Wednesday, June 16, saw us on the road again. We caught the bus to Guiling and bought overnight train tickets to Kunming. There was a four-hour delay, but when you’re facing a 22-hour ride, it’s really just a drop in the bucket.
A handful of foreigners joined a mostly Chinese crowd. Piles of sunflower seed shells accumulated on the waiting room floor, which was also littered with trash and soiled by the spit of old men. “I hope they’re not in our compartment.”
The trip was actually quite comfortable. We had top bunks, meaning we couldn’t sit up straight, but I’m perfectly happy to spend an entire day reclined with something to read.
Kunming felt like any other big city (pop. 3 million)–we’d checked into the hotel and had dinner before deciding that we’d rather be on a train to Dali that night instead of the following night, for which we’d already bought tickets. Alas, those tickets were already sold out. On the bright side, our hostel had a DVD player, so we watched “Gone, Baby, Gone” and discussed it late into the night.
Kunming is supposed to have good food, but we had trouble finding it. The book talked about a Muslim Chinese street with kebabs and goat cheese, but it had been squeezed out by an upscale mall (complete with a Harry Potter store that I’d wager isn’t paying royalties). What food we found left my lips burning and Colin’s stomach upset from the spice.
We walked to the park to do some writing and studying, but the wealth of activities around us proved distracting. Groups and individuals practiced music; rows of photographers lined up along the lotus pond; young couples sat wrapped in each others’ arms, oblivious to the commotion.
Dinner was take-out in the plaza of that upscale mall because they were playing the Argentina-South Korea match on a couple jumbotrons. We raced back to get our bags from the hostel, then caught the last bus to the train station and just made our train.