Ok, half the fun of going to Xixuangbanna is typing and saying the name (sish-wong-bahn-na). I went on a little trek one day into a rainforest near Myanmar to see an incredibly old Pu'er tree. My old boss, Jason, used to always have a can of Pu'er tea on his desk and I thought it would be fun to visit something that I had more of a connection with. The trip was uneventful for the most part, save for getting lost in the jungle. Yes, on a trip with a guide we got lost. Awesomeness indeed. Luckily we found some locals harvesting some sort of plant in the jungle and they told us we were going the wrong way. We slept with a local village family for the night and in the morning I hitched back to town. I was supposed to catch a bus that I was told would never be full, and of course, it was. The following is an account of what happened that was written on the day as I was living in the moment. Enjoy
You just have to be rude and forceful sometimes. It's not about being American, it's about not being fucked over. I'm deep in the jungle of Xixuangbanna, 5km from Myanmar, and I need to head back to Jinghong today as my bus leaves tomorrow to get me to Vietnam. My visa runs out on that day, leaving everything needing to run smoothly which is probably a bad idea considering China and Vietnam are involved. But this is how it is and I need to get back today. There is one bus that runs and it runs in the early morning. I'm told it's never full and I'll be fine, yet in my gut I can feel this is not the case. As I'm waiting for the bus to come the first bad sign of the day comes., I feel pretty sick. I took my malaria meds on an empty stomach and now my stomach is turning it all around on me. I run to the bathroom area and let my dinner from last night empty out, but not vomit if you catch my flow. But after, I still feel a bit queezy so I go to buy some bread. All the "shop" has is some rice crispy type snack so I take it. It costs ¥1 and I have a ¥100 and 2jiao (¥.2). The lady can't break the ¥100 so takes my 2jiao. I give her a full pack of tissues as well as sort of a "thank you and hope this helps cover the cost a bit." Eating the rice thing helps a little and soon the bus comes, and guess what, it's full. But I need to get back. I sit in the middle of the aisle and just wait. The driver is telling me no, but I play dumb and say "ting budong" (I don't understand). Someone tries speaking English to me but I tell her how I need to get back. Eventually my waiting wins out and the driver sits down and drives. I say xie xie (thank you) and many passengers laugh. It's not that I want to be an ass or the class clown, but sometimes you need to be persistent and forceful to get what you want in these countries. In Japan and Korea, people were more understanding and helpful. In China, it's more do for yourself. So that's exactly what I did.
Flash forward one hour: well the plan didn't work exactly as planned. I get dropped off in a village and am told the driver will get punished if he goes further with me on board as there are checkpoints ahead. They tell me that this village has more buses or cars that I can catch. So I get out and wait and hope inside that indeed something will come soon.
Flash forward an hour: Two buses came by, neither had room. I am told by a guy who also got kicked off the bus when I did that we should walk.
Flash forward 2 hours: We've been walking for a while and no cars have really gone by our way. Tons of motorbikes and tractors but no cars. Suddenly I am able to flag down a car. Success! We get into the backseat and crunch to make it work as there are already 2 other people there.
Flash forward 15 minutes: I'm asleep in the back of the car.
Flash forward 20 minutes and then back 15: you just time traveled, how did it feel?
We ended up getting dropped off at the Menghai bus station which is exactly where the bus originally would have taken us. A minor detour but a fun and adventurous day was the result. Now I'm heading back to Jinghong where I'll meet up with a friend tomorrow and then head on a bus for 15 hours to work my way to Vietnam.
Dinner the night before heading into the jungle. Banana leaf wrapped eggplant, the upper palate of the pigs mouth, mixed bamboo, and the green stuff in the back was a seaweed local specialty which was super tasty.