Days of rain. Hours stuck in road repairs. Bleeding leech bites. Rats scrambling about your hut. Dishonest guides. Food of questionable origin. Nasty privies. Dangerous bridges. pointless treks. Food poisoning. I’ve seen a lot of talks on botanical expeditions through China, all feature of significant subset of these discomforts, a few manage to work in all and more. I had hit most every temperate Asian country I could, each with its own brilliant flora and culture. And each an excuse for where I really wanted to go, western China. A tour group didn’t seem my style, having my hand held removes so much of the adventure, the sense of discovery. I like to travel at mine own pace, poke about, I’m an independent sort. But from what I had seen, it seemed the only safe solution. My partner had decided to visit his parents in the northern city of Chenyang after 3 years absence, it seemed as good as an excuse as any to finally take the plunge. I can only hope that the tour leader I called couldn’t hear my jaw hitting the floor after the quote. On to plan B. I would go to Yunnan independently , hitting only the large tourist destinations. I might not see everything I would get on a prearranged tour but surely I’d see some plants and at least I’d get a taste China. Quan and I would meet midway through, then finish in bordering Sishuan province for 3 days of culinary exploration.
Quan and I flew into Beijing together, he went on to Shenyang and I went west to Chengdu in Sichuan province. Picking Chengdu as my entry port into Yunnan was bit of a mistake, the daily flights on to Shangrila were reduced to every 2 days as the trip neared, the smaller city of Kunming in Yunnan province has several daily flights. My amount of time in the city had turned awkward , either too short to spend a full day in the city or more days than I wanted. I arrived at Minshan Lhasa grand hotel around 22:00 hours, just
As soon as you pony up for even a mid scale hotel in Asia breakfast breakfast typically becomes a marvel of unfamiliar sometimes identifiable items. I was the first guest down that morning, I had the full attention of the noodle bar chef noodle. I spent the morning walking around the area of my hotel, through a jade market and small park. I got my first inkling for how little English was spoken. Quan had assured me that most young people spoke some English, it was a basic course in school. I think perhaps he had never tried to hold an English conversation with many of his countrymen. I wandered past an enormous China Telecom mall, I had wanted to purchase a cheap cell phone for emergencies. In the first of a recurrent theme, a search ensued for the English speaking employee, who inevitably was unable to comprehend anything beyond a 3 word sentence. I parted the store sans phone. I caught my flight to Shangrila at 1600 h.