On the flight to Kunming I am sitting in an emergency exit row reading when the cute attendant comes over and tells me, “this is an emergency exit row, don’t pull red handle, ok?” “OK,” I replied and we both smiled. I had a similar thing on the flight today to Tibet. She tells me, “emergency seat, so don’t touch anything, ok?” We have had a lot of interactions with people trying various English phrases they have learned on us. This is often followed with smiles and the occasional giggle. We have had a great time with many of the locals we have come across and it has been a lot of fun.
We are currently in Tibet just down the road from the magnificent Potala Palace. We flew here from Shangri-la after the most overly thorough security screening we have ever had. Not only did I have to remove everything but my pants and shirt, even after I cleared the metal detector without setting it off I was waved over by the female security officer for an inspection. She literally groped me everywhere including some extended cupping and butt cheek squeezing. She was cute and it left me quite flustered. Leanne went through next and had the same treatment, but where I felt like I should be tipping her, Leanne felt violated.
Shangri-La was not quite as impressive as its name suggests. It is a beautiful area and they are trying to turn it into a tourist destination but it feels a bit forced. We still had a pleasant time here visiting a monastery, the world’s largest prayer wheel and wandering the streets of the old town. I particularly enjoyed watching the locals going about their daily lives. Leanne also met a couple girls travelling from Shenzhen who spoke English and had their photo taken with her. In the evening we watched part of a cultural dance in the main square with some girls dressed in traditional outfits. Over the next couple hours it seemed like every resident had joined into the dance as they danced rotating around the square in a large circle.
Lijiang was our previous destination and I have to say, this place is incredible. It is bar-none my favourite tourist town in China and one of my all time favourite towns out of all the ones I have been to in my travels. The restored town is a UNESCO heritage site and it even ranks in the top 100 world wonders. Our tour was supposed to stay two nights here, but due to booking problems we only had one evening. I was very disappointed. This is a spot I hope Leanne and I return to one day to spend time in and to soak up the atmosphere. It is impressive and beautiful with tremendous life to it. There are little hole-in-the-wall pubs, endless little shops, and restaurants to explore.
We are travelling in a group of 15 including the tour facilitator which is a bit big for my liking, but it is a great group and this type of travel allows us to wander away and still have our own personal moments exploring the places we are in.
Our time in the Yunnan province was too brief and involved time in transit than visiting the areas. I think the tour company needs to revise their itinerary to allow for better exploration. I look forward to updating from Tibet. We will be in Lhasa for a number of nights before making our way through the Himalayas towards Nepal.