茶pter VII: 2/3/2017 – 2/6/2017
In the morning we headed to the Lijiang bus station for our 5 hour trip to Lugu Lake. At first, we were bummed that we would have to spend half of the day on a bus instead of looking around, but we were pleasantly surprised to find out that our trip was quite scenic. Winding in and around the mountains of Yunnan, the views were incredible! The bus driver even stopped a few times for the passengers to take pictures (which was nice, but we wanted to get to the lake as soon as we could).
We arrived at the bus station in a village on the lake’s edge, where we were greeted by our hostess, Helen. She was the only staff member able to speak English and was actually recently hired by the hotel we would be staying at. This is because they had opened up their business to foreigners by registering on Airbnb, and we were the first customers through that website! She had called her boss to come pick us up; he ended up arriving on his moped! One at a time, my roommate, Skylar, and I were shuttled to the hotel on the moped.
Our hotel room was prime: the balcony was backed up right to the lake so we could simply walk out our back door to get to the shore. Along the shore were more hotels, abundant tourist shops, and restaurants. Skylar and I got our hair done by a lady in one of the shops, we ate good food, and we found bubble tea…all in all a very good day! To top it off, we caused a little spectacle by curiously looking over a three-wheeler that a boat service used to transport motors. Skylar was particularly interested since she builds off-road three-wheeler vehicles for areas in Africa as part of Purdue’s PUP club (https://engineering.purdue.edu/pup/). I explained enthusiastically to the curious onlookers, made up of the canoe drivers, that we were engineering students – “我(wǒ)们(men)是(shì)工(gōng)程(chéng)学(xué)生(shēng)!” – which made them chuckle: being from a rural area, they were surprised to meet women engineers.
The next day we planned to ride around the whole lake on mopeds. Since mopeds were so prevalent in China, we thought this would be a perfect opportunity to get vehicles and ride around without too much traffic. The bikes were demonstrated to be extremely common, for when we got our bikes they didn’t even tell us how to ride it: they simply gave us the keys and walked away. It was liberating to ride around with the wind in our face and a huge body of water at our side on a sunny day. We stopped at many scenic areas, and ate lunch on the Sichuan side of the lake while we charged the mopeds – we had delicious spicy fish. For the later half of our trip we encountered a lot of noisy traffic, impatient drivers who weren’t afraid to blast their horn at you. By the time we reached the rental place, we were happily worn out, but our day was not over yet!
We decided to take a trip on the canoes out to the center of the lake. We sat in front of a Chinese guy who spoke fluent English (he worked in Nepal and was taking a vacation with his mom!), so he translated everything the native canoers said about the lake. While coasting along between Yunnan and Sichuan, our tour guide noted the “girl” and “boy” trees on the perspective land masses straddling the boundary between the provinces. We stopped to look at some temples on the island in the middle of Lugu Lake, where we saw some caution signs that were interestingly translated (one said, “Carefully slip and fall down”).
We had dinner with Helen and the hotel owner’s nephew, who was learning how to speak English at school. He was very shy, and we tried to engage him by asking questions about his school and things he liked. After he left, Helen talked about her previous job working with foreign models, and how she was nervous about talking with them in case she would mess up. Of course, Skylar and I felt the same way about speaking mandarin (though, it was easier for us to go for it since we were in each other’s company, rather than alone). We had a great conversation about practicing not only the language, but the confidence to talk with others to make use of the prior time studying the language.
The next day, we were given wrapped up breakfast, which consisted of boiled eggs and this delicious yellow pancake, to take to the bus that took us back to Lijiang. The two of us plus the hotel owner squeezed on his moped with our luggage and he drove us to the station. On the way there, we dropped the breakfast and Skylar scrambled to save it. We happily ate it on the scenic drive back to Lijiang. We had a bit of time to kill, so we went through the Naxi museum, which showed the literary and religious history of their people. After that, we went to the Black Dragon Pool, which was a large park with peaceful bodies of water surrounded by foliage and colorful buildings. It had a great view of the Jade Dragon Snow Mountain if you looked down the rivers running through the park. We decided to take pictures dressed up in traditional Yunnan clothing (the dressing-up stations are quite common in touristy areas). In the evening, we headed for the train station, where we took an overnight train to Kunming. I was in a lower class bed (3 stacked high and not a lot of space!), but I actually slept quite soundly and was not disturbed by anyone. Though Skylar was in a higher class bed (stacked 2 high and with a sliding door), but unfortunately was stuck with a loud snorer.
We arrived in Kunming early in the morning. I had found out that my SJTU buddy lived in Kunming, so we arranged to meet up with her at a Thai restaurant. Her English name is Ruby, and she is a freshman studying to be a doctor. We talked about preparing for college during high school. In China or Korea, high school students are worked to the bone for the college entrance exams, for the ranking resulting from those determine which schools you can go to (i.e. top 10% can go to the top college, top 20% can go to the college next to the top). Ruby said her senior year of high school may actually be more difficult than college. It definitely contrasted my own high school experience; I don’t think I ever had to pull all-nighters, yet it was commonplace in China.
We had half a day left, so we asked Ruby what was fun to do around town. She suggested the Yunnan Nationalities Village, where the lifestyles of the various minority groups in Yunnan were displayed. We got to see the architecture styles and read about the history of many cultures. Following that, we taxied to the airport to fly back to our home base in Shanghai.
Next up, my trip to Nanjing! Stay tuned!