Friday, April 29, 2005

Travels in China

Yesterday, we arrived in a small city in western Yunnan. This city is very close to the Burma border. It was VERY different from Lijiang. Much more Burma/Thai influence. We had a delightful time trying out different ethnic minority cuisine. We found some from the Dai people that was especially good.

This afternoon, we boarded a bus to make the 3 1/2 hour trip to Baoshan. When we went to get on the bus, we found that it actually only a regular passenger van. There were only three passengers so we thought it would be a good trip. We even left 15 minutes EARLY! However, the driver went to another bus terminal and loaded the van up. My traveling buddy was smushed in between me and some old Chinese grandmother.

About 20 minutes out of Mangshi, we had to stop at a checkpoint. (There is a HUGE drug trade in the area and they search EVERY vehicle.) Well, they discovered that there were two Americans on board and, since they didn't have much else to do, decided that they would search us. They took our passports and went somewhere with them. (I never did find out where) They made us open our hand baggage, then demanded that we open our suitcases, too. They decided to really go through my friend's bag, looking in every pouch, inner bag, etc. Well, I thought I might distract them so I showed them a picture of my daughters on my cell phone. I tried to tell them about the girls, but I don't really speak much Mandarin. So, then I decided I would show them how much Mandarin I do speak, so I counted to 10. It captured the attention of the guards and they decided to leave us alone, as they went away laughing!

About 2 hours into the trip, we came upon a wreck. A HUGE transport truck crashed into the ditch, completely blocking the highway. (See the picture above) Finally, some brave folks decided to try to go around the truck. There was a sheer cliff with a 4000 ft dropoff just a few inches beyond the tires. We decided to get out of the van before letting it have a try. We couldn't believe that none of the vehicles fell off the mountain.

About 3 hours into the trip, the Chinese grandmother, now sitting by me, as I changed places with my friend, decides that she can't take anymore of the winding mountain roads and "blows chunks" out of the window. Well, at least she made it out of the window, but didn't make it very far as she threw up all over the outside of the windows and down the side of the van. It was most disturbing!

We made it safely into Baoshan at about 6 pm, local time. We checked into a surprisingly nice hotel and had a very good Chinese dinner.

More updates as conditions warrant.
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