Dave, Esme and I have been in Hong Kong for a couple of days now, and they will head back to the the UK very soon.
One surprise was a neat collection of twice-lifesize famous football players from various World Cup teams (and one from Sweden, who didn't even qualify!). If only the real Rooney had put in this much effort into England's games, right? I watched the first two England games, despite them being at unearthly hours of the morning here in China. I couldn't be bothered with the third. At least the national team had the courtesy of not raising our hopes at all this time. Lost, lost, and out we went. Nice!
Our final evening here has been spent up Victoria Peak. The last time I was here was some 15 years ago, when there was just a viewing area and cafe. Now there are a dozen restaurants and a dozen more retail outlets! But it's still free to go and see the city from surely the best viewpoint ever. We went late afternoon and, after a furtive MacDonalds, saw it once again as the lights twinkled on. Magical.
If you are outside China, you can see all of Dave's photos here.
My brother spotted this great T-shirt slogan in Shaxi and it took us a few days before we finally guessed the intended meaning. Can you work it out? [click Read More below if not!]
We spent this weekend on a 36 hour train journey to Shenzhen, near the Hong Kong border, where Ava buys her shop's stock from.
We nearly missed the train despite allowing lots of time to get to the station. It had rained torrentially the night before and it took us half an hour to get a taxi. Once we got one it could only get to within a kilometre of the railway station due to flooding and new security procedures (due to the terrorist attack there a few months ago). So we had to wade through ankle-deep water and complete three security checks before finally jumping on the train just two minutes before it pulled away. With only one train a day on that route, we'd have been in some trouble had we missed it!
A few hours drive from Dali is the small town of Shaxi (pronounced "SharrShee", despite what my brother insisted ..."Shaksee", indeed!)
We checked into a charming, traditional house cum hotel [see above] and enjoyed a sunny day in Shaxi walking around the well-preserved old town, which includes their famous ancient theatre [see top picture] overlooking the cobbled town square.
Other interesting sights needed some pointing out, however, such as the old slogan still visible on this house, proclaiming something along the lines of "True progress can only come through Governmental control of the people" - a real throwback to the days of Mao Zedong etc. Behind the main town, building work is taking place to pave and beautify the river front, including this picturesque bridge [see below]. So far, the town seems fairly authentic and untouristy, but that could all change very quickly unless care is taken. We really enjoyed our short stay, though.
With my weekend's work done, Dave, Esme, Ava and I headed off on some travels. First a 6 hour bus ride to Dali, a well-visited town which has managed to retain its beauty and identity whilst attracting thousands of tourists a year. We checked into such a pretty little guesthouse we quickly decided to spend an extra night there. That evening, Esme entered retail heaven when she saw the plethora of street stalls selling handicrafts and ethnic minority accessories.
We wandered around happily for a few hours checking out all the purchasing options, which largely seemed to revolve around further decoration of Esme's dreadlocks! I was pleasantly surprised at how few of the items for sale appeared on multiple stalls. The vendors seemed to be selling fairly unique items, by and large. Esme decided to end the day by having a henna design painted onto (into?) her arm to add to her hippy vibe!
While I continued teaching my usual Sunday classes, Dave and Esme joined the rest of the family, along with some good friends of ours, on a trip to an organic farm outside of Kunming. I went myself a month or so ago and blogged then about what a nice place it is, especially the pretty restaurant with tables scattered between various plants, bridges and streams full of fish. They had a really great day there and, once again, our friends managed to find a way to pay for it all before we had a chance!
Dave and Esme spent some time watching me teach today. It was great for my students to meet other foreigners and quiz them.
Some of them thought that Esme was Dave's wife which was quite amusing. They couldn't believe Esme was only 16 - let's just say she isn't as conservative in her looks as most Chinese teenagers are! It was fun for me too, to have Dave and Esme there sharing what is obviously a very important part of my life. And, of course, plenty of dumplings for lunch!
Dave and Esme have had surprisingly little jet lag and have been keen to get out and about during their first full day in Kunming before heading on to other cities, towns and villages. They started today with a visit to the house to meet JD, ma-in-law and our Nanny. JD quickly forged quite a bond with Esme and was very happy to be held and played with for as long as she had the patience. Then off to Green Lake Park to see impromptu dancing and singing, followed by the more tranquil, YuanTong Temple [shown here, with umpteen turtles]. It's Kunming's largest and most active temple and we enjoyed exploring the various sections. We were also lucky enough to stumble across 25-30 local ladies (and a few men) chanting and hitting various bells and drums as part of one of their services.
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