Monday, February 2: We get to the airport in time for Mike to check in and he says his goodbyes to me at the departure gate. I’m sad to see him off; I’m also disappointed that our holiday didn’t go as I had hoped it would. I had envisioned us being energetic and outdoorsy, hiking through the pinnacles of Zhangjiajie and riding bicycles, motorbikes, and bamboo rafts through the stunning karst landscape of Yangshuo. It was not even close to what I imagined it would be, although I think Mike still managed to appreciate it for the cultural experience it was. While I’ve spent a lot of time in Asia, this was his first time to the region. I’m sure it was an assault on the senses much as it was to me when I first I arrived in Korea in February of 2010.
Mike has promised me that he will write something about his impressions of China. When he writes it, I’ll post it here on my blog.
I think it’s important that my family sees my living situation in a foreign country. Alex has experienced all three countries in which I’ve lived and worked, as he visited me in Korea, Oman and here. Mike visited me in Oman with both boys, and now he’s been to China. It really helps when my family has an understanding of how I live, and they can see and feel what it’s like for me.
Mike wonders if he will get to see Alex as he gets off the plane. Mike will fly to Beijing on the same plane on which Alex arrives. Once Mike disappears to board, I have to wait some time for Alex, so I sit in McDonald’s and have some coffee.
When Alex finally arrives, he tells me that he was walking on a lower level while departing the plane. Suddenly, he heard Mike call his name from a higher level. They were able to chat for a few minutes and then Mike went on his way, and Alex walked out to greet me. Pardon this picture. I took it hurriedly with my iPhone and it’s really blurry!
We take a taxi to the university campus main gate and, rather than taking Alex directly to my apartment on campus, I take him, suitcase and all, to my favorite dumpling place, the Red Sign, across the street from the main gate. He enjoys his first taste of Chinese food in China; this is after all one of my favorite Chinese restaurants in Nanning.
After he drops off his suitcase, and gets the two-minute tour of my tiny apartment, we go out for a long walk around the campus. After that, he’s tired and wants a rest, and I have a couple of errands to do to prepare for our trip.
Later in the evening, I take him to my favorite Korean restaurant at the City Comfort Hotel, which he loves. Later, we return to my apartment, where we happen to find a couple of good English movies on Chinese TV. There isn’t much to do in Nanning, as you can probably guess.
Tuesday, February 3: This morning Alex and I wake up to a steady rainfall. Enough already! I’ve really had it with the rain over the last two weeks. There isn’t much we can do in Nanning but wait until our 3:30 flight to Kunming, the capital and largest city in Yunnan Province.
At the airport, we check our bags, but mine sets off an alert. They take it aside and open it, finding my offensive iPad inside. Apparently that is the problem. The security woman waves the suitcase through, but forgets to change the alert. When we go to the departure gate, we’re pulled over by police because of the original security alert. A policeman takes me back to security, where the woman again waves us through. However, she still doesn’t change the alert, because when I actually go to board the plane, I set off another alarm. Luckily, after a few moments of general alarm, they allow me to board. I guess I must be careful to put my iPad in my backpack for our remaining domestic flights.
Our flight is delayed for nearly an hour, which I’m told is typical in China.
When we fly into Kunming, we can see blue skies and not a cloud in the sky. The weather forecast for the next week is fabulous. Kunming is known as the “City of Eternal Spring” because of its perpetual spring-like weather; it’s an ideal climate for blossoms and lush vegetation. Located at an elevation of 1,890 meters (6,200 ft) on the Yunnan–Guizhou Plateau with low latitude and high elevation, Kunming has one of the mildest climates in China, characterized by short, cool dry winters with mild days and crisp nights, and long, warm and humid summers, but much cooler than the lowlands. The period from May to October is the rainy season and the rest of the year is dry. With monthly percent possible sunshine ranging from 30% in July to 69 percent in February and March, the city receives 2,198 hours of bright sunshine annually. (Wikiipedia: Kunming: Climate)
We take a taxi to our local Chinese hotel, the Fairyland Hotel. It’s nothing special; I didn’t want to book a really nice hotel when we’re just in transit to Lijiang. No one at this hotel can speak English, which makes for some challenging moments, the first one being when they give us a room with a double bed despite the fact that I booked a room with twin beds. Luckily I find “twin-bedded room” in my Pleco dictionary: shuangrenfang. I show the word to the receptionist and she gives us another room.
By the time we get settled into our hotel, it’s dinnertime, so we go out in search of a restaurant. We find a bustling Muslim restaurant, where we order beef dumplings with Chinese chives and beef dumplings with carrots, and a cold cucumber salad. It’s a great little meal, and so far Alex is loving Chinese food.
Back in our room, I look through the pages I’ve torn from my Lonely Planet China guidebook about Kunming, trying to figure out what we can do tomorrow. Our flight to Lijiang doesn’t leave until 7:55 p.m., so we have a lot of time to explore. 🙂
Sadly, Alex has to put up from here on out with my snoring, which is a continual frustration for him. In retrospect, I should have suggested he bring some earplugs. 🙂