I was just sorting through some old travel photos after finally gaining access to the hard drive from my broken old laptop, and realised I’d never posted about the Yunnan backpacker trail in Southwest China. The basic route goes from the sprawling provincial capital Kunming up to the ancient lakeside town of Dali,
You’re woken up by the sound of an old man violently expectorating in the hutong alleyway outside, cringing during the pause while he holds his mouthful of phlegm for a second or two between noisily bringing it up and noisily depositing it on the floor with typically exaggerated sound effects.
We were two weeks into our epic road trip around the US, now driving through the incredible southwestern states of New Mexico and Arizona; we’d just spent two days in Albuquerque for the July 4 Independence Day celebrations (and also one of my companion’s birthdays), and the next point of call was the Grand Canyon.
If you’re in China on a tourist (L) visa and want to get more time in the country without having to go down to Hong Kong for a new visa, you may be able to extend your existing visa at a Public Security Bureau office.
The extension rules officially require you to have several thousand dollars in a Chinese bank account –
So, the JR Pass; man, how I always looked on with envy at all the tourists (including family & friends when they visited) just breezing through the Shinkansen gates, flashing their JR Passes like a wave of a wand, to be whisked away here, there, and everywhere at high speed on Japan’s iconic bullet trains.
Cold, tired, and hungry, I finally dropped my bags and plonked myself down on the bed; all I had to do now was go out for food and then shower & sleep, before getting up next day to take the world’s highest train across the Tibetan Plateau to Lhasa.
If you’re looking to travel overland from China to SE Asia (or vice versa) you have three main route options: Guangxi province to Vietnam, Yunnan province to Vietnam, and Yunnan to Laos (and Thailand); a fourth potential route is Yunnan to Myanmar,
So the other week I had one of those travel days where everything fucks up – and it was mostly my own fault. I’d done the JR Beetle hydrofoil trip between Busan (South Korea) and Fukuoka (Japan) several times before,
I flopped into a chair and ordered a plate of nasi goreng and a bottle of Bintang, now running on empty and entirely on autopilot. The nasi goreng was to satiate my hunger, the beer to celebrate my having survived the Trans-Sumatra Highway; it was hot and humid even in the small hours,
When I first visited Southeast Asia in 2004 en route to Australia with my mate Danny, we’d had no real plan to visit Sumatra (or anywhere else in Indonesia). We flew in from India to Singapore, and were flying out from Bangkok to Australia via Brunei.
Obviously, the train was packed. It was the autumn holidays, when the whole of China travels home to see family, and the only tickets available had been for the hard seat carriages – these carriages do have numbered individual seats (‘hard’ meaning non-reclining, because there are so many packed in),
Note: since this post was written, bullet train routes have opened from Chengdu to Kunming (6 hours, via Guiyang) and Kunming to Dali (2 hours), so the Panzhihua-Lijiang shortcut isn’t the major time-saver it used to be. It is still the most direct route though, and remains the best option if budget is your main priority
If you’re in China and planning to go from Chengdu to Yunnan overland (but don’t plan on doing the awesome-looking but quite involved backdoor route through the Tibetan Kham region),
I’d been to Hong Kong & Macau the year before, but when we arrived in Beijing at the end of our Trans-Siberian journey, it was my first time in mainland China (and for my two companions too). Mike and Ross had flights booked back to England from Shanghai two weeks later,