Yesterday, we took a trip out to CongMao Reservoir with two of JD's old schoolfriends and their parents. We hiked up a mountain collecting edible mushrooms and checking out the wildlife!
After an evening meal together Jiajia, JD and I drove on to a 5 star hotel for the night. Jiajia had secured some vouchers for three nights, at 10% of the usual price. So we slept well on the 20th floor (great views) and pigged out on the buffet breakfast this morning. We'll use our two additional nights later in the year.
Jiajia, JD and I are off to Dali today. It used to take some eight hours to get there by sleeper train, but now this beast can do in two. We are having a fortnight away - our first trip outside Kunming for three years - and JD is keen to relive his last visit here when he and I went horse-riding, cruising on the lake, cable-car up the mountain etc. We are staying in a friend's house while she is away on her holidays, so we can spread out and have a comfortable base to explore from.
With exams all over and a week of sunshine ahead, we've been hitting the paddle boats on both Green Lake (with some of JD's school friends),and LianHua Lake (with just JD and I).
It's a good way for JD to get some exercise in a controlled area (ie no cars or pedestrians) with fresh air and a cool breeze. The pedals are too close for me to be able to help much (...that's my excuse) so I just let the kids wear themselves out, whilst ensuring they are not about to bump into any boats, ducks or islands! And at 40RMB (£4) an hour, it isn't going to break the bank anytime soon.
With COVID still making it tricky to leave Kunming, let alone visit other Provinces or countries, we once again spent our Winter holiday in and around the city.
We passed the time with optician/dental check-ups, trips to the countryside, Lego builds, lay-ins, shopping and meals out with friends. Plus plenty of holiday homework for JD. Now it's time to start thinking about our return to school and University.
As an end-of-holiday treat, Jiajia and I took JD to an indoor skiing centre about 30 minutes drive away. It's JD's third time skiing. He loves it and has been asking us to go again for ages.
After JD made four descents of the beginner's slope without falling over, I took him up to the Intermediate slope. It's a fair bit faster. He got down without falling over but ended up crashing into the cushioned fence at the bottom! He decided to return to the baby slope after that!
The centre isn't cheap (£20 each) and Jiajia had to pay full price even though she only wanted to watch. So we persuaded her to at least have a try. Let's just say it wasn't her strongest showing!!
Unusually this year, Chinese National Day and Mid-Autumn Festival fall on the same day, so there is a full week of holiday throughout China. Apart, that is, from my University where we have just have one day off! They blame COVID, and promise we'll get an extra week in the Winter holiday. But I'm suspicious ...all the other Universities and schools in Kunming have got a full week. Mean!
We've travelled from Hanoi to HaiPhong and now to Tuan Chau Island. The weather is chilly and misty, but the beach (100m away) is empty, sandy and full of shells (if badly littered). JD loves it.
We are here for three days, primarily to see Ha Long Bay- a UNESCO protected site with karst mountains dotted around the coast. We had hoped to take a boat trip there today, but we got a tip that there's a half-price tour tomorrow morning, so we'll aim for that instead. In the meantime, we found a cool (literally) open-topped bus tour which let us see the sights in and around Ha Long city without expensive taxis or car hire.
We spent yesterday wandering around Hanoi's Old Quarter, taking in the traditional French/Vietnam architecture. The highlight was a Water Puppet Show where various characters and animals are operated with underwater poles to perform little acts and dance routines. Very traditional and great fun. ...then noodles to round off the day.
Another in my occasional series of "Flashbacks" looking back at blog entries made before this Weebly version started.
It was supposed to be simple 1½ hour bus trip to Ganden Monastery - the second of the big three Tibetan monasteries - albeit a bus trip starting at 6.30am. Being so far West, but having to use Beijing time, Tibet doesn’t see the sun rise until about 9.30am in the Winter. So when the bus suddenly stopped after an hour it wasn’t immediately obvious why. But once we disembarked we felt thick snow underfoot and the bus driver made it clear that the road got too steep from here onwards. The pilgrims seemed keen to set off on foot but then they would, right? For them it was a religious mission...
I quickly hooked up with two Tibetan teachers (brother and sister) who were able to explain in mutually clunky Mandarin that they’d been here before and it wasn’t too much further by foot, “....just 29 hairpin bends, but we can take shortcuts”! Because of Tibet's altitude I was gasping for air before we started. It was pitch black with slippery, ankle-deep snow. But thanks to the encouragement and helping hands of teachers “Jin” and “Zhuo” we made the two hour climb together in time for a steaming hot breakfast of dumplings in the monastery canteen. What a start to 2009!
We are spending a lovely few days with my friends Krista and Stuart in their picturesque house in Chippenham. They have arranged some great little outings eg JD getting drenched in the water playground and a visit to a set of canal boat locks including a short barge ride.
JD was having trouble grasping how long it is until we visit the UK, so I wrote a countdown on a block of post-its and now, every day, he rips off the top one and we stick it up on the top of the wardrobe.
We are all really looking forward to the trip. Six weeks seemed a lot of time for us to fill, at first, but we appear to be squeezing far too much in once again in order to see everyone and do all the things we want to. And of course, we're still waiting to see if Jiajia gets her visa without a hiccup.
JD and I took the 7½ hour daytime train back to Kunming today. It's been an even more successful trip than I had hoped for with plenty of exercise, adventures, friends and fresh air. JD says his highlight (alongside the boat, the chairlift and the horse riding) was the easy access to various construction vehicles ...each to his own!
JD and I walked to the Three Pagodas this morning (the hotel told us it was 1km. It was at least 3km!) and were able to get in for free with yesterday's boat ticket. Then up a ten-minute chairlift to get to the top of CangShan mountain. JD was keen to visit a couple of caves there (armed with a tiny torch he had bought especially) but, after a 4km walk along the "cloud path" we found they had been closed due to a rockfall. So another 4km back to the chairlift, via a picnic and back to the hotel. Ten kilometres is a lot of short legs, and JD was hardly able to stay awake by the time we got to our room!
JD and I had our first trip out today - a 4 hour boat trip around ErHai Lake. The large boat had a dance show on board and stopped at two pretty islands where we could disembark for a wander. Although the boat was quite full, most of the Chinese passengers preferred to stay indoors, playing cards and avoiding the sun, leaving JD and I lots of quiet opportunities to look for pirates and sharks!
We're back in the Laos capital, Vientiane, after a long but beautiful drive back from Vang Vieng.
We've been to some distinctly average Chinese restaurants whilst here (largely to keep Ma-in-law happy) but the Laos meals we have had have been exceptional, especially the DIY all-u-can-eat barbecues. Laos food is similar to Thai food, but without the mouth-burning chilli dishes or the stomach-turning sour dishes.
Past blog entries