In Kunming we checked into the Jin Jiang hotel. This bills itself as a 4* but it's actually divided into building A (3.5*) and building B (3*ish). The cheap rooms are of course in the latter. The lobby is oddly over-nice; it rather outdoes the rooms in both buildings. Still, for $50/night a clean comfortable bed, quiet, and hot water with good pressure was very nice.
January 16th Pavan was feeling a bit sick so instead of heading for a bus to Yuanyang we decided to stay another night to recover. The hotel clerk was not enthused about giving us the same rate or the same (small) deposit but after considerable debate
We wandered Kunming. Kunming is definitely tea country; every block has tea stores full of paper-wrapped Pu'er tea cakes of varying quality and price.
Pu'er tea that has been aged at least four years is very good. We learned while sampling tea at one store that they also sell Pu'er green tea. The pressed cakes of this look kind of cool but the tea was inferior to other greens in our sample.
In the evening we went to visit Salvadore's. It rules. Food of all types not mainland Chinese! A Greek Salad!! Pumpkin soup for sick Pavan!!! Curiously they also have the end of a hockey stick with "ice hockey in kunming" plus a phone number on it. We never managed to call the number but we're very curious as Kunming did NOT seem like a hockey town.
On Sunday January 17th we went to the bus station. Getting to the station was a remarkably long taxi ride so we didn't arrive until 9:20, intending to catch the 10:40 (based on Lonely Planet) bus to Yuanyang. We waited in a lineup and eventually got to talk to the ticket sales lady. She spoke no English so we showed her "I want to buy a ticket to Yuanyang" in Chinese characters, which one of our co-workers had been kind enough to write down for us:
I want a (bus) ticket to Yuanyang
She responded by writing down 6:40 pm on a piece of paper. This means a sleeper bus, which we did not want. As best we can tell the daily busses don't seem to run on Sunday. Asking about busses tomorrow simply confused matters. We got out of line and were standing around frustrated, trying to figure out what to do, when a helpful caucasian chap walked up and asked if he could help. He spoke Mandarin and was able to help us find out about the next days busses and we managed to buy tickets for ¥128 each for Monday morning. We grabbed a taxi back and booked into the Jin Jiang hotel for yet another night.
As we had some extra time we went and strolled the streets near Salvadore's, which is in an area noted for expats and stores. We found Tintin and Calvin & Hobbes translated into Chinese characters, which we thought was cool. Lounging in Salvadores over a Mexican breakfast and Belgian waffle watching the crowds walk by it hit us once again "we're in China!!".
Pavan was feeling somewhat better but still not 100% so we decided to catch the movie Avatar. After a few slightly confused attempts we figured out they even had it in English but sadly the 3D version was Mandarinized so we caught the flat version. Chinese movie tickets are purchased for specific seats, sparing you the "fun" of arriving massively early to watch commercials before your actual show. It's also very nice to know you can have a decent view before you pay. No previews ran before the movie, just a few commercials, nearly all of which were bad 3D animation.
Next stop Yuanyang!