Three frustrating days in Kunming without use of my iPad to connect to the Internet, and no Google, no Facebook, and no Blogger. Here we are in Myanmar at last, and suddenly everything works again.
What a contrast to China! There are few high-rise buildings, and even those are not very tall. Kent says it looks more like Kunming did 22 years ago. Green fields surround the city, and the golden pagodas are the highest objects on the skyline. Elegant old colonial buildings in advanced decay line the streets. Naked brown boys swim in the brown river, and the men all wear long skirts. It is hot and humid, and people move much more slowly. Like Thailand, this is a land of smiles. It is also very multicultural, with Muslims and Indians, and I'm not sure what others, as we have had only a few hours to wander.
The streets are crowded, especially now that the sun has gone down, and the traffic is a gridlock of buses, taxis, cars and various kinds of carts. Getting in from the airport took close to an hour. More English is spoken, and there are more western tourists, although we haven't yet seen any groups. Along the street near our hotel we were surprised to find numerous bookstores with sidewalk displays, many with old books in several languages including French, German, and English. Where have all these books come from? (see Emma Larkin's Finding George Orwell in Burma). We picked up a Lonely Planet Guide to Myanmar dated 2014 for 6000 kyat,or about 6-7 U.S. It may be a pirated edition -- I don't know -- as it would cost several times that at home. We are finding that a book in hand, or pages torn out of a book, are much more useful than having the book on Kindle and iPad, which we don't carry with us on a day's outing.
We have had an exhausting day, leaving our hotel in Kunming at 7 this morning. Myanmar is rather oddly 1 1/2 hours behind China. Thank goodness Zhou insisted on accompanying us to the airport as the Air China people seemed never to have seen a Myanmar visa issued by the Myanmar embassy in the U. S., so we had to go to another desk, get it photocopied, fill out some more forms, sign them, and then return to the check in counter. We still weren't done before filing out an exiting China form. More security, more passport checks, and we at last said good-bye to Zhou, who helped us through it all, translating for us numerous times. A last big hug and some tears and we were on our way out of China.
There is so much more to write about China. The hike in the mountains of Tiger Leaping Gorge was, as Zhou said, paradise, and I'll have to find time to write about that and our 3 final days in Kunming. I also started writing some of my overall impressions of China, but there is so much more to think about! And now Myanmar!