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In China
Wake up in Luang Nam Tha, Laos. The guesthouse advised me to be half an hour early to the bus, as it might fill up. It fills up, slowly. People come, deposit bags and wander off, returning half an hour or an hour later. Sit. Wait. Fidget. (No, I'm still not good at this after almost 3 months in southeast Asia.) A couple hours after I get there the pickup truck starts driving toward Boten and the border.

The Chinese officials who screened me were probably just bored. They spoke good English and there was no one else coming through at the time, maybe that's why they methodically took apart my bag. Well, one of them methodically took apart my bag and the other one pulled out novels and started reading the opening sentences aloud, and asked questions about some photos I'd brought. "This is your girlfriend?" The other tried to be exhaustive and went through all the items in my first aid kit.

"That's medicine. Antibiotics."
"That's medicine. Diarrhea."
"That's medicine, for my stomach."

But he missed my iPod and digital camera, which probably would have interested him more.

Next stop was the nearest town, Mengla, on the way to Jinghong, the local provincal capital. Get into minivan. Sit, wait, fidget. A couple Israelis were the last to board. They told me how disappointed they were with how touristy China was, and we argued about the Cavs' chances against the Celtics.

Meanwhile the landscape starts out pretty similar to Laos, hot flattish jungle. My first hint that I'm in a different kind of place comes when we pass through a 3km tunnel, a perfect white tile cylinder projected straight through the earth. Then the scenery starts exploding around me as the road winds through the hills; huge, steep rock faces, deep valleys, constant changes in elevation.

We reach Mengla and buy tickets for a bus leaving in 15 minutes for Jinghong. Starving, we dash into a noodle shop, point at plates on someone else's table, and sit down. Inhale food and get into a larger bus that takes us through more jaw-dropping scenery, until we reach Jinghong, which in scale and apparent wealth (relative to most of southeast Asia) is pretty jaw-dropping itself. Walking around at night you get a sense of energy lacking in much of southeast Asia, which seems pretty sleepy by comparison. And to cap off this day of days, when I get into my $4 air-con hotel room, my TV is showing the Spurs-Hornets game.

last timestamped: 04:37:28 07-May-2008
in categories:Travel/Vagabond'08

1 Comment

niice! sounds like a good beginning to China. can't wait to see your pics of this scenery.

posted by stephanie mail

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