have not found a lot of them left in Southeast Asia. I remember a few villages in the north of Thailand when I was trekking there as well as some of the more traditional meeting houses and historical buildings of Indonesia. Anyway, this area of China has more of a Southeast Asian flavor than much of SEA.