shingjie station (yuanyang)
so i finally left yuanyang this morning, taking a few parting snapshots of the townfolks from my hotel window before i grabbed my stuff and left to catch my 9:10am bus. i took a RMB$3 tuktuk down to the main bus station. trying to take photos with my malfunctioning canon camera, i got so fustrated that i switched to my nikon instead, putting the canon away in my bag.
from yuanyang first we went to nansa, the town i thought was yuanyang a few days ago. i made the traveling mistake of drinking a huge 2 litre of mango juice before getting on the bus, and fantasized about detachable bladders all the way until we finally stopped and i got off to use the bathroom. from nansa i was surprised to discover that we went to gejiu next, a city i didn't think was along our route. from gejiu we went to jianshui, one of my favorite cities. we stopped at the familiar bus station and i saw my old traffic hotel. i used the bathroom once again and bought a pack of watermelon seeds for lunch.
bus ride view
we didn't arrive in kunming until 4:30pm. the bus station was full of people and swarming with traffic, which came as a shock since i haven't seen this many people in a while. i ignored all the touts and went out into the street and hailed a taxi. "lianyun hotel," i said - the hotel my father recommended i stay since it was close to the zoo and ciuhu lake. along the way, i just soaked in the city sights: nice restaurants, department stores, and even a big "canon" sign outside a camera store - i made a mental note of the location so i could come back. when we finally arrived at the hotel, i got worried because it seemed too fancy. "i don't think i can afford this place," i said to the driver, who scolded me for not telling him earlier i was looking for a ccheap hotel because he could've recommended a few. "this place, at least RMB$500-600 a night," he informed me before i got out. reluctantly i walked into the hotel compound (it was so big, it had it's own gate and guards and manicured garden) and asked if they had a room available. just so happened there's a big teacher's convention happening at the hotel, so it took a while before the front desk people told me yes, they did have a room, RMB$150. that was way cheaper than i thought and i took it immediately, sight unseen. apparently they have many different buildings within the hotel compound, each a different star rating. i stayed in building no.2, which like its namesake, was probably the crappiest, but still pretty good. the room was small but comfortable, a little dark, and it helps if you can ignore the mosiac of stains on the unwashed carpeting. there was hot water in the bathroom (i didn't even have to let it run for a few minutes) and the soaps and shampoos were very fragrant (their own special hotel brand scent?). i showered and went out to explore kunming.
downhill biking prohibited
there were a few things i needed to do. most importantly, find a camera shop to buy a new lens, but i also didn't have breakfast or lunch and i was pretty hungry. i walked to the nearby cuihu lake first to look around, then started walking in the direction of that camera store i saw from the taxi (on beijing road).
the camera store wasn't as far as i thought, across the street from the people's square. i saw lenses in a tall glass case, and told the saleswoman my sad story, asking if they sold the exact same lens. she told me the lens in question only came as part of a kit (which includes the camera). i looked around for a matching lens, but they were all expensive, at least a few hundred dollars US$. "you can try the repair shop upstairs," she told me. repair shop? i didn't even consider that an option. what can a chinese camera repair person do? this is a complicated canon lens, it can only be fixed at the factory. but i didn't have many other options so i decided to give it a try. upstairs was a workshop, with a man behind the counter sleeping in a chair. he woke up when he heard me. i repeated my story, he played with the camera, and said, "there's something wrong with the lens. the aperture seems to be broken." "can you fix it?" i asked. "yes," he said. "you can fix it?" i asked again, in disbelief. "of course we can fix it," he said, pointing to a plaque on the wall, "authorized canon repair shop." holy crap! i lucked out! but then: "how much?" the repairman said: "RMB$320," which is about US$40, amazingly cheap, considering parts have to be replaced. "RMB$320?" i repeated, still in disbelief. "how long?" i figured something complicated like this, despite the price, maybe it'd take a week, and i didn't have a week to wait. "the day after tomorrow," the guy said. i was so happy i nearly broke down in tears. "okay, i'll fix the lens," i said, trying not to show how excited i was.
with the lens situation out of the way, i was pretty ecstatic. earlier, walking to the camera shop, i also passed an airline office, and asked about flights from guilin to hong kong, which i'll be taking at the end of the month. "RMB$1500," the woman told me, about US$200, which is what i thought it'd be. i then wandered around people's square, admiring the sunset. in the distance i could see kites being flown from a nearby park.
i was still looking for a KFC to indulge, but i passed by a restaurant called 1915, catering in yunnan food, and decided to go there for dinner instead. it was a fancy place, nicely furnished, with the entire waitstaff dressed in ancient costumes, and ladies in red chipao greeting customers at the entrance. the menu, even though i didn't read chinese, had many photos, so it was easy to choose what i wanted to eat. i ended up going to with a plate of fern salad (served with hot sauce) and yunnan style roasted duck. i chatted with my waitress, who seemed really knowledgeable in minority culture, and gave me advice on what i should do and where i should go.
kunming night street
well fed, i walked back to my hotel, visiting other hotels along the way. my hotel told me earlier that there might be a possibility i wouldn't have a room tomorrow night, and i wanted to switch hotels anyway, if the price was right. i decided to move to the dagounming hotel diagonally across the street, also RMB$150/night but the rooms were way nicer and brighter.
kunming bridge (like in jinghong!)