Day 12: Dali + Bullet Train to Kunming (August 5)
Waking up from what was probably the most restful sleep of the trip I couldn’t help but think about my bike trip from last summer. Today officially marks 1 year from the journey ending. It’s honestly hard to believe that much time has passed. This whole trip I’ve been talking about missing being on my bike which perhaps isn’t surprising since this time last year I was riding on average 140km a day. I really do hope I find a chance to cycle of only for a short bit this trip, but if not I know it will be one of the first things I do when I get home. Lazing around in the room until about 10am Adam and I packed up our luggage. We then went to eat a bit of food while the others took their time getting ready. At noon we checked out and put our stuff into the storage room. Yasmeen wasn’t feeling well and Adam just felt like taking it easy so Kim stayed back with them relaxing in the hostel while Talaal and I opted to go for a walk to the lake.
Leaving for our walk around 12:45pm we didn’t return until about 4pm. The walk to the lake proved to be both much longer and less scenic than expected. It was nice to move though and see a much less touristy part of Dali. We did have higher expectations for the lake though. By the time we got there we had a little time to explore before picking a much nicer route walking by farmland back towards the hostel. We worked up quite a sweat since it was probably the warmest it’s been all trip and didn’t rain until we were about five minutes away from the hostel. I couldn’t help think it would have been a great day to cycle, but with the weather being so unpredictable we ruled it out earlier.
Arriving back from our long walk (15-20km) we ordered some food from the hostel restaurant. I order some coconut pumpkin soup that was mediocre and a some spinach and basil pasta. I specifically asked if there was cheese and the confirmed there was none. I even double checked and made sure it was super clear what I meant. Of course as you can guess it arrived not only with cheese in the sauce, but also melted on top. I wasn’t impressed and would have retirit if it hadn’t been for the others just offering to eat it. After eating we grabbed our bags and waited for the car that Kim had the hostel organize for us. And by car I mean the one Kim said on multiple occasions needed to fit 5 people and our luggage. They confirmed they’d bring a large vehicle. I’m sure you can guess from their awful customer service how this story turns out. The driver they sent arrived 15 minutes late and was in about the smallest car you can fine. Extremely annoyed we explained this clearly wasn’t going to work and questioned why it happened. The manager explained that the staff didn’t tell the driver the right information and apologized. Her apology didn’t mean much to us when we were feeling nervous about missing out train. The manager recognizing our frustration offered to walk us down to the main street and get us two taxis (which ended up costing about 8 dollars more than the driver). In the end we arrived on time and the hostel secured itself a pretty poor review from us all on Trip Advisor.
Once we all got to the station we were herded like cattle toward our loaded platform after putting our luggage through the x-ray machines. The bullet train ride started off with an annoying little kid kicking my seat again and screaming a bunch. I couldn’t help but wonder how it was that I somehow keep getting stuck in front of these kids. After looking back annoyed multiple times the father finally got the hint and moved his kid to another seat… for a short bit before moving him back. I gave a few more annoyed looks and eventually they finally got the hint that I was going to lose god damn mind if they didn’t move their kid. I seriously felt ready to channel my inner Brian Hamilton (any of my co-workers would know what I mean by that and anyone else can probably guess) Besides the kid though the bullet train was pretty impressive. For the few hours we were on it we were traveling nearly 200km/h. It was also quite clean and thankfully smoking wasn’t allowed (and people actually seemed to follow the rules). I spent most of it listening to music and writing. Kim wrote in her travel journal, Adam listened to music and chatted with friends, Talaal and Yasmeen played games on their phones. Kim and Talaal also spent a good chunk of time talking with an adorable young boy that kept wandering up and down the aisle. He seemed pretty fascinated by us, haha.
Getting off the train thankfully went a bit smoother then getting on it. Once we got out of the train station we found it was a little more complex getting a taxi though. We showed several taxi drivers the address of the place we wanted to go, but none were interested in taking us. Eventually we found a private driver willing to take us a reasonable price. Within a short time we arrived back at “Lost Garden” which is where we stayed on our first night in Kunming.
With most of us quite hungry we made our way to a Western bar called Humdingers nearby around 930pm. Inside playing guitar and a bongo drum were to white people singing songs in English. It was a bit surprising since most of the patrons seemed to be Chinese. There was some difficulty ordering, but eventually a woman who we later discovered must have been the manager came to help as she spoke some English. Despite her help there was still a mix up with my order (a “veggie burger” aka fried veggies on a bun) as it came out covered in cheese. Luckily I was able to return it and get a new one without issue. Adam and Yasmeen were also kind enough to share their fries with me while I waited. After eating we made our way back to the hotel where I had a quick chat with my partner Shantel, had a much needed shower (they smoke everywhere in China – including in restaurants so we smelled terribly of smoke) and passed out.