Having been detained, and then let go, by the criminal gang that was operating its own border crossing just off the main road, I decided that my remaining time in Myanmar would not be spent doing any more exploring. I shouldered my backpack, clutched my day bag and a Shan-style woven hat I’d bought as a souvenir, and made my way toward the large group of people milling around outside the official border crossing.
To make a long sub-plot short, as well as to drop two cliches in as many paragraphs, suffice to say that border procedures were a huge pain. Involving lots of lines, and the same confused, and then exasperated, border agent over and over again, the whole deal was also uneventful-enough to be unworthy of recounting here (although that hasn’t stopped me before). What matters is that once I finally got through the Myanmar side, I was feeling nothing less than euphoric at being back in China. Finally, back in a more-normal country! I’ve never smiled so brightly at a Chinese immigration officer. Nor at one of any other country’s immigration officers. I felt like I was home. Continue reading
Continued. In case you forgot. (It’s been a while–I did!)
I don’t remember waking up. Just standing out on the street with my bag, saying goodbye to my no-need-to-name-here Burma Driver, and thinking: Hey, my back and joints actually feel pretty good this morning. Last night’s tendon-stomping, human-trafficked masseuse (and I’m not saying that to be funny) must have know what she was doing after all.
My head was another story–the result of yesterday’s dehydration and this morning’s hot sun. But nothing that a cup of Myanmar’s sugar-slushed, condensed-milk-swirled variant of “coffee” couldn’t fix. I sat down at a nearby tent serving breakfast, downed four gulps from a dirty cup in between bites of a fried oil-bread stick (油条), and before I knew it I was out in back, looking for a good place to squat amid the mess of trash, flies and filth. Just another Myanmar morning. Continue reading
This post continues the incredible saga of my trip from Myanmar back into Yunnan.
The last stage of my journey was actually supposed to be the second-to-last. But then I lost my day-pack, and plans went awry.
Not just the day-pack was lost. The contents, in ascending order of importance: cellphone, Kindle, camera, iPod touch (which is my laptop when travelling), highly marked-up copies of 《中国非传统安全研究报告（2012版）》 and Protracted Contest: Sino-Indian Rivalry in the Twentieth Century, and lastly a notebook filled with crucial research notes for a thesis due in six weeks. Bad things to lose. Real bad. Continue reading
Last stop in China: Meng Run, a village
on the border with near (?) the Muang Sing area of Laos.* As a half-day side trip destination, somewhere to check out while waiting for the afternoon bus from Meng La to Luang Nam Tha, I wasn’t expecting much. And much there wasn’t–apart from an awesome game of “tops” 陀螺, joined by what must have been the best sandlot players this side of… China? Laos? Continue reading
The past few days, we’ve been (to use the parlance of backpackers up this way from SE Asia) “village-hopping through ‘Banna,” a tri-border area of Dai, Bulang, Hani and other minority group settlements. This was a much-anticipated stage of the trip, supposedly a rather remarkable part of China, and a bit of a tourist haven for Westerners who like relaxed homestays and the occasional coconut milkshake sipped from a hammock (okay, after this many weeks on the road, that would be us).
China’s rural county seats, those scruffy one-KTV market towns where farmers go to sell their chickens and buy their flat-screen televisions, are where we normally switch buses en route to somewhere else. But for several days here along the back roads of southern Yunnan, somewhere else for us has remained just another bus connection, another county over. Our final destination in China is Xishuangbanna prefecture, actually just 14 hours of windy road travel from Victory Village via Lvchun, but a one-bus-every-afternoon slow journey of three days for us. So in a string of unremarkable little towns along the way, we’ve had some time to kill. Continue reading
It is an axiom of this trip that we are on cramped buses for the gorgeous, clear weather and are socked-in by clouds and mist when we take a day to explore. So it was at Yuanyang, the famous collection of Hani villages and rice terraces in southeastern Yunnan. High up a twisty road (and past a $16 dollar admission booth) is Duoyishu, and below sprawl some of the loveliest terraced hillsides. Supposedly. I think I saw a terrace down there, below the fog. Continue reading