Arriving in Kunming, China
You've probably never heard of
of 4.5 million people
My first night in China, my sister Pris and I arrived in
Kunming, China, where my son, Kris, met us at the airport.
Things appeared strange right off the bat. Travel to China is
like traveling to another planet. Nothing seemed "normal" to
this American tourist.
In the Kunming airport, instead of bright
lights and piped-in music, the walls were drab and bare,
the lighting somewhat dim. I stopped in a rest room and
was happy to see Western toilets -- my son had sent
pictures of some of the horrible "rest stops" around
China, just to prepare me.
I went from stall to stall looking for toilet paper; there was
none. That's one of the first things you learn -- when you
travel to China, bring your own toilet tissue everywhere. There
won't be any, except perhaps in your hotel.
Also, there frequently isn't a rest room in restaurants, so you
might have to go to a public toilet down the street, where
you'll pay a couple of "mao" or "jiao" (what we might call
pennies, except they're paper) to relieve yourself in a
sometimes putrid stall ... but it's all part of the wonder of
world travel, and you learn to take it in stride after
What was funny, though, was that I saw shoe
marks on one of the toilet seats in the Kunming airport
rest room; apparently, a Chinese national wasn't used to
sitting on the toilet, having all her life squatted to pee
or poop. That gave me a chuckle.
We arrived in Kunming around 10 p.m. and took a cab to a
hotel/dorm. My son made arrangements for my sister and I to
stay in a regular hotel room, while he slept in a dorm with
other travelers. Never one for luxuries, he doesn't mind
sleeping in a dorm, and it's a lot cheaper.
Not that our Kunming hotel room was luxurious -- far from it.
We did have a private bathroom, but it was leaky and wet. The
furniture was old and sparse and the lighting was terrible. I'm
sure better accomodations can be found, but I learned during
this trip that my son is quite the economist. He enjoys being
with the "common" people, eating in the hole-in-the-wall
restaurants, saving his (and our) money for other, more
Speaking of money, we were able to trade our U.S. currency for
Chinese currency -- "yuan" or "kuai" at the
hotel's front desk. "Yuan" translates to our
name for "dollar," whereas "kuai" is more like our name
for "buck." They're the same thing, but we always referred
to them as kuai, rather than the formal term, yuan.
My sister and I just gave my son all our money and had him
exchange it and then hold on to it for awhile until we became
more comfortable with paying for things ourselves.
Actually, within a few days, we understood what was what and
could negotiate purchases pretty well, although sometimes my
son would shriek at some of the prices we paid for things. "You
got ripped off, Mom," he'd say, shaking his head. "That's 10
times what you should have paid."
For cab rides, China tour tickets and most souvenirs, we let
him negotiate our prices, and probably saved a fortune!
Travel in China was just beginning for us, and we were in for a