bowl of eels, anyone?

i spent the early part of this morning shopping for jungle hiking supplies: a poncho, a smaller backpack (i'm leaving the rest of my gear at the bus station small luggage facility), and the largest umbrella you can find in menghai. when i told the sales clerk if it'd be okay to walk the jungles in flip flops, he gasped and said, "no! ma haung!" i learned a few days ago that "ma huang" is chinese for leeches. leeches. i hate those things. and it's been raining all day today so the jungles will be full of them. i really can't wait.

next to where i got my jungle supplies was the big outdoor/indoor market i saw yesterday. since it was still morning, there was still a lot of action. disappointingly, there was nothing really that exotic, or at least nothing you can't already see in your neighborhood chinatown. the markets of southeast asia? remember dried fried squirrels? or baskets full of geckoes? i didn't see any of that here.

crabs & turtles

unknown nuts

chinese ingredients

meat market (gross!)

why are there a million photos of the menghai market? just to make up for the fact that when i went to the "famous" thursday market in xiding (about an hour's drive from the city), there was nothing to see. by the time my bus got there, the action was over - and so was apparently any mode of transportation back into the city. i should've known something was wrong when for the first time in many days i saw foreigners - young backpackers - clammering for bus seats just as soon as i got off. nobody told me, but there's only one bus that goes to xiding per day, and that was the bus i was on. i was stranded.


xiding house & pig pen

since there was nothing to see, i spent the next hour asking every single person i could find, from store clerks, to guys on motorcycles, to men putting supplies into trucks. they either didn't have room or weren't going in the direction of the city. one shady-looking young man said he would take me into menghun (the midway point, i'd still have to find somebody to take me into menghai) for RMB$100 - my bus ticket was only RMB$8. finally i just waited by the side of the road, asking every truck that was leaving if they were going into the city. "menghai? yes," one of the drivers said. "is there any room for me?" after some discussion with the other passengers, he said yes and i crawled into the back of the truck along with 7 other people. it was so crowded i had to sit with my knees between the legs of the men opposite me. the old man directly across had his hands on my knee; to be fair, i did have my knee wedged into his crotch.

"making new friends"

the hour long ride back was a bit brutal, but i was just happy i wouldn't have to spend the night in xiding, where apparently a lot of people get stuck there accidently since they built some makeshift cabins right next to the bus stop. i felt every bump on the dirt road and a few times our driver went over them so fast and hard (plus it was raining!) that everyone in the cabin went flying and knocking heads.

truck arriving in menghai
(see the front? that's where we sat)

back in town, i bought my ticket out of menghai: tomorrow afternoon 2pm to bulang shan, the start of my three day jungle trek. if you don't hear from me in a while, it might either be death by leeches or poisonous snakes, or i accidently wandered into burma and spending quality time with either the burmese military or the shan rebels who patrol those remote mountains.

next you hear from me (in 3-4 days) it'll be from jinghong!