I found myself taking a series of planes from Kathmandu to Thailand. For reasons most clearly related to my being an incredibly cheap bastard I ended up with a seventeen hour layover in Kunming, China. Now I know you geography experts out there will point out that I flew in the wrong direction and should never have ended up in China in the first place. Stop pointing things like that out, not everyone noticed. Jerks. Anyway…
Do you remember as a child wanting a specific toy, probably from a TV show geared primarily at selling things to children. Lying awake on Christmas eve hoping your clear and unmistakable request for this specific toy would be granted. Having written the name out, drawn pictures and pointed out that your shirt, bedsheets, and backpack all bore the logo of the aforementioned toy. Do you remember waking up Christmas morning and running downstairs to discover that some relative, either through dementia or spite, has gotten you some vaguely related cheap Chinese knockoff?
Well China is sort of like that.
I had always assumed that somewhere in China was a cadre of despicable guys sitting around laughing at the incredibly shitty stuff they sent us. I was wrong. It turns out everything in and from China is a crappy knockoff. From food to luggage and everything else one imagines in their sweat soaked dystopian nightmares. There are some authentic and wonderful things, however anything with even a vague western feel is much like the news or internet in China, not to be trusted.
When I arrived at Kunming airport I was happy to see a few open WiFi signals. They either wanted my Chinese phone number, which I did not have. In fact I suspect a great number of people arriving at an international airport do not have local phone numbers. Finally I found a signal that did work. I then discovered that Google did not. So since my android phone relies on Google the way I rely on oxygen, it was not good to say the least.
In most international airports one can find an English speaker if their phones translation function has been mysteriously blocked by that countries glorious dictator. Not so in Kunming. Unable to communicate the address of the hotel I had booked I found a cab driver who offered to take me to ‘nice hotel, cheap.’ Now I thought the odds were fifty fifty that I would be kidnapped or murdered, at that point I was hoping for murder as it would at least get me out of Kunming sooner than my flight. So I went with this cabbie.
I am not sure if he decided not to murder me or never planned to in the first place, but I was dropped off at what actually WAS a cheap, nice, hotel. In the morning some completely different driver showed up and took me back to the airport. He neglected to ask for money so I neglected to give him any. We both seemed happy with the arrangement, so I went inside for some food. I regretted every single bite of what I hope was a chicken sandwich.
Having managed to survive Kunming without an entry visa for almost a day without being arrested or kidnapped was probably the biggest upside to my stay. When the plane I was on took off for Thailand I was more thrilled at leaving than at my upcoming destination.