31.12.2016 Kunming and the bar where we couldn’t pay for a beer………

Woken to the smell of bread baking meant muesli was a distant memory. Therefore breakfast was home made bread, butter and home made jam with a double shot americano.

As we are on our way to Laos we are in need of dollars for the visa on arrival, so a trip to the Bank of China furnished us with dollars to leave this country.

Tourism next, and a wander through the Old Streets of Kunming was on the cards,  only these old streets were in the middle of being demolished, rebuilt and rebranded as the Old Streets of Kunming…..so typically chinese. Instead we wandered the Bird and Flower market, after a while wishing there were more flowers than birds / animals in tiny cages.

Our map showed a Dai restaurant close by so we went in and had a refreshing, vibrantly tasty meal, using lots of herbs, chilli and oil, you can tell we are close (800km) to Thailand. 

We also thought it best to try the Dai sweet wine, not sure it had much alcohol but it was like a sweet vaguely fermented coconut drink, lush.

Nearby was a night market area, thinking it would be great to see in the day we naively visited the streets, they were desolate apart from the trail of blood down the pavement and the soldiers practising marching in the middle of a square made up of tacky,  shiny night clubs. We hurriedly moved on.

Carrefour was around the corner so we ventured in, again it was a sprawling mish mash of assistants, weird foods and live turtles. We stuck to what we know and bought french wine. None of the assistants came near us.

Since last nights sunflower seeds were so good we made a trip back for more and also splashed out on a thermos flask and some lucky red chinese socks for Guy.

A sugar fix was required so we took a photo of this bakery for me mum.

And bought donuts from this bakery.

It was now happy hour at the local Irish bar, so being good British citizens it would be rude not to visit and hand over our well earned cash in exchange for cheap (£3.50 a pint) belgium ales….. 

The place was deserted! How different to the UK we thought, and so got on whats app and informed our mates.

Back to the guesthouse bean bags, heated floor, sunflower seeds and ale we listened to some music and called family and a couple of friends to wish them a Happy New Year. It was great to catch up.

We then needed to pay our bill at Humdinger bar, so made our way there, loving the scenery on the way. 

Outside the bar they had set up a smaller bar where they were giving away dark ale for free, he wouldn’t take any money for the ales previously and now was giving us more beer for free. It was like all our Christmases had come at once……we chatted to the expats, and eventually had to sneak inside the bar to to actually pay for a beer. 

The huge bar was packed with chinese enjoying the live music, we got tenny plastic stools to sit on at the front of the stage, felt like small royalty.  By this stage of the evening the ale was taking effect on Guy so at 11.30 I decided to get him out the bar……He still got us home and we were passed out by 11.45pm, the first NYE we have slept through…..we are getting old.

30.12.2016 Kunming

We slowly crawl into Kunming train station at 9.20. As usual the station is massive, we walk all around it and still couldn’t find the promised metro system so a helpful train station employee guided us to No 2 bus and promised us it would get to the lake and it did!  We are getting used to buses getting us to the correct places now. We have treated ourselves to a posh (ish) guesthouse for 3 nights and so were really chuffed to turn up and find the place was really lovely, illy coffee, muesli, yoghurt and full English breakfast were on the menu. We ordered muesli, fruit and yoghurt with coffees and felt virtuous, at least for a while. Our room was ready so we went up and oooh’d and ahhh’d at it, we nearly passed out with excitement when we found out we had under floor heating in our room……OMG…..we stood on the floor for ages…..

Feet warmed we set off to explore this city. We had already noticed there were lots of ethnic minorities here, the faces of the people were much more diverse than anywhere else we have been in China, this was accompanied by a heavy policy presence. 

We walked around the Green Lake where the locals were enjoying the return of seagulls for the winter by taking photos and hand feeding them. The lakeside was full of bakeries, restaurants and cafes with the odd bar thrown in, perfect for a couple of posh packers like us!

We wandered up to the nearby student area and the huge amount of cafes and bars amazed us, there was some very different food in offer as well which excited us, it really felt like we had come a long way.

On of the regional specialties is Across the bridge noodles which we tried at Brothers Jiang restaurant, no English spoken or English menu, thankfully the staff are used to westerners and are happy to throw all the food into the bowl for us, we just managed to get a photo of all the bits and pieces! The bowl was massive, it was one portion but was plenty for us 2, how the chinese stay so skinny is beyond me with these huge noodle portions.

Supermarket trip was next on our list, Walmart was nearby so we ventured in. The layout is higgledy piggledy, no straight aisles here, it is on 3 floors and no discernable logic to the layout, we wandered through noting there were nearly as many staff as customers, some with the usual loudspeakers, presumably demanding you to buy more stuff. The entrance was inviting with cured legs of ham everywhere, goats cheese and cured ham are Yunnan region specialities which we were willing to indulge in, it seemed very European and festive! We found ourselves in the red wine section, surprise, surprise! It had one aisle for red and white wine, and another 2 aisles for local baiju and other clear spirits which ranged from a few RMB to 1000’s RMB per bottle, many in fancy red presentation boxes. It is big business here. The sales assistants tried to sell us expensive red wine, we politely declined and went for a cheap Languedoc red. We aren’t that posh packer! 

Selection of pickles.

We had a look for thermos flasks, the range was huge and expensive. We didn’t buy this one.

On our way back to the guesthouse we saw a bakery with a queue, having no idea what the fuss was about we have been here long enough to just join a queue and know it will be good food at the end of it, we were not disappointed. Profiteroles filled with a delicious cream seemed to be the delicacy so we procured a couple of shovels full along with an egg tart each, for a varied diet. By the time we had left there seemed to be just as big a queue of people watching us!

We greedily ate half the bag of profiteroles, they were sooooo goooood.

As we are in Kunming for NYE we needed to do some research on bars for the big night, having not had a drink for 11 days we thought we would take it easy and start with a craft ale at 3pm just to see how the bar was. With our guesthouse map we managed to locate Humdinger microbrewery, but it was closed.  A family was outside the entrance, and this turned out to be the owner and he was more than willing, indeed insisted, that we should try the ale anyway.  It turned out that he also owned our guesthouse hence why he was happy to ply us with his ale,. We had a half litre of IPA and Belgium style wheat ale, we also got a taster of the golden ale as well. This fortuitous incident became even better when he insisted we shouldn’t pay, the till wasn’t open,  we agreed to come back tomorrow to pay our bill.

Refreshed we took a slow walk back to the guesthouse to enjoy the wine and some star anise and cinnamon flavoured roasted sunflower seeds we had bought. 

We listened to some tunes and enjoyed sitting on bean bags on the heated floor, it is the simple pleasures in life that make the difference sometimes!

Dinner was a Yunnan restaurant,  full of chinese enjoying massive plates of food.  We had a spicy beef dish, fried potatoes and fried goat’s cheese, possibly not our healthiest meal but definately one of the tastiest.