Monday, 20 June 2011

Week 32 Wase to Mengla 133 kms cycled

Highlights: Almost deserted mountain road alongside jungle
Low blows: Noisy dorm companions
Music of the week:  Ave Rosa Sine Spinis Chapelle du Roi – Thomas Tallis

Wase to Dali  20km cycled
Good road only lasted for a bit then back onto dirt. Arrived at place with loads of Chinese cyclists outside and I could see boats going across lake from here so presumed it was a ferry terminal. Bought ticket for 20Y then wrestled bike down loads of steep steps and onto a small harbor area. Was told boat would be leaving at 11. Sat down and waited. After a while began to suspect that the ticket I had bought had nothing to do with a boat and further inquiry revealed that Id bought a ticket for entry to some pagoda located further up hill and it only gave me access to the jetty. The ticket had pictures of boats on it and I had asked for the ferry when I was up the top so a mixup. A boat across would cost another 50Y. Eventually chatted with manager and he got one of lads to authorize me across for another 20Y so 40Y altogether. If Id known it was this much and such a wait I would’ve cycled. Because of the new road there are no longer ferries running across the lake, only tourist sightseeing boats, which is what I boarded.
Chatted with girl from Inner Mongolia while crossing, she was alone which is most unusual for Asians. Had noodles for lunch then found a  room at yha 70Y and ok. Avoiding dorms!  Wandered Dali- packed with people.. Entered via west gate which appears to be where you have to have your photo taken. There were even girls dressed in traditional costume and some extras in Pigsy, and  Monkey costumes (no Sandy), and a bloke with a fancy white ram tethered to a cart you can pose in. They all waited in the shade, especially Pigsy who looked very hot. Town is Lijian-esque but on a larger scale and not as pretty. Fat woman pursuing me up one street selling ganja ganja, but looked puzzled when I didn’t want to buy any. Turns out small bushy area outside gh is a local pick up joint for prostitutes, all very low key. Silly place.

Welcome to the tourist Mecca of Dali

Weishan by bus
Went for a visit to nearby Weishan 60kms up road. Took bus into modern Dali town where it took a while to find correct bus station. My driver being unhelpful, but eventually found it. Tranferred onto another bus. Couldn’t understand why people waited at an intersection 200m up the road and then looked disappointed when bus rolled up and there was no seating. Driver farting about making extra cash with passengers and cargo. Eventually arrived at town and found old town. Had lunch in a resto with a well. Wandered old streets still with real shops and locals barbers, handmade noodle shop, restos, normal stuff and almost zero people – big contrast to Dali. Had a few hours there then headed back. Chatted with old Korean bloke on way back. Driver nearly crashed swerving to avoid summat, bus  weaving up road at high speed but he wrestled it under control. Actually appreciated Dali a bit better when I came back as could see it for what it once was. Went in search of bus for tomorrow, everyone reluctant to say where as all wanted to sell a ticket.
Weishan old town, the opposite end of the scale from Dali's crowds

Lady making fresh noodles

Noodles hanging outside the shop to dry
Dali to Kunming by bus
Went up to bus station place at alloted time, bus only had tiny cargo area so a bit of a squeeze but we all managed to get stuff in eventually. Boring journey. Left 11 arrived 5. Easy to navigate across Kunming and remembered way. Got a dorm bed in same YHA as before. Annoying Chinese in my room. One sparked up a cig till I told him it wasn’t on, then he decided to shout into his phone for a bit. One of them up till 1am farting about watching some video etc. Big fat one snoring loudly all night. As climate is warmer here needed mozzy net as loads of em buzzing about earlier on in lounge and could hear em in the night but safe in net.
Went to get Thai visa in morning. Clerk there banging on about must have onward ticket blah blah. In the end I had to write a letter of explaination as to why I wanted a 30day visa, on a bicycle, slow to travel etc. All ok after that. Beaurocrats! Got some more cash out and changed some into usd for Laos border. Had bike looked at in shop where he adjusted gears but that was all. A new chain was available for 16quid so think Ill wait till Thai as much cheaper there. Cleaned chain and cassettes back at hostel, had a ride about. Popped up to bird and flower market to look at hundreds of birds in tiny ages and lots of turtles, one turtle had climbed out of its tub and was making a bid for freedom across the mouse bowl. They also had chickens available in orange, green and red – couldn’t figure out if they were dyed this colour or part of some weird DNA experiment.

Live bird food at the bird and flower market

Kunming to Jinghong by bus  16kms cycled
Had buffet bf in hotel next door. Funny how after 3months with no coffee, the once weak tasting coffee actually tastes ok now. Set off after bf. Easy to find bus station but asked all along way anyway just to make sure. Only 16kms so quicker route this time. Bus ticket 195Y and leaving in 10mins (11am). Driver wanted 100Y for bike, I just walked off. After talking with woman in terminal ended up paying 50Y (which is correct price anyway) and figured as Id not paid for bike on a few buses it worked out ok.
Long boring bus journey. Arrived Jinghong 7pm. Found nearby gh 60Y with internet cable too. Ate at pan stall up road, v tasty and only 5Y. V hot and humid down here. Nice to eat on tables set out along pavement in breeze. All locals hanging out in breeze with shirts off too. When I first came from Laos  this place seemed like a just a city with trees, now coming from the China side It does seem like a nice tropical city with tree lined boulevards. How perceptions change! Good to have a/c in room as sticky.

At the park keeping cool in the shade 

Jinghong to Menglun by bus 
Buses either with no racks and small boots or small vans.  Amusing that they were making a huge fuss saying my bike was too big, but then proceeded to load a huge photocopy machine into the bus. Dispatcher picked me a bus with a big boot and had to wait 2 hrs till it was time to go. When I went to put bike in bus crew members weren’t happy, usual its too big, impossible etc,  but we got there in the end. Very hot. Set off and arrived a few hours later in Menglun.
Looked in a few places and soon found gh 60Y. Young staff very excited to fill out the passport details correctly onto computer which took a while, but better than the give up and avoid which is the alternative reaction to a foreigner.
Went over to have a look in Botanical gardens. Huge sign outside announces a research institute but its only close inspection of a large rock in the roundabout at the entrance that tells you it’s the botanical gdns. 80Y entry (didn’t wanna pay this much but I haven’t been in any pricy attractions so this one can be it). Luckily rain coming down in a thick grey sheet a few kms up valley was heading away from here or would’ve got soaked. Got ticket and eventually they furnished me with a map. Did a circuit of all the zones. Pleasant to walk in a quiet gardens away from all the noise. Special plants area funny cos a Chinese woman with her friends was singing to a plant that is sensitive to sound. She had been singing her head off all the time I was walking around but got all shy when I arrived at where they were standing. After a few mins chatting she lost her shyness and started singing again and the plant actually moved its tiny leaves a little bit, you couldn’t call it dancing though, more like a sleepy attempt to move.
Scavanged for fallen fruit beneath a load of mango trees and managed to find a fresh fallen one that hadnt gone off and the flies hadn’t got in yet. Ate some. Rose apples sour. Not much else about. Mozzies ate my cheek and ear. Bamboo section not very well laid out and no giant bamboo either which I was sure theyd have. Not bad as a park but pretty pricy. The few Chinese visitors there all seemed enlivened and enjoying the ‘countryside’, quite a few singing songs loudly as they strolled.
Gang of bikers assembled near entrance riding their big bikes up a strip and back again one at a time. A lot of new buildings being constructed by riverside – making a bigger tourist destination for sure. River now a muddy brown tea colour, probably from all soil washed off by recent rain – not a good sign! Reminded me of Bolivian jungle being next to a river this colour with the heat and humidity. Eventually found a resto that would mix veg. Had attempted 3 on same strip to mix beef with a veg I liked but apparently it was impossible, they wanted to mix it with celery and summat else which I didnt want.
With my carefully selected room away from the road I had planned an early night, but thumping disco music from building behind meant I had to wait a while. Had a few Dark Beer Laos and watched a film. Turned out it was only a lively resto so thankfully it stopped by 11ish. Good to have ac here as Im no longer acclimatised to heat and humidity.

The special plants garden

One of many beautiful plants

These delicate flowers smell of butterscotch 

 More colour

Menglun to Mengla  97kms cycled
Long ride along quiet road winding its way through jungle covered hills, afternoons road skirted protected forest reserve all way. Some large tracts of rubber plantations in places and also rice farming, the farmers just prepping the paddies and getting the rice in using the darts player method. Bit of traffic in morning , only 2 motorbikes in afternoon. A lot of uphill, 30kms to start then flat and down then more up. Over priced fried rice in village half way 15Y. Then set off climbing again, another downhill then up again and finally the last long downhill into town. Road skirted the expressway in places and so glad to be on this quiet road rather than at the mercy of trucks thundering by blaring their horns. Sky overcast most of afternoon and a storm finally broke for last 2 hours riding, utterly soaked but refreshing and cooled me down. Farmers in fields had all scattered for cover as it broke, with only a few remaining plowing. Legs tired cos chain slipping so have to ride in low gears - not how I like it. Arrived Mengla and got room in same place as before. Started chucking it down outside so had a hot shower until it stopped and then up road to pan stall, then supermarket for munch and back to nice room to wallow in a bit of luxury.

Big hills and rubber plantations

One of the quietest roads in China

A commuter along the road

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