After tossing a virtual coin we decided against leaving China on an overnight bus to Laos, where it is 27 degrees and sunny, and prolong our chinese adventure by going to Jianshui and Jinghong on our way to Laos.
We (stupidly) ignored the easy option of train travel to Jianshui instead opting for a bus which left from Kunming South bus terminal, a 45 min, 65RMB taxi ride away.
After the usual pointless xray machine checks, involving unloading and reloading of all our bags whilst no one checked the xray screen, we found the bus stand. About 4 locals came to ask where we were going, for no other reason that they wanted to know, they weren’t there to help us, just curious, which is fine by us.
Our bus left the stand at 11am sharp, it reversed about 5m and stopped for 15 mins. This reoccured a few times. We then had a policeman come on board before we eventually left the bus station.
The journey was fascinating, travelling through towns and fertile lands absolutely full of vegetables, with a few goats and water buffalo wandering about the fields. There were loads of people working the land as as well, most crouching down planting or tending the seedlings and some spraying god knows what over the growing veg. One town we went through seemed to be the vegetable processing town with trucks piled high with veg, pak choi, spring onions, peas, Chinese cabbage that had been prepared for the chinese markets.
We had a lunch stop, although we weren’t hungry we saw a lass with some fried spicy potatoes and got ourselves a portion. They were hot, spicy, and as usual undercooked, potatoes with garlic, spring onions, chilli, rice vinegar, coriander and salt.
With various stops on the way to pick up people from the roadside we made it to Jianshui in 4 hours. A local bus ride later we were in our new room, it was cold and slightly damp with a sign lowering our expectations for a hot shower.
The reason we came to Jianshu was for the food, it was supposed to be great, so we set off for a snack. The streets were wet from previous rain and the pavement was like walking on sheet ice. I have never slipped so much, sober, so we walked at a snails pace. There is little English signage here so we are somewhat out of our depth, we spy a street stall with the spicy potatoes we had earlier and queue for a portion. They are similarly undercooked, with mint instead of coriander and another aniseedy spice we do not recognise however as it was 5 RMB, including chicken, we eat them eagerly.
Everywhere the cafes had old ‘Aunties’ crouched over some embers with small round things on a grill, I was hoping they were goats cheese, however I was greatly disappointed to find out it was the local speciality of grilled tofu. Guy ate 13 of them before he could work out how to stop them coming. The bill was worked put by Auntie putting a sweetcorn kernel to one side every time Guy had a piece of tofu. Genius!
We shared a wild mushroom rice, yum.
It is amazing we have come just a few 100 km and the food is so different, the tofu, the rice, the potatoes are not found anywhere else.
After more careful walking around in the pouring rain, we ducked into our last restaurant and ordered the local Cai Yu (vegetable similar to bamboo) with pork, and some aubergines in brown sauce. The Cai Yu was probably the most tasteless food we have had in China (well, apart from tofu, but that is supposed to be tastless). The plate was swimming in oil as well, so we ended up leaving some food, a rarity for us! Aubergines were really oily but tasted delicious.
We did tai chi in the room, admittedly mainly to to keep warm, and wondered what 27 degrees would feel like…..