Welcome back everyone to the next entry on our crazy hitchhiking trip from Thailand to Europe! In the last post we had just crossed into China and made our way to Pu'er after the first few days of hitchhiking in China.
After an easy night in Pu'er and trying some of the famous tea we left early in the morning with the intention of going on the smaller roads to Dali, a famous small town, however after we finally got a ride in the right direction after waiting for 20-30 minutes, the lady in the car suggested that we should go directly to Kunming with her and her colleague as it would be easier to get to Dali from there. She also said that she would love to show us around Kunming for a few days.
So of course we accepted her offer, who wouldn't right?! A local to show us around the city, perfect!
The drive took around four hours from Pu'er to Kunming and once again the scenery was fantastic and we really enjoyed the ride. Unfortunately we didn't get the opportunity to get out and take any pictures so these are just taken out of the window of the moving car, so sorry about the quality.
About halfway we stopped at a buffet restaurant to enjoy lots of delicious food. We got to try lots of new dishes and especially liked the steamed buns! When the time came to pay, once again we were not allowed to. We tried our best but forcing it anymore would have been received as a very rude gesture, so we humbly thanked them for paying before we got back in the car and continued towards Kunming.
We arrived in Kunming around 1 pm and they took us to the same hotel that they were staying at. This is where things started to get interesting! When we arrived at the hotel the receptionist said that they didn't allow foreigners to stay there and told us that we would have to go to the local Police Station to be registered in order for us to stay there. So we all trasped off to the local station and after lots of discussion, none of which we understood, they took us to a very fancy looking hotel that was apparently the only one that accepted foreigners in that part of town!
How convenient... We told her that we knew of a place that we could stay in the centre of Kunming that accepted foreigners and that we didn't want to stay there but she refused and paid for a room for us. We weren't sure how to feel about this, clearly the room was very expensive and we felt bad about her having to pay so much (not sure about the actual cost).
At this point she went to pick up her daughter from her mother's flat and after we had showered we met up again in our room before she took us down to a local hotpot restaurant. We would just like to point out that all of the communication so far was through google translate!!!
This turned out to be our first hotpot in China and we were treated to the famous Sichuan hotpot! It is famous because of the Sichuan Peppercorn that is used in it. At first we didn't realise how spicy it was but after a little while our lips started to go numb from the peppercorns!
We think that she wanted us to try the best of the best and she ordered all sorts of different parts of animals from throat to liver to kidney! It was all in there and in our best efforts to appreciate this gesture we tried everything! Some of the different parts actually tasted very nice but it was the texture and consistancy that was more difficult to deal with!
Her daughter was a cute little thing and loved to have her photo taken with us! From our understanding with our Google conversation, her mother looked after her daughter and she only got to see her once or twice a month as she lived and worked in Chengdu (many hours drive away). We later learnt that this is quite a common thing in China.
After dinner we went back to our hotel room and had an early night as the next morning we were going to be up nice and early to visit different parts of the city, at least that is what we thought was going to happen!
The next morning we woke up early and went for a famous breakfast in Kunming called 'Cross The Bridge Noodles' which were absolutely delicious!
(If you are interested in what they are, check here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Crossing_the_bridge_noodles)
We got in the car and started driving out of the city. Malin was in the back seat keeping her daughter entertained!
After driving out of the city for 20 minutes we arrived at The Yunnan Ethnic Village.
The Yunnan Ethnic Village is a theme park that displays the various folklore, culture, and architecture of 26 ethnic groups in Yunnan Province, China. The park's major goal is mainly to display some aspects of Yunnan's ethnicity, cultural diversity, and heritage (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yunnan_Ethnic_Village).
As it mentions above on Wikipedia the Ethnic village is a celebration of all the different ethnic groups in the province of Yunnan. It was very interesting to see all of the different cultures and traditions that are all in one province. Actually we recognised many of the different groups from our time working with refugees from Myanmar as many of them originally came from this part of the world. However, it did feel very set up and that these people were just being used as a way to make money out of different ethnic groups to please the domestic tourists and a few foreigners.
Don't mistake what we are saying here, it was incredible to see the array of costumes, traditions, instruments, dances and food but it did feel very forced and many of the different people from the groups (whether they were actually from these groups is another question) did not seem to be very enthusiastic about sharing their culture, probably because they have to do it seven days a week.
Along with all the different ethnic groups there was even an elephant show that we weren't too pleased to be watching but it was hard to refuse and the her daughter was so excited about it so we stayed to watch it.
After the elephant show we happened upon a place where we could try on different costumes and of course she wanted us to do this! Here are some flattering pictures of us all dressed up!
This was turning out to be one long day, so long infact that our camera ran out of juice! At this point we would like to share what happened next, a rather odd story indeed! We stayed at the Park until 9 pm as there was the closing show and it was actually very impressive (no pictures due to no battery!) however, we were starting to get worried as we had made a reservation at a cheaper hotel in the centre of the city and their reception closed at 10 pm and we really didn't want her to pay for another night!
Once we had made it back to the car she said she couldn't take us as she couldn't take her daughter on her own in the car as she didn't have the child seat available which confused us a bit. She said we could go back to her hotel and that she would find somewhere for us to stay, we were not really sure what to do, but we had to go back with her because of her daughter. We finally arrived back at her hotel and in place of the nice receptionist from the day before there was a very unfriendly guy instead. We tried to ring our hotel but the number didn't work for whatever reason and we really weren't sure what to do! She took us to the hotel from the previous night but they didn't have any space and we asked in several other places nearby but none of them accepted foreigners... Finally through a booking application she found a place online that was not too far away and she ordered a taxi through an application but just as he arrived that same hotel rang her and told her that we couldn't stay there!
By this point it was 1 am and we were really unsure about what to do! It was getting a little tense with all of us sitting in the reception and she had given up trying to help us! It was tough few hours and finally she suggested that we could sleep in her car! She let us use a pillow from her room and a duvet and we went to her car with her and tried to get some sleep! This was not what we had expected, sleeping in a car on the outskirts of a city! The next morning we woke up around 7 and didn't really know what to do! The people who were keeping an eye on the cars gave us some funny looks and the man was even on his phone and kept looking at us which made us pretty nervous!
After a little while our friend came to get us and we all went for Jiaozi (Chinese dumplings) and wow, were they good! What a breakfast! This was actually our first time trying them in China and we were not disappointed! Delicious!
After this amazing breakfast we all headed into Kunming to go for a stroll around the famous park and soak up the local atmosphere. The park is huge with lots of different areas and you can see people doing lots of different activities. We even went on the paddle boats for a ride on the lake and her daughter was in charge of the wheel which made for an interesting journey!
We wondered around for a few hours and eventually she had to go back to her hotel and us to ours. Looking back on this experience and how that infamous night played out it really was a strange experience! We are however, forever grateful to our friend, she was incredibly generous and everytime we tried to buy something or pay for something she point blank refused and wouldn't accept us doing so. We worked out that she must have spent over 200 euros on us during those days. This was really unbelievable and makes us feel somewhat guilty about the situation.
If you would like to watch the vlog from this leg of our trip, please find it below!
Thanks again everyone for joining us on our crazy adventure and we realise that this post is a bit long! If you have any questions please feel free to ask! In the next post we will be hitchhiking to Dali, exploring the town and getting wet in a storm! See you next time!
Alex and Malin