jinghong, xishuangbanna, yunnan (9/1/2006)

not much action today: despite the nice day, i spent all of it inside my fortress of solitude foraging for snacks. half a leftover burger, some cookies, some ice cream, the only time i considered leaving the house was to buy some groceries. in the evening i watched rookie clay buchholz pitch a no-hitter against the orioles. hopefully he'll become an asset in the red sox's one month push into the postseason.

lacking any better content, i'm once again forced to delve into the vault. a year ago exactly today, i was enjoying my last day in the lovely city of jinghong, capital of xishuangbanna prefecture in yunnan province. leaving jinghong meant leaving xishuangbanna, which was sad because i've made some friends here (the curator at the rabbit bar, the hunanese fried chicken siblings and their family, that oregon couple, the owner of the taiwanese bubble ice tea cafe). although i didn't get as much naturing done as i'd hoped, i did surviving hiking by myself through the jungles. as for wildlife, watching the shady undergoings of jinghong's street life from the safety of my bus station hotel room window was good enough. hot showers, cable television, air conditioning, exotic fruits, palm trees, dai minority - i'd miss all those things now that i'd be leaving for parts unknown.

after i visited the local internet cafe and had some rice noodles for breakfast, i watched men fishing in white elephant lake. i even managed to get a haircut afterwards. it was a weird day, i basically spent it waiting for my sleeper bus to leave and take me to jianshui. by that time i'd already been traveling for over a month and a half so i'd already gotten the hang of it, but it was still disconcerting, leaving one semi-familiar city (from my many days of exploration) to an entirely new city.

the actual traveling itself can be rough too, going long distances without bathroom breaks; that's why i normally eat and drink very little before a bus trip. i didn't know what to expect in jianshui; my lonely planet guide had no mention of it (although it was important enough that they at least had it on a map), so i was going off-radar. in fact, for much of the next week i'd be traveling off-radar, which was fine with me but it meant even more of a mystery once i got to my destination. usually the first thing i did after i arrived and found a hotel was to go out and buy a local map from the newsstand. naturally these maps are all in chinese, but sometimes there's enough romanized pinyin for me to at least figure out where i was going next. and if i was really stuck, i could always ask somebody for help, although usually that's only if i've exhausted all my other options.

this was my second sleeper bus experience, the first being the bus that took me from dali to lincang. in all i think i must've taken 3 sleeper buses in my entire trip. it's actually not a bad way to travel, although there's definitely an aura of creepiness sleeping on a bus with a bunch of strangers. and since i'm lying down, there's not much to look at anyway in terms of the scenery (other than the sky) but sleeper buses normally run around night time anyway so it's not a big loss. much better than trying to sleep in a regular bus seat for however many hours. i just don't know how the drivers do it and even with the backup driver, it's a mystery how those guys stay awake or have the stamina to drive for so long. but i figured if we did crash and die, i'd be asleep anyway, so i wouldn't feel a thing.