morning in lalu village
i'm in jinghong tonight, after surviving 3 days out in the "wilderness" of southern xishuangbanna, hiking something like 20 miles within the past 2 days. there's much to be said but i still don't have time to organize my thoughts yet. i'm definitely going to rest a few days in jinghong though, this tropical city reminds me of taipei somewhat.
i woke up early this morning, lying in the villager's wooden hut, barely managing to get some sleep since the men were playing cards and drinking until 5am. if the noisy men didn't keep me awake, the chorus of frogs out in the rice paddies might've done the trick, everything from tiny squeaks to horrifying groans, it was definitely scary. not enough? okay, how about the fact that mosquitoes and god knows what other kind of bugs can fly through the space between the wooden floor boards and walls. i woke up covered in insect bites of all shapes and sizes. let's just say i was really happy to leave once the sun came out at 7am (no alarm clock needed, the roosters were already crowing at the crack of dawn). the 20 year old boy who invited me to stay in his home and then made sure i wasn't able to get a good night's rest opened up his eyes and said, "very tired." i didn't say anything, just gathered up my gear in the near darkness and told him i was leaving.
i still had pains in my feet and legs but they were in better shape than yesterday. it took me 10 hours to wake 15 miles, with the occasional stops to smell the roses or the stop to rest my feet. i was pretty sure there wouldn't be a repeat performance of yesterday's long march. i figured i'd get as far as the nearest village, and see if i could hire somebody to drive me into town on a motorcycle. it's a dangerous proposition on these muddy mountain roads, but there was no way i could walk anymore than a few more miles.
about 2 hours out i met an old man walking behind me, and asked if i was walking in the direction of damenglong. he didn't speak any chinese, but pointed in the opposite direction of where i was heading. a check of my GPS showed that i was definitely off course, no longer following the nana river. so i turned back, and spent the next hour and half trying to find the right way. eventually i came across a woman who told me in chinese to head in the direction i was originally going, that i was just a 20 minute walk away from the town of manpo.
dai women in rice paddies
i cursed the old man as i retraced my steps, and sure enough, manpo was in sight. manpo is significant for many reasons, but one of them is that the road back to town (damenglong) from manpo is way better than the roads i'd been traveling all of yesterday. that still doesn't say much, since it was still a lot of crushed rocks and mud puddles, but i didn't see any of the rockslides and mudslides that i saw firsthand yesterday. my 16-year old driver was skilled despite the fact that on several occasions i thought we'd fall of the bike. it took a long time to get into town (i thought maybe he took a wrong shortcut, but realized later that the muddy road we were on was the main road into damenglong), but finally we did, my ass numb from the bumpy ride, my pant legs and backpack caked in mud.
i walked a short bit to the bus station and bought a ticket to jinghong, which was leaving immediately. i got on the bus and asked the guy sitting in front of me how long it takes to get to jinghong. for some reason i thought it'd be an hour on pretty good roads, but he said it takes anywhere from 3-5 hours. the roads were once again bad. our driver sped over potholes so deep that all the passengers flew up in the air everytime we drove over one. my ass, already in pain, had to endure 3 more hours of punishment.
when we finally arrived in jinghong, i booked a room in the first hotel i could find (right next to the bus station, RMB$50, about US$8), dropped all my stuff, then went back downstairs to buy a ticket to menghai, where my backpack was being stored. i had time to buy a cold bottle of mango juice. after having to drink warm chemically-treated mountain water (never mind the specks of dirt and god knows what else), it was heavenly to drink some cold and clean. the ride to menghai thankfully only took about 40 minutes on brand new highway. coming into the city, it was like coming home, and i couldn't help to smile. i bought some bubble ice tea, said hi to the folks working at my old hotel, then went to the bus station to get my backpack, before buying a return ticket to jinghong, about 40 minute ride back.
when i finally got back to jinghong around 6pm, only then was i finally able to take a shower. the hot water felt great (i even used a brand new bar of soap), and afterwards i did some in-house laundry, the water in the sink black from all the dirt that'd accumulated on my t-shirt and pants.
i only managed to rest a little bit before i was back outside, trying to find dinner. actually, more like breakfast, since up to that point i hadn't eaten anything yet (actually not true, i had a few pieces of beef jerky). i went to the night market where there were all sorts of street food. since i plan on being in jinghong for a few days, it was anything goes, as i ate whatever i thought might taste good. i ended up chatting with a brother-sister shiao-kao ("little roast") team from hunan; they invited me to their house tomorrow to take photos of their chickens (some of which i was unfortunately eating). afterwards i walked back to the hotel, buying some fruit and drinks along the way, and ending up at this internet cafe.
baby sniper school
i'll try to post some photos tomorrow of my hiking adventure.