Ariel on the spacious top bunk

Empty bottle of orange juice

Kunming's government square

Drawing by 翠湖 (Cui lake)


The train ride, all 36 hours, was incredibly pleasant. Spewing factories, Soviet bloc housing, picturesque villages, water buffaloes, the Yangtze, conical hats, damming projects; very China.

I met some friendly people including a fabulously tall female basketball player and Nike model who I gave some English lessons to and who exchanged make-up and product advice with Silvia.

Right now we're in a hostel in Kunming, Yunnan province. (Still in China.) The city is far smaller than Beijing and infinitely more pleasant, with tree lined boulevards, tea houses, free parks, lakes filled with lotus blossoms, blue skies and minority tribes people selling Myanmar cigarettes and Laotian spices smuggled from the borders. It's still very Chinese, but in a more slow-paced and less public spitting, cell phone yapping kind of way. However, really no one speaks actual Chinese, making it hard to understand some rather bizarre Mandarin. It's odd to think that our accent is more proper than actual Chinese people, and we've been told this by a number of people here.

Tonight we leave to a Chinese border city, Hekou, then on to the Vietnamese city, Sapa, in the morning. Sapa is an old French army garrison and town built in 1922, also home to ten hill tribes and very tall, mist covered mountains.

I'm very glad I'm making this trip.

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