Orient Express 09 travel blog




Kunming... another banquet of food I didn’t enjoy at all. The next day ... off to the Stone Forest which our local guide says is the only real attraction of the area. We stay here for 2 days, fly to Li Jiang, then back to Kunming. I think this weird arrangement is due to the altitude. My understanding is that we are at a high altitude here, but Li Jiang is higher, so maybe they are acclimatising and deacclimatising us in a controlled fashion so that we don’t get sick... If thats not the reason I don’t understand it at all. Anyway... The Stone Forest. Its big and stony! We, the extremely experienced and well travelled thought it was a poor comparison with Cappadocia. Others thought it was the bees knees.... or as we say here... the ducks guts....

So we walked in amongst the stonyness for a couple of hot, knee gruelling hours. Following Miss Daisy the local guide. David was forced to take a wizz in the bushes, in absence of a happy house. No lemon trees in sight but he did his best. One of the people in our group is a geologist, have I told you that already?

Anyway... hes very fascinated with all things rock!

So as we are walking through an uninspiring section (to us) he was giving a bit of a commentary... Apparently one bit was an iron stain on a joint fracture. I now feel very inadequate... just looked like more rocks to me. He has been beside himself with excitement on the days where he has seen the rock formations. So the Li River and Stone Forest, which I have enjoyed the least have been very interesting to him.

Back to Miss Daisy... When we got on the bus and daisy introduced herself, the bus erupted into a rendition of Daisy Daisy... I couldn’t believe that people would think she’d never have heard it before... It was all she could do not to roll her eyes. Anyway, they asked her and she said she’d heard it thousands of times... Poor girl...Anyway... shes lovely.

But I digress.... Before we went to the stone market we stopped at a provincial town at an embroidery factory. We had no idea for quite some time where we were going as we thought she was saying inbreddery.

The embroidery wasn’t that great, it was long stitch on top of a computer generated design... traditional and modern. There was nothing that Helen and I were interested in at all....


I saw the silk carpets....They were magnificent! 1200 knots per square inch. It makes my Moroccan and Turkish rugs look completely amateurish. Its such fine work, front and back.. Some of the others are shitty because he wouldn’t negotiate on their embroidery purchases but Yes, I got a very good price. Its on the way home now as after the stone forest Jason took me to the post office with Helen and David. For some reason they only want to take cash, so 743 yuan later (100+ dollars) the carpet is winging back home. At least this way, I’ll avoid the import tax... I think!

By the way There are bougainvilleas everywhere here. Some growing wild but some being cultivated in nurseries. The joint is so vivid. Its just everywhere!.

Later after dinner we went to a cultural show. It was absolutely fantastic! There were 7 distinct parts... starting with drumming, dancing, singing, dancing etc. My goodness, it was brilliant. I wanted to buy a DVD but there wasn’t one. It was put together by a famous singer/actress Mrs lei ping I think her name is... anyway... she went around the provinces and gathered up the best dancers. They are all untrained. So many people videoing the performance. I poked a man in front of me and he had the grace to stop, but others along a bit further kept going. When Id had enough I poked another one as well. A big mean looking guy, who gave me the daggers... but... I gave him daggers right back. He stopped. Other people were targeted by the security at the back with a laser and then men came and told them off. Really selfish we thought as you are distracted by the light of their flash etc. All that aside the show was my favourite so far.

Supper with David and Kevin in our room because of the mushroom hotpot debacle...

So... a lot of people have been asking for a steamboat... and Jason kept saying we would get one further along in the tour. Tonight was the night... to slightly misquote Rod Stewart..

Here is known as a hot pot. What it is is a little individual stove in front of everyone, with a small pot warming up with a basic stock already prepared. Then when it boils you add small amounts of meat, veg, noodles. But after a small amount of additions you must wait for it to come back to the boil before you add the next lot. When stuff is cooked you can pull it out with your chopsticks and eat it with rice and dipping sauce. Lastly you eat the flavoured up broth as soup.


Two of the people’s dishes (a husband and wife) wouldn’t come to the boil... It was eventually discovered they were out, so once relit took a very long time to come to the boil. So long in fact that the other people on the table had eaten all of the meat, and the good stuff. Unfortunately these two were not going to suffer in silence, so we heard about it forever. The woman asked the young waitress to take the plate away and bring back more meat... I cant write down everything that was said, but just know it was exceptionally rude. Even more so, because the waitress didn’t understand any of it. So... of course, I had to do something because of two things...

I get upset listening to people behaving so appallingly, and two... I cant see the point of complaining but not to the people who could do anything about it. So I trotted off and got Jason to fix the problem, which he did. But did the bitching, whining, moaning and complaining stop?

No, of course not... They kept going, that their water took too long to come back o the boil, that the girl wouldn’t return with the meat soon enough... ad-nauseum.

I tried to segue as best I could with the Stone Soup story, which they hadn’t ever heard... And they think the people here are peasants!!!

Now .... a quiz....

Guess their nationality. Did you guess? I think you might have.

So when everyone was griping and asked me what I thought of it I said we came for a cultural experience, and we’ve had one... and I’m glad for it. If people want to eat the same thing as at home, I think they should stay there, don’t you? So thats what I told Jason. That we were glad of the opportunity to share a cultural experience. He was pleased. I don’t see what purpose it would serve to complain. It would just make him feel bad, and make us rude. There are enough ugly tourists here already.

But because it wasn’t to everyone’s liking, many people including us were still a bit hungry. Hence our need for supper. The consequences of which were Helen and I didn’t get to bed until 12 ish and neither of us slept very well. Could have been compounded by the stinking hot room and the need to leave our window open (onto a very noisy street).

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