February 26th 2010
The morning of the 26th started early, we wanted to make sure we caught the very first bus to Kunming. Thanks to China's policy of 'everyone in the country has to be on Beijing time,' when we left the hotel at 6:30 am it was still very dark outside. We caught a cab to the bus station and had no trouble buying tickets. Our only trouble was waiting the 1.5 hours until the bus took off. We passed the time by reading, talking, and sharing tired silence.
When it was finally time to take the bus we were in for a rude shock. Although the ride was only 9 hours, from 8:30 am to late afternoon, we got a sleeper. Having thought that our sleeper experience a few nights earlier had been a one-off event, we were quite discouraged. This sleeper was as bad as the first one. One of the two of us was even brought to tears by the experience (I won't say who).
A long and annoying bus ride later, we were in Kunming. Before I say anything else about Kunming, I must admit I don't know why everyone gets all worked up about it. Sure the weather was great, and it had all the creature comforts of any big city, but I don't see what made it an AMAZING place to live. Anyway, we took a taxi into Kunming and got off at the edge of Green Lake Park. Supposedly our hotel was near the lake. We walked to the exact spot on the map, found the address and looked up at what looked like a giant country club. Somehow, I didn't imagine this being the youth hostel. We walked around and asked a few shop owners, only to discover that the hostel had moved. After finding the hostel, checking in, and putting our gear down, we discovered that we may have been bamboozled. While this indeed was a hostel, they didn't have any record of our reservation, and we started to see signs for a different hostel back down the road. Either way we had a place to lay our heads, that's all we needed.
We set out to explore the park, which is chalked full of seagulls, and get something to eat. We headed to a restaurant name 'Salvatore.' While obviously a haunt for the bulging expat community, it boasts great food and good coffee. The rest of the night was spent walking around, peeking into shops and resting. At night we headed out to a local bar to try the regional beer. It seems, however, as if Kunming has no regional beer. The best we could get was Qingdao. After finding a shop on the roadside that served a regional beer, the shop keeper kindly admitted that it tastes 'about the same' as Qingdao. Thoroughly disappointed we walked back to the hostel and went to bed. Sadly, this was the first day when I had regrets about choosing this city. I went to bed with false hopes that the town would surprise me the next day.