I haven't written in a while because I've been busy working on a project. What's the project you ask? I'll tell you later when I've got something good to show for it, which hopefully will be soon. During my almost 1 month stay in Sapa I spent most of my time in my hotel room working. For the last two weeks I would only leave the hotel once a day on average, and just long enough to buy fruit and/or water for the next day or two. The owner of the hotel I was staying at was a real nice guy and would always invite me to the staff/family lunch and dinners. The night before I left he threw me a going away party with his staff and some of the other hotel owners in town. There were lots of cooked snails and some local apple wine.
Eventually it was time for me to leave Sapa and head into China to meet up with my friend Rob and do some hiking. You remember Rob, don't you? He was on my frisbee team in Bangkok and then we hung out at Otres beach in Cambodia and attended the father kings funeral in Phnom Penh. My journey from Sapa to Kunming wasn't without trial but it was nothing insurmountable. I met a guy from Malaysia and a guy from Thailand on my ride from Sapa to the Chinese boarder and they were heading to the same place in China as me so we all stuck together.
I've done many border crossings in my day and I've never had anyone scrutinize my documents like the Chinese immigration official. He questioned why I didn't write my unusual middle name on my arrival card. After crossing into China we spent the better part of an hour trying to find and ATM and then a place that would exchange USD—neither of which are usually hard to find. Luckily the Malaysian guy was fluent in both English and Mandarin. After getting some money we bought a bus ticket to our final destination that evening. Much to my surprise ours bus left exactly on time. Unsurprisingly our bus was stopped shorty after departure and searched by police. They inspected everyones documents and removed all the foreign passports to a roadside police stand. The Thai guy went to take a picture of the policeman but before he could one of them spotted him, pointed at us and started yelling, then ran onto the bus, grabbed his camera and yelled at him some more in Chinese. They searched the camera and not finding any pictures of the police they gave it back. So far I've needed my passport to buy a trian ticket, check into a hotel and buy a SIM card for my phone.
My first views of China showed it to be very different than my Vietnamese home of the last two months. The streets were cleaner, the people seemed nicer, the buses weren't overcrowded, and best of all, the food was spicy and full of flavor. We had a buffet style meal in the bus station before we left and another before we arrived in Kunming. Both times we were instructed to serve ourselves rice from huge pots of cooked rice. The one thing that seems to be more frustrating in China so far is the Internet. And it's much more frustrating. I can't use Chrome, Firefox or access google.com; when I'm on a website—like gmail—it will randomly redirect me to google.com.hk after a couple minutes—and I do mean randomly (read: in the middle of an email). My VPN only works some of the time and the Opera web browser seems to work consistently but slowly. I have to say I'm even a little scared to be publicly criticizing anything about China while I'm still in their country.Soundtrack: Roam (The B52's)