Saturday 15 September 2012

Day 533: First day in China: Kunming

Kunming railway station

Our first move after having breakfast was to wander over to the station (actually just over a km away) to try to buy train tickets for Chengdu.  On the way we found more lovely pedestrian district, then some big avenues that are pretty easy to walk along and cross over (compared with other places we've been recently).  In fact, nothing is hard to do here at all.  Even buying a train ticket would have been easy, were it not for a few stubborn attempts to buy them with a foreign credit card which were firmly rebuffed by the train station staff. Having got our tickets we decided to take the bus back and discovered that was also easy.  Mike took us for lunch in a hole in the wall very Chinese restaurant which he chose and discovered belatedly that the characters for basic foodstuffs are not among the ones I've mastered.  He was hard-pressed to order something that didn't contain pork and beef and wasn't sure if he succeeded in the end.  Antonia and I went for the basic 'point at a picture with the end of a broomstick' approach to communication which worked for us.

Demonstration over some dispute with the Japanese about ownership of some island or waters around it or something
After this, we went for a stroll on Jinmafang, the central pedestrian district, and discovered to our surprise that we had arrived on the day of a demonstration.  I honestly hadn't expected that in China and of course, at first we had no idea what the demonstration was about.  There were lots of police officers about, but they were behaving just as they do in France: generally facilitating the passage of the demonstrators through traffic and other pedestrians and hanging around looking visible in case things got rough.  We eventually discovered that the demonstration is over an island in the South China Sea or the waters around it.  We don't really know much more than that but we eventually found a demonstration stage right in the centre of the pedestrian area with Japanese flags crossed out and stuff like that.  We had a nice time wandering around the very expensive malls and department stores here, looking at models of incredibly expensive out-of-town real estate and 120USD pairs of trainers.  We did eventually find a shop that sold kid's trousers at no more than US prices and we were able to stock up on winter trousers for Antonia (who has done nothing but grow, since the last time we were in cool climates).  It's only going to get colder from now on.  We're already digging out our warmest jumpers, and perhaps that's why we seem to have colds.  We went back to our hostel, where I for one, slept from 5pm to 9pm.  At that point I woke up and requested aspirins, then went back to sleep until 5.30am.  I woke up feeling fine, so lots of sleep seemed to work.

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