so i finally saw a golden-haired monkey on my second visit to the kunming zoo! i was a man on a mission as i made my way to the monkey compound. the weather once again wasn't cooperating, blanketing the city with a slight drizzle, but it was still a lot better than the weather on my first visit last friday. i just think golden-haired monkeys have the most interesting, photogenic faces of all the monkeys: a blue face with orange fur.
afterwards i visited the panda house (no, it's not your local chinese food takeout), but i was curious to see if they really had a panda. you'd think that with a big draw like a panda, there'd be banners all over the place but the panda almost seemed like an afterthought. when i got there, instead of a giant panda, there was a few red pandas, sleeping on a platform. i didn't mind, i like red pandas more anyway.
the third zoo place i wanted to see was the aviary. it was closed the last time, due to the rainy weather, and i was afraid it'd be closed again with the drizzle, but thankfully they were opened for business.
the kunming zoo aviary is a paradise for bird lovers - or if you have a telephoto lens and want to put it to good use. birds of all colors and sizes were flying around, visiting feeders, washing themselves in bamboo baths, collecting twigs and leaves to make nests, your basic bird stuff. i stayed for an hour but i could've spent the whole day there, just watching the birds.
not feeling i had enough monkey in my daily sightseeing diet, i went back to the monkey compound, and grabbed a few more snapshots of the golden-haired monkey, as well as a few other simians. a monkey wrangler sat nearby and we chatted for a while. although i only saw one golden-haired monkey, the zoo actually has several, but only let out a few at a time. also, one of the monkey just gave birth, so it's currently in maternity seclusion. the man seemed really nice, and seemed to share a similar love of monkeys as well. he said that a lot of the monkeys at the zoo have become bad monkeys because of mistreatment from people: he said because people love the monkeys too much, and zoogoers feed the monkeys when they're not supposed to, and the monkeys get sick, and then the monkeys become mean. i wanted to question his logic but i nodded in agreement. he said even the golden-haired monkey, who seem like such a sweetheart, was a bad monkey, and wouldn't hesitate to bite somebody. he told me that if i got permission from the person who runs the zoo (he told me where to find him, and told me what to say), that he could bring me inside the monkey compound, and get a closer look at the golden-haired monkey, maybe even go inside the large monkey house. i told him i'd come back another day and give it a try.
"good-bye man who loves monkeys!"
after returning to the hotel (which is just across the street from the zoo), i spent an hour at an internet cafe. along the way, i passed by the buddhist yuantong temple, with the various stores outside selling buddhist trinkets and charms and incense, and the many fortune tellers ready to read your future. i heard some girls squealing and went to investigate. these grade school girls were surrounding a man who have a pair of parakeets who apparently could see the future. the parakeets had their tail feathers clipped so they couldn't fly away. it was really interesting, he had the parakeet first bite the money the girls paid to get their fortunes read, then he'd let go the parakeet and the parakeet would go to a box and peck out a piece of folded paper, which was the fortune. one of the girls made her friend get her fortune read as well, and the two of them read it and nodded in agreement over the forecast.
afterwards i got some lunch, some okay beef noodle but nothing to write home about.
with a brief rest in the hotel, i was ready to go out again, this time to the yuantong temple, right across the street as well.
it wasn't really that interesting (i'd rather revisit the zoo a third time), i've seen so many asian temples that at this point it's all a blur, but the admission was priced right, just RMB$4 (about 50 cents). yuantong temple is the place to go if you want to see foreigners though: with so few ancient sites in modern kunming, virtually every foreign tourists who come to kunming makes a pilgrimage to this temple. i saw a taiwanese tour group and asked them if they were indeed from taiwan. "yes," a man said, but rudely continued to walk away, just as i was trying to tell him that i was from taiwan as well. his wife was more generous with her time, but they seemed to either be in a hurry to leave, or didn't want to talk to me. i didn't blame them: taiwanese people probably get hassled a lot here in china; as soon as the locals realize they're from taiwan, they start asking about the whole one-china situation. it's all good if you don't want taiwan to be independent (which is the consensus here in china), but if you're a taiwanese native, and want taiwan to be its own country, you have to pick your words wisely.
buddhist chant box
i visited a gift store before i left the temple, and asked about these tiny radios with buddhist motifs on them. just as i suspected, they're not really radios, but buddhist chant boxes, each one with a certain number of pre-recorded looping chants, for your buddha worshipping enjoyment! i bought a few, and spent an hour there chatting with the ladies who work there, who had all sorts of questions about america once they realized where i was from. a man came in (he was at the temple releasing turtles, which seems to be a very buddhist practice), overheard our conversation, and joined in the chat as well. we talked about the hotel i'm staying at, how they feel it's terribly over-priced, and told me to cut the room rate down by half or otherwise leave. the man gave me his name and number before he left and told me to call him if i ever come back to kunming and need anything. minutes later, he came back and invited me to have dinner with him and his friends. one of the ladies, who was standing behind the man, waved her hands and mouthed the word "no." i played it cool, and told the man thank you but i like to wander on my own. after he left for good, the waving lady told me that she had a suspicious feeling about him, that she's never seen him before, yet he spoke to her like they were really good friends, which they're not. they warned me that there are some bad people in china (just like monkeys, i thought), and to be careful. who knows, the man could've been legit, but better safe than sorry.
some more resting at the hotel, and it was off to the races again, this time to find a place to pay my cell phone bill. apparently all the money i put in had run out, and when i tried to make a call earlier, i got a message saying that i'd exceded my limit. i walked to a busy part of the city (close to the universities), and found a telecom office. after waiting in line for a while, the lady told me that they only dealt in local kunming numbers, and told me to walk down a few blocks to a bigger office. i did was she told me, but i went to the wrong office, and got redirected again, and once more, went to a wrong office. finally, at my 4th telecom office, i got the right place, but there was even more people here, so much so that folks needed to get a numbered ticket and wait. a pair of foreigners who didn't speak any chinese came into the office, talking to the guard, who casually just pointed them to the area where everybody else was waiting. they sat down next to me and i asked them in english what they were doing here. turns out they're americans as well, touring china, and they were at the office for the same reason i was, to reactivate their cell phone (theirs was from beijing). they waited in line with me, and after i paid RMB$100 to get my phone working again, i helped them translate. apparently their phone uses a different system, and couldn't be recharged from the computer, but had to be done by buying special recharge cards with a number to call and a password to activate. the man said they were all sold out and asked us to come back tomorrow. since there were many other telecom offices, we figured it wouldn't hurt to ask around, maybe somebody still had some cards to sell. turns out in the same building, just upstairs, they did indeed have more cards, and they weren't really sold out, more like they cut the electricity so the vending machine didn't work anymore. we asked a lady downstairs to help us and after she got the guards to turn the power back on, we managed to buy a RMB$100 card, which she also helped to activate and recharge jim and kathy's phone. after we traded contact info, i left to go have some dinner, around 9pm.
i went to a taiwanese food court, got some bubble ice tea, some beef noodle, and some smelly tofu. the smelly tofu was definitely some sort of smelly tofu but it wasn't taiwanese smelly tofu. the beef noodle was okay, but once again, nothing to write home back. the only thing good was the rose-flavored bubble ice tea. the people working at the food court seemed to take a special interst in me for some reason, maybe because they found out i'm from taipei, and one of them even asked me how was the food compared to the food in taiwanese (i politely told them it was about the same, except for the smelly tofu).
i walked back to the hotel, passing through cuihu lake park, watching people doing line dancing and holding impromptu chinese opera concerts at the various pavilions. later in the evening, my shanghai friend that i met in yuanyang called me up. she was walking in the rain back in shanghai, after going out to buy some groceries. turns out today was her birthday, and her japanese boyfriend of 4-year recently broke up with her (hence her little vacation to places like yuanyang), so she needed somebody to chat with, which i was very happy to provide that kind of service. we talked until her cellphone went dead, and then i went to go take a bath around 1am, the water still warm even though i filled the tub another hour ago.