Bloody hell it felt good finally landing in China, we were in a port-town called Guan Li which certainly wasn’t ideal as we thought we could get a life on the cargo boat all the way to Jinghong – apparently not! Guan Li was… erm.. euh… interesting
We climbed the stairs at the port and made our way through ‘immigration’ which consisted of a confused Chinese guy and a wooden desk. After summoning his manager, calling their superiors, more confused looks at us being there and eventually a stamp in our passports we were let through, and into Guan Li town centre. Wow.
This place is certainly not in any guide book, that much is for sure! We wandered around the town for about 30 minutes. It was early in the morning and we didn’t actually have a plan, when I left Thailand the ‘plan’ only went as far as trying to get on a cargo boat so now we had achieved that we were sort of lost, in more ways that one.
We found a sort-of guesthouse type place for about 20 RMB for the 3 of us, dropped our bags off and tried desperately to find someone who could speak English… I’m sure you can guess how successful that was! We soon were getting followed everywhere around this little town by intrigued Chinese people who kept their distance but had no problems with following our every move
This was my first impression of China and i thought the culture shock when I first arrived in Thailand was big! One day backpacking in Guan Li showed me more about rural China than 20 documentaries and books, thats why I urge everyone else to get out of their comfort zone and get out there! So we walked around the town, trying our best to find out how the hell we get out of this place and on towards Jinghong. Meal times were an adventure – pretty much involved us going to a restaurant, 10 minutes of confusion on everyone’s part then an inevitable trip by one of us to their kitchen and a vague point and nod procedure to choose what we wanted! always delicious though 🙂
We heard a rumour about buses leaving early in the morning from the town centre so we set our alarms ridiculously early and waited, and waited and waited. ALSO, not sure if you know about the crazy time zones in China… so it’s a huge country and you would expect 5 time zone, maybe 6 or 7 WRONG it has one! Beijing time, and every follows that, so we set our alarms for 5am in Guan Li which was probably more like 1am really and a bus arrived around midday, we boarded it and it left around 2pm.
The thing about Chinese buses is people smoke, people swear, people spit and spit and spit, they fit too many people in one bus and they drive like a bat out of hell. Hence the bus getting named ‘the Death Bus’. We were driving through mountain passes for about 15 hours, the lane was clearly only wide enough for one vehicle but the driver naturally thought that one vehicle should be his so we hit corners at 80kph, with sheer drops on one side, not knowing what was around the corner. On the journey I saw 3 crashes at the side of the road AND one bus (similar to ours) that had fallen down the sheer drop. That wasn’t hugely reassuring.
Somehow, we made it to Jinghong in one piece. Finally we had a plan!! We arrived here around 6am in the morning, we went to the bus station and bought a sleeper bus to Kunming for that evening and spent the day in Jinghong, just soaking up the culture of a new country.
When I reach a new place I really enjoy walking around new countries and cities and just drinking the atmosphere around you, and nowhere is better to do that than in China – an awesome backpacker stop. Next stop – Kunming….