first order of business this morning was to revisit the long-distance bus station and try to buy a ticket for yuanyang. i got a sleeper bus for the next afternoon (5pm, RMB$144) to jianshui. once i get to jianshui i have to buy another bus ticket to yuanyang. originally i thought there'd be a more direct route, but after looking the maps, it's probably for the best, since i'll be riding on new highway, not the bumpy dirt paths i've been accustomed to.
rice noodle spices
rice noodle breakfast
with the ticket situation out of the way, it meant that today would be a free day, and i spent it "filling the gaps," visiting places in city that i hadn't seen yet. it'd also be a day of reckless eating, as once more i play russian roulette with my digestive system - though mercifully, mostly fruits and not shady street meat (that'd come later in the evening). i visisted the jade market, which is basically a glorified street selling tourist trinkets. i set my eyes on some t-shirts that i plan on coming back for tomorrow. i also went to a supermarket and got some necessities (detergent powder, moisturizer, a bottle of er gou tou) before returning to the hotel.
after a bit of rest (walking around in hot tropical weather makes me tired), i went back outside, this time to the medicinal plant garden opposite the botanical flower garden i visited a few days ago. i ran into nathan and kim again, who just came from the garden, but said the guard waved them away. together we went back; the guard was on break so we just walked in. later we found out the garden's free anyway, so it was a mystery as to why the guard drove them away. the place was relatively empty, and we walked around and chatted, then sat down and chatted some more. it's not often that i come across american tourists, and there were a lot of things to talk about. it was also just there second day in china, and i gave them some chinese wisdom i'd learned in the month and half that i've been in this country.
yellow-flowering mimosa tree
we parted ways (they went to the ticket agency to book a flight) as i went next door to a taiwan bubble ice tea cafe. hearing the manager speak, i had to ask: "are you taiwanese?" "yes." "so am i!" i exclaimed! we became instant best friends forever and sat down to chat. turns out he's married to a jinghong woman (that's why he can run a business here in china), and every so often his business visa will expire and he'll have to return to taiwan and then come back. he was quite a character, and told me he was just like me in his younger days, traveling the world (20 countries in all). he confessed if he had to do it again, he wouldn't get married. he also commented on something that i had a feeling was true but couldn't be sure: "ladies here are really attractive, right?" i had two cups of bubble ice tea which he originally wanted to give me for free but i insisted i pay so he only charged me for one. he also gave me a bag of high quality red tea as a present, as well as a business card with his number in case i should ever go back to taipei (he's from taoyuan, north of the capital).
with the day running late and many more things to do, i left my new taiwanese friend (just the second taiwanese person i've met since being in china) and went back to the hotel to take another shower before heading out the door again.
i made my way to manting lu, looking for some dai cuisine. i visited my other friend at the rabbit cafe, i gave him a pack of cigarettes as a present and told him i was leaving tomorrow. he told me he saw my weblog and said it was a good tool for learning english. fans all over the world!
i went to the mekong cafe for dinner, had their dai-style pork with local spices steamed in banana leaves as well as a plate of fern heads. waiting for my food to arrive, i noticed a rainbow in the sky.
pork with local spices steamed in banana leaves
after dinner, i grabbed one of the many motorcycle "taxis" waiting around on every street corner, and told him to take me to the old mekong river bridge. i was surprised when he handed me a helmet. true, it was just a bike helmet, but kudos for safety! the ride was RMB$4 (50 cents!) and saved me 30 minutes of walking. i was chasing time anyway, trying to get to the bridge by sunset so i could take photos of the new mekong bridge about a mile away. unfortunately the sunset was on the other side (sunrise would've been a better time, but we can wake up so early?), but the bridge still looked impressive when the lights finally came on around 8pm.
mekong river bridge
i got a motorcycle ride back to the hotel. originally i was going to just walk, but the driver actually flagged me down with a "hello," and i decided to take the shortcut. he wanted RMB$5 but i told him that price was bullshit and gave him RMB$3 instead.
another shower and i was out the door once more to the night market, to say good bye to my hunanese friends. i gave them a present of er gou tou, a very strong bottle of beijing alcohol. i tried a mutton shaokao nearby, but it wasn't as good as the deep-friend stuff. i mustered the courage and ate some quail (i prefer the drumsticks, there's not much meat on a bony quail).
slowly i made my way back to the hotel, the last night i'd be walking the streets of jinghong. approaching midnight, there were still people wandering about, some seem to be just chilling out, others seem to be engaging in illicit business. a group of elderly chinese musicians were practicing by peacock lake. one of them noticed my camera and asked where i was from. "america, overseas chinese," i told her.
jinghong street at night
late night musicians
a woman taxicab driver stopped on the side of the road to ask where i was going. "my hotel is right there, thanks," i said. "do you want to see a show with naked ladies?" she asked. "sorry, not interested," i told her, and waved her away. after passing through the guantlet of prostitutes roaming around in the dark, i finally made it back to my hotel.