Wednesday, January 31, 2001

Sleeper Train from Shangri La to Kunming

Sunday September 28, 2007

I just finished watching the LSU victory over Miss. State virtue of the internet even though it was 10 am Sunday here. I arrived in Kunming at 7 am after a 14 hr sleeper bus from Shangri La. This was my first sleeper bus experience and not the most fun that I have had in China. The bus is lined with upper and lower beds. What I did not know was that in the back is one giant bed which is for 5 people. Guess who got the middle space in the giant bed. If I had known better I would have requested a single bed. The entire night is made up of jockeying for position and waiting for the next bathroom break, since there is no bathroom on the bus.

I seem to be the only foreigner on most buses and most trains in China. I know visas have been hard to get for some. I was walking around the bus on our first break when a little boy about eight asked me what I was doing on the bus. I quickly realized that most travelers have their own buses and transportation and that the Chinese almost never have contact with foreigners on the local buses. Most of the Chinese that know any English will try and practice it with me when they can. Even walking down the street people will start up a conversation just to hear English.

After arriving, I quickly went and rented a dorm room at a hostel. My next sleeper bus to Luang Prabang, Laos leaves at 6:30 pm today and will last for 32 hrs. Yes, I requested a single bed. The hostel gives me a chance to shower and rest even though it will be shortlived.

Tomorrow a new country and new experiences.

"Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn't do than by the things you did. "
Mark Twain

Tuesday, January 30, 2001

Earning my Passport

"The traveler must be born again in the road and earn his passport from the elements."
Henry David Thoreau

The Sleeper Bus from Kunming to Luang Prabang, Laos was once again one of the tests that backpackers endure to travel cheaply. Airfare from Kunming was $550 and 1.5 hrs and the sleeper bus was $42 and 32 hrs.

I checked out of my room and went to the bus station to catch the sleeper bus at 6:30 pm. I was told that the bus had been canceled. With very little explanation I was told to come back tomorrow. When I insisted on a new ticket she marked out the 28th and put 29th in pen.

I went back and rechecked into my room which I had already paid for but had just stayed in for 8 hrs. Luckily I was not charged again. The next day I checked out at noon and went to the internet cafe and spent 4 hrs on the computer to waste time. 4 hrs was only $1.00

I arrived at the bus station 2 hrs early to make sure there were no cancellatons. I was shown to the bus and went in to check out my SINGLE bed. Bed Number 21 was on the back row with 4 other people just like before. I was not happy and let the bus driver know it. I went back to the ticket office and complained with the help of somone who spoke a little English. He went with me back to the bus driver and finally, he assigned me a single bed in the front of the bus. I think it was the backup drivers bed. He was not happy but when I started asking for a refund he knew that he had to find a solution.

The positives are that the bed is the most comfortable bed that I have slept in since I left, there was great airconditioning and Chinese kung fu movies. Arriving at the Laos border was another one of those moments that you wish you were back home. Organized chaos is the only way to describe it. One of those oxymoron that is true. Police trying to maintain crowd control but having very little luck with the 300 people trying to get to 3 windows. After over 1 hr in line and seemingly losing ground, a Chinese woman yelled at the policeman and pointed at me and he allowed me to come through.

When I arrived in Luang Prabang I needed to take a tuk (motorcycle taxi) to the Old Towne. I agreed to split the cost with a couple from Shanghai and Beijing who spoke excellent English. When I told them that I was from Louisiana they looked shocked because he said they thought only black people lived in LA. When I asked why he thought that and I am not making this up. He said that when Katrina hit NO that the only people they saw on CNN were black people. Amazing the perspective that other people have with only limited exposure to the outside world.

I found a great place to stay which is a private room with a balcony overlooking the Nam River and only 2 blocks from the Mekong River for $6. There are really no hostels here.

Monday, January 29, 2001

Luang Prabang, Laos

This is by far my favorite place that I have visited so far. There are great similarities also to Natchez. The town has about 20,000 people, is on the Mekong River and is a very old town with incredible French architecture. Laos used to be a French colony and many people speak French in town. There are many tourists in Old Town but it doesn't seem too crowded. I got up at 5:30 am to watch the monk procession. The monks and there were hundreds of them, walk down the street at 6 am with their large bowls and the locals line up on the sidewalk and put rice mostly but also money and other things as gifts to the monks. Whatever the monks do not use they give to the poor. This happens every morning.

Sunday, January 28, 2001

Kuang Si Waterfall

Wednesday October 1, 2008

Today, a group of English, one from Norway and myself went in a tuk tuk about 24 km to the Kuang Si Waterfall. It was a blast. Very high and beautiful waterfall. We climbed to the top of the waterfall and waded out to the edge and took pictures. The 2nd picture is the top of the waterfall and the 3rd was taken leaning over the edge. Then we went downstream and went swimming which included jumping out of a tree into the falls. Afterwards I was sitting next to a couple and they looked American so I asked where they were from and he said Alabama. I was in shock. To run into an American is almost unheard of and for them to be from one of LSU's biggest rivals is another.We both briefly mentioned our upcoming game and then decided to drop it. There were also a lot of small Asian bears that were in several enclosures near the waterfall.

Saturday, January 27, 2001

Small waterfall, Big elephants

I went to the second of two waterfalls outside of Luang Prabang. The waterfalls were much smaller than the previous one but more picturesque. An added benefit was that they bathe the elephants which they hire out for rides in the waterfalls in the evenings.

Friday, January 26, 2001

Slow boat for 2 days to Thailand

Saturday October 4, 2008

Took the slow boat up the Mekong River to Thailand. The current was really strong and the boat kept switching sides of the river to find the least amount of current. There were only 5 tourist on the boat going upstream while boats going downstream were loaded with tourists. Seems we were doing the route counterclockwise. Better for us. After 9 hrs on the boat the first day we stopped in a small village and spent the night. The river is full of rocks in the middle and you do not want to be traveling on it at night. The next day was 8 hrs but it is a slow peaceful journey and you can watch the many people fishing on the banks of the river with nets. Arrive in Huay Xai which is till on the Lao side at 6 pm just 30 minutes after the ferry to Thailand closes. Seems to be timed that away. So another night in Lao.