Tuesday, March 10, 2009

China 2009 - 2

12 Feb 2009.

After flying from Beijing to Kunming we picked up our luggage, met YQ at the airport, and then caught another flight to Jinghong. We were on our way to Xishuangbanna.

Something is lost in translation I'm sure, but how would you feel if you were taking a flight on "Lucky Air" airline?

Here's something I've never seen on another airline - sponsorship/advertising on the overhead bin doors.

The inflight magazine was also very different compared to others I've seen. I'm not sure I'll be buying a perfume called, "Completely Woman Smell."

This article would not make it through censorship in the states. I'm sure there is a lot of relevant medical information, but . . . .

this illustration would definitely not make the cut.

Xishuangbanna airport is pretty small compared to the other airports I traveled through in China. When we left Beijing the temperature was about 32°F (0°C), but we were definitely in the tropical climate here with temps in the high 80's (F).

I was pretty surprised to find that the lights in the terminal were turned off (this pic is from the baggage area), but I found out fairly quickly that electricity is conserved throughout southern China. If there is any amount of daylight streaming in from the windows, lights are turned off or dimmed.

Hotel room lights are also very subdued with about 25 to 40 watt light bulbs in the lamps.

I snapped this photo to show the use of the brooms used for cleaning the sidewalks and streets. I saw so many people doing this activity and was totally amazed about how efficient it is for keeping an area free of debris. In the states you see landscape and city workers with noisy, gas-powered blowers. This low-tech solution is just as fast, is quiet, gives someone some real exercise, and doesn't pollute or use up fossil fuels. Hello, America? What are we doing to ourselves????

The woman that is in the long dress is from the Dai ethnic group. The women wear lovely dresses. I don't know if this woman was an airport worker or was arriving to meet a passenger.

Here's the bartering for a taxi ride to our hotel. I think we were overcharged for most of these kinds of services. Jim, Sean, and I were about the only Caucasians to be seen for this geographic area during our visit.

Xishuangbanna isn't a major hub, but there seemed to be a lot of traffic through here the day we arrived.

Here's our first botanical example that we were in a tropical region - Bauhinia in bloom in the airport parking lot.

The ride from the airport to our hotel gave us our first taste of what driving in southern China is like. Everyone drives with their horns blowing constantly. I compiled a video of the ride for you to get a sense of what it's like to drive. I'll have some more videos to post later on.

When we arrived at the "Good Chance Hotel," there was a wedding photo shoot going on near the entrance. Note the hoop slip under the dress.

So, we flew on Lucky Air and stayed at the Good Chance Hotel. I thought we should have played the lottery while we were in the area.

The lobby of the hotel was dark. This takes some getting used to, but, after a few days, it seemed pretty normal to be in dimmed rooms.

Meanwhile, the photo shoot continues outside. I loved the floral decoration of the car.

Here's another view of the decorated car.

None of the hotel desk staff spoke English, so it was really great that we had YQ to translate and navigate the details. The hotels require a deposit before you can get your room key. Their credit card connection wasn't working, so we had to pay cash up front.

I'm not sure if the red lanterns are up all year round, but these seemed to be there to celebrate the Chinese New Year.

This is the view from my room. I dropped off my luggage and then we reconvened in the lobby to go explore the neighborhood and to look for a restaurant.

One thing that is very different about China compared to America is the way merchandise is sold. We're used to shopping malls, shopping centers, and mega grocery stores in our urban areas. Big cities such as Beijing have similar arrangements in some areas, but in the rural south commerce is still done the way it might have been 30 years ago or more throughout China. Individual shops are lined along the street, most of which are open via a roll-down door at the front of the stall. There may be living quarters at the back of the store.

Every sort of store lines the streets. I have a lot of pics to post later that show some of the diversity of goods and stores, but here is a snapshot from the area around our hotel in Jinghong.

The first thing that caught my eye were these woodcarvings from the burl of some tropical tree. The shop was dark so I didn't wander in, but I think that is the norm for a lot of the shops. The only light going in was from the open door in the front.

Sean needed a memory card for his camera, so YQ went in to another store that was all lit up to ask about where he might find a camera shop.

The guy looking through the curtain is not witnessing a peep show. That was the internet cafe.

Some of the upscale shops had lights and windows, but all of the front openings, whether glazed or not, had garage-style doors that were closed at night.

I'm not sure if this was a shop or just some laundry hung out to dry.

I loved seeing all the two and three-wheeled modes of transportation.

Many of these bikes and trikes had a small motor to assist the pedaling.

I particularly enjoyed seeing the produce carts whiz by.

It was getting pretty late in the afternoon, nearing sunset, actually, and these workers were still going strong in laying concrete for a new sidewalk.

This youngster was having his own kind of fun with the wet cement.

I did a double take when I saw this rolling down the street.

After strolling around the neighborhood near our hotel, we didn't spot a restaurant that offered local fare. We took a cab to a part of town nearer the outskirts, which put us into an area that had several Dai restaurants. These are open-air restaurants with the "rooms" consisting of covered porches sitting a single group around a table.

All of these porches were already occupied when we came to the restaurant, so they put up an extra table in a courtyard in the back. You can see the laundry hanging there, too.

The place settings were wrapped in plastic, which indicated they were sterilized. That table cloth is a dozen or more thin sheets of plastic, which are peeled off one at a time after patrons finish their meal and leave.

I felt as if we were banished to the kids table, but then I found out over the next several days that the Dai people prefer to sit on short stools at low tables. More on that in a later post.

After a while a covered porch opened up and we moved to nicer accommodations. YQ did the ordering for our meal. The server is wearing a traditional Dai dress.

The meal is served in waves of dishes. These were the first to arrive to the table - a lovely soup, stir-fried banana flowers, some pork, and pineapple sticky rice. The banana flowers and sticky rice were my favorite two foods of the entire trip. Yum!

I put several foods on my plate at the same time, but this isn't how it's supposed to be done. I adapted to the local style for other meals - taking just a chopstick's worth of food into the bowl or onto the plate at a time.

I was feeling pretty jet lagged by the end of the meal and so I asked if we could return to the hotel. I had only four hours sleep after coming off that long flight, so I was really ready to be horizontal.

Here's my room at the Good Chance Hotel. All of the beds in the hotels where I stayed were very firm - as in nearly rock hard. Most of them were too short for me, too.

Here's your typical courtesy bar - everything on the top shelf is for sale. Boiled or bottled water is provided as is tea.

Here's the address for this establishment if you're interested in taking your chances at the Good Chance hotel.

All the hotels had western style toilets in the rooms, but usually had Asian style ones in the public restrooms.

Most of the hotels offered courtesy combs, toothbrushes, soap, and shower caps as well as slippers.

I encourage you to click on the picture and actually read what this sign says. It was posted in the bathroom. After reading it, scratching my head and laughing a bit, I looked at the goods on the bathroom counter to try to figure out what category went with a particular item.

I never did figure out which one of these was an electric condom, nor how an electric one differed from a regular one, nor why anyone would want something that said "electric" to be connected with one's nether regions. Perhaps this is a cultural difference that shouldn't be explored in too much depth. . .

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