Rest and Recovery in Kunming

If you haven’t read my previous post, ‘An Eventful First Week in China’, you may wonder why we (not we – I, Lucia) need ‘Rest and Recovery’ from our cycle tour. Unfortunately, I fell off my bike at high speed whilst cycling downhill on a highway, about 15km from the small town of Puwenzhen in Yunnan Province, China. My knee and wrist were in a bad way, so I needed to go to the hospital. Long story short – nothing was broken, but I was definitely not strong enough to cycle anytime soon. So we decided to get ourselves to the nearest big city, Kunming, where we could stay with an amazing Warmshowers Host whilst I got back on my feet. This post is about my recovery and our time in the wonderful city that is Kunming. 

Day 105, Saturday 22nd December, Rest day in Pu’er

As I mentioned in the previous post, we decided to stay one day in Pu’er as Yang had kindly asked if we would like to go for traditional Chinese tea with her. Pu’er is famous in China for its tea as the surrounding areas are just full of tea plantations. So the plan was one day in Pu’er and the following day we would get the bus to Kunming, and our unbroken cycle from Singapore to the UK would officially be unbroken no more…

The free hotel breakfast was between 0730 and 0930, so we were up early (for a rest day!). On offer for breakfast in China are things like: noodle soup, eggs, rice, cabbage and some sort of soft mini bread roll things (I think ‘steamed buns’). Similarly to yesterday, I felt so stiff – like I had been hit by a bus, but at least a smaller bus than yesterday’s, more like a van rather than a coach. 

We ended up going back to bed for a few hours, as yesterday was so exhausting and our hotel room was really comfortable (and my body needed the rest!). Mid-morning, we ventured out to the bus station (which was at the bottom of our road) to buy a ticket for tomorrow and check that it would be OK with the bikes. Using the translation app ‘Baidu Translate’, it was quite straightforward once we got to the counter to buy the tickets. We showed the ticket woman a picture of our loaded bikes to further illustrate the point. 

After hobbling back to our hotel, we spent most of the afternoon resting and catching up with blog/video editing stuff. At 3pm, Yang and her boyfriend came to pick us up from our hotel and took us to a place where we could try traditional Chinese Tea – how it is done in China. We sat at a low, long table in front of the owner who poured our tea. From Yang, we learnt some basic information about China and the culture of tea in China, for example expressing thanks to the person pouring your tea by tapping on the table lightly with two fingers.  

From left: Adam, the two owners of the tea house, me, Yang and her boyfriend.

After our traditional Chinese tea, we then went for a Chinese feast! (It is not usual for Chinese people to eat and drink tea at the same time). Yang and her boyfriend took us to one of their favourite restaurants near the university where they are studying. We enjoyed a set meal for 3-5 people. It was the tastiest meal ever! The huge, circular table had the glass that you spin to reach food that is out of your reach. We also donned attractive plastic gloves so we could pick up items of food with our hands rather than chopsticks! 

Another day, another Chinese feast!

We are so grateful to Yang for lifting my spirits and teaching us about Chinese cultures.

Feeling full to bursting, we jumped in a taxi back to the hotel. Walking and getting up and down from sitting is still very painful for me, so I was glad to get back to my comfortable bed. From there, I spent several hours just catching up online with all the many, many get well messages from people I received. Through the power of social media, the flood of support from family, friends and even strangers who follow Cycling Two has really lifted my spirits. Although my body is battered, bruised and very sore, I’m feeling overjoyed that I am fortunate enough to have such amazing support. Not to mention how patient, caring and encouraging Adam has been. I am one lucky lady.

Day 106, Sunday 23rd December, Pu’er to Kunming by bus

Our bus to Kunming was at 8am. Knowing we had to ensure our bikes and bags were loaded safely, we made sure we got there in plenty of time. As the journey was over 6 hours (500km!) we stocked up on snacks and water before we boarded.

Travel safely bikes!

The bikes slid underneath the bus easily with panniers piled around them; the boarding procedure was really no hassle, which was great. Once we were on the bus (we had specific seats) the woman working on the bus (‘bus hostess?!’) offered everyone a free bottle of water which was nice! (I doubt you would get that on a Megabus in the UK!) The journey itself wasn’t too bad at all. The seats were fairly comfortable, no one was smoking, there were toilets (which we didn’t use) and the views were stunning. I felt an ache of sadness and guilt that we were not cycling through those glorious views, but I have to stop feeling guilty for my accident – as it was exactly that – an accident. 

The bus stopped half way for 20 minutes at a designated bus service stop. The bus hostess kindly explained how long we had to get food using a translation app on her phone. There was a cheap Chinese restaurant serving ‘buffet style’ food, which we gobbled down quickly as the last thing we wanted was to miss the bus!

Several hours later, we arrived into Kunming, but our travelling was not over yet, we still had to work out a way to get to our Warmshowers host’s house. The bus station was still 30km from where she lived; I was still in a lot of pain so cycling there was out of the question. As we wandered away from our bus, wheeling our bikes with panniers reattached, we gazed around us at the extremely busy station. There was so much commotion it was difficult to know where to start. We considered trying to get on a local city bus, but they were completely confusing and we doubted very much they would allow two heavily laden touring bikes on board. That left one option – a taxi.

Seeing a line of city Tuk Tuks, Adam came up with the genius idea that a Tuk Tuk could take us 30km to our destination…! He showed the driver the map on his phone where we wanted to go, and the driver confirmed he could take us. But here is where we learnt an important lesson: Chinese taxi drivers cannot decipher phone maps! We loaded our panniers inside and secured the two bikes to the top using our bungees. We then squeezed ourselves in and set off, looking akin to a circus show.

Immediately, Adam knew we were headed South when Vera – our Warmshowers host – lived in the North. Adam tapped the driver on the shoulder and showing him his phone, tried to communicate that he was going the wrong way. The driver pulled up to look at his own phone (just checking his messages… not looking at a map!) Another Tuk Tuk drove passed and our driver beckoned the other Tuk Tuk to stop. He got out and went to talk to the other driver, whilst we sat and waited, cramped and with growing exasperation. Eventually, the Tuk Tuk driver came back into our Tuk Tuk and he tried to turn around. He then just drove us back to where he started and signalled that he couldn’t take us! What a hassle! Feeling quite frustrated, we unloaded our panniers and bikes back out of the Tuk Tuk, trying not to get run over by passing electric scooters in the process. We put our panniers back on our bikes and made our way back to the bus station – back to square one. At this point, we realised just how difficult it is to manoeuvre ourselves when we can’t cycle…

I saw a line of taxis and we went over to investigate. One taxi driver came over and we managed to communicate that we needed a taxi, with our bikes. I showed him Vera’s address which she had thankfully sent to me in Chinese. He nodded and led us across the wide, busy main road to a minivan. This looks much better! We loaded our bikes in and were finally on our way to Vera’s. The drive took much longer than we thought – Kunming isn’t even a big city by Chinese standards, but to us, it seemed huge. The driver dropped us off at the right place, outside the towering, modern block of flats where Vera lived, but it took some time to get in contact with her. As we didn’t have Chinese sim cards, we couldn’t call her. We asked the man on the security gate if this was the right address, and he sent us around the corner to a different entrance. At that entrance, the security man motioned that we needed to go back to where we had come from! Being unable to communicate can often be frustrating, especially after a long day. Adam finally managed to convince the first security guard to call Vera, and she came down to meet us.

We are so grateful to Vera for her amazing hospitality.

Vera was incredibly kind and an amazing host. We stayed with her for four nights and were made to feel very welcome by her and her flatmate, Robert. During our stay, we enjoyed many evenings sharing stories over dinner and then drinks at the local bar, ‘Bar:fli’. We experienced a Hong Kong style breakfast at a local place called ‘Roosters’ with Robert – who is a fascinating guy we really enjoyed spending time with. He’s American but has lived in China on and off for over 10 years. We were thoroughly impressed when he spoke fluent Mandarin with the locals, and his stories kept us entertained for hours. 

Our bikes safely stowed on Vera’s balcony.

Sunset views over the city of Kunming

Days 107 – 124: Two and a half weeks Resting, Recovering and Applying for a Chinese Visa Extension in Kunming

I won’t go into detail over each day of our 2.5 weeks in Kunming, as that would be incredibly boring! So here are the highlights:

  • We stayed with the wonderful Warmshowers host Vera over Christmas. On Christmas Eve she took us to a pub popular with expats in Green Lake Park. It was a great evening in which we spent many hours chatting with local expats, many of whom live here teaching English. Despite having not booked onto the Christmas Eve Event, when they realised they had enough food remaining, we paid to enjoy the all-you-can-eat Christmas style buffet, including turkey, stuffing, cranberry sauce and my all time favourite, mash potato. Amazing stuff! As to be expected, we got far too drunk but had a brilliant evening. Unsurprisingly, this resulted in us feeling rather worse for wear on Christmas day! We managed to venture out for a breakfast of dumplings with Vera in the morning (how very Christmassy! But they were seriously tasty) before spending the rest of the day in bed! We did, however, FaceTime our families in the evening after we had been for a lovely meal at an Italian restaurant.

Merry Christmas from Kunming!

It certainly was a very merry Christmas!!

Slightly worse for wear in the taxi home..!

  • After 4 days staying with Vera, we moved into our own apartment, with the initial idea of paying for Chinese lessons to get a 6-month student visa. We planned to spend 9 weeks living in Kunming, taking 10 hours of Chinese lessons per week, before spending the other 4 months of the 6 months visa cycling the rest of the way through the mammoth country that is China. This is a great way to get a long visa for China if you’re willing to spend that long in one place and have the funds to spend on 9 weeks of lessons (about £850 per person!). In the end, we decided not to do this, as we just didn’t want to part with that much money, and after 2 weeks in one place we’re itching to get back on the road, never mind 2 months! Our apartment was basic but perfectly comfortable, albeit slightly cold (actually much colder than it was outside!). However, it made a welcome change to have our own space (bigger than one room), unpack and just stay in one place for a short while.
  • Our new landlord offered us a one-off job for a few hours one day, which turned out to be one of the strangest experiences! In the end, he only needed Adam (much to my relief!). Basically, there was a New Years event in a posh hotel, we think hosted by a company selling spa equipment or a spa itself. Adam was asked to be the token ‘Western face’ and help present the different acts at the event, such as traditional Chinese dancers and tai chi. The whole experience was rather awkward and somewhat pointless to have Adam there, as we don’t think anyone in the audience really spoke English! But he was paid 500 yuan (about £50) and we got a free dinner and drinks – so we couldn’t complain! 

Adam on stage with his fellow presenter

Me feeling pretty smug that I could sit there and just enjoy the free wine!

  • New Years Eve arrived and we decided to go back to the pub in Green Lake Park again. They were serving a traditional English style buffet (we love Chinese food, but once in a while it is nice to have some home comforts!). Similarly to Christmas Eve, we got far too drunk but had an awesome time with the local expats. As we usually struggle to communicate with most people apart from each other, it’s comforting to speak fluent English to other people and socialise with like-minded people who enjoy travelling and living overseas.
  • As we both love food, we enjoyed eating at some amazing restaurants, including ‘Salvador’s’, situated in the aptly named Wenhua Xiang, “Culture Alley”. But even better was the restaurant next door which was the best place we have eaten in China. I’m not sure what it’s called but the food was AMAZING. Each time we ate there the place was packed – I think it’s a famous place to eat in Kunming.

Adam in his happy place!

  • Many hours were spent wandering aimlessly around the beautiful Green Lake Park, which was conveniently 50m from our apartment. Together we sat and watched the hundreds (possibly thousands) of seagulls, bobbing on the lake or circling overhead against the backdrop of the brilliantly blue sky, hunting for bread thrown in by the locals. Apparently, the seagulls come to Green Lake Park in Kunming every year on their migration from Siberia. High, loud, traditional Chinese singing wafted far and wide across the lake. Every day, mainly retired locals or young families would congregate in the park to do traditional dance classes or visit the migrating birds. Men and women wrapped up against the cold timidly used the ‘gym equipment’ around the park, doing all sorts of strange and most likely pointless exercises!

Thousands of seagulls soaring over Green Lake Park

A photobombing seagull…!

This Chinese woman is pretty hardcore! She was in this position for a good while!

Happy times

  • One day we visited Yuantong Temple which was only up the road from where we lived. A beautiful, serene temple where monks lit a fire and chanted in front of a crowd of iPhones.

The front of Yuantong Temple.

  • Just over 2 weeks after my accident, we went for our first proper cycle – 35km up to the Qiongzhu Temple (locally known as ‘The Bamboo Temple’), just outside of Kunming. It felt SO good to be back on the bike, especially minus the panniers – I felt so free. It was amazing to be able to cycle completely without pain (I had cycled from Vera’s to our new apartment 10 days before and been in a lot of pain, and the wound on my knee had opened up again and bled). The wound on my knee had now almost completely healed, although I’m now sporting a fetching bright pink scar that I’m hoping will fade slightly! Cycling out of the city was slightly manic, but I’m starting to feel more comfortable cycling in traffic (as much as one can!) We were out of the city quickly, and it was fairly steep up to the temple with 750m of climb. Exploring the temple was very special: it was incredibly peaceful, tranquil and obviously a sacred place. As we were leaving, a whole host of other Chinese cyclists arrived, along with Robert (Vera’s American flatmate who we became friends with) who was also part of their cycling group. Adam and I joined them continuing onwards from the temple, and we stopped for another amazing Chinese lunch in a quaint outdoor Chinese restaurant. The food was delicious, as always, and the Chinese lady next to me practised her English by asking me questions. We continued the cycle in a loop back to Kunming and I was glad to not feel too shaky on the long downhill. Back into the city madness and home by 3pm, I was feeling fanbloodytastic.

Feeling super!

More amazingly tasty Chinese food (are you bored of reading about this yet?!)

With one week until we were back on the bikes proper, I felt a renewed enthusiasm and began counting down the days until our cycle tour would begin again. Cycling without any weight felt amazing, so I decided that before we set back off again I’m going to go through all my belongings and get rid of anything I don’t need. Lighter is better!

  • Adam spent many hours catching up with video editing. Luckily we had two areas to work at in our apartment: a dining table in one room and a desk in the other, so for several days – especially when it was wet and horrid outside – we both hunkered down and caught up with admin: Adam video editing and me writing this blog journal, with the intention of being fully caught up with where we currently are – or as close as possible, before we set off again.
  • We enjoyed lots of long lie-ins – in fact, our body clocks adjusted to going to bed at around 1/2am and getting out of bed sometime after 10am…! We didn’t feel guilty though – this will soon change once we’re back on the road and pedalling hard to get to Hong Kong before our visa expires.
  • Each day we tried to put time aside to learn some Chinese, mainly using the app ‘Hello Chinese’ which we find better than Duolingo for Mandarin. We can now sort of order food and ask how much things cost, and can understand numbers but only when they’re said slowly – which isn’t usually the case! But when locals see us at least trying to communicate in their language, they often smile and I feel pleased that we are putting in some effort.
  • We ate far too many dark chocolate Dove bars from the supermarket opposite our apartment – they’re just so good though! Underneath our apartment were several small Chinese eateries. After almost setting fire to our apartment by using the electric hob and kettle at the same time, as they were both plugged into a dodgy extension lead, on days where we just stayed at home, breakfast, lunch and dinner were usually purchased from one of the five small eateries on the street below us. Hot, soupy noodles, fried rice, dumplings and boiled eggs are just a few of the foods we enjoyed. We were not used to having food right on our doorstep, but it became a daily ritual popping downstairs to buy food whilst being able to practise our Chinese as we ordered.

Planning and Plotting our Onwards Route

For a couple of days, we were consumed in a haze of planning and considering what our onwards route should be. Our minds completely absorbed, we spent hours upon hours discussing where we wanted our Cycle Tour to go from here. We are the type of cycle tourists who change their minds quite frequently. Sometimes it’s just small decisions, but often it’s actually bigger decisions – so much so that our friends and family struggle to keep up with the latest developments! But that’s the beauty of a cycle tour, we are free to change our minds and do what we want to do, cycle where we want to cycle to (visas allowing).

So after much discussions and planning, we decided to actually go back to one of our first route plans. Instead of continuing in a westerly direction back to the UK through the ‘Stans’, we decided to go back to the idea of travelling east. You can read all about our full route plan on our route page – but we are just SO FLIPPING EXCITED to cycle through S Korea, Japan, Alaska, Canada, USA, Mexico, Cuba, Portugal, Spain, France and finally back to the UK. Oh and of course the 4,000km we have left in China and a quick trip to Taiwan!

Our flights from Tokyo to Anchorage are booked, so this is OFFICIALLY our final route! No going back now.

One of the main questions we thought long and hard about was how to cycle through China and with what visa etc. Eventually, we came to the decision to extend our Chinese visa at the PSB office here in Kunming for another 30 days. Then we will use our new 30 days to cycle to Hong Kong (depending on the route we take, between 1,500 and 2,000km away – which is doable in 30 days). In Hong Kong, we plan to apply for what is known as a ‘multi-entry 60-day visa’ – but the catch with this visa is that you still have to leave China after the first 30 days. So it’s like getting 2x 30-day visas with a break in the middle. So, if we’re successful in getting that visa, we will cycle from Hong Kong to Fuzhou, which is where we will get the ferry to Taiwan. We will leave China by going to Taiwan, where we plan to cycle around the island for 2-3 weeks. Then we will re-enter China and cycle the final leg from Fuzhou to Qingdao, which is where we will get the ferry to South Korea!

Very exciting times ahead. Lots of cycling – it won’t be easy, but I am totally ready. I almost feel as though our South East Asia leg was the ‘warm-up’, and the cycle tour proper starts when we leave Kunming. We have actually only cycled for 4 days in China before my accident, and those days were the toughest for me as I was feeling ill for most of them on top of the hill climbs. Now my body has recovered from the fall and my stomach is in tip-top condition – get me back on that bike!

 

 

An Eventful First Week In China

8 comments

So happy to read the updates, excited for future installments

Thanks Peter! Glad you’re enjoying the updates.

So glad to hear that you are feeling a lot better after the crash. And that route change, wow, personally I love it, but wow what a change. I’ve got cycling around Japan on my wish list, and have even thought about cycling up Vietnam to HK to Korea/Japan. I love Taiwan and Japan, I think you are going to love it too (that said you’d have probably loved the Stans too, so it’s all win win). It looks like by the time you get back to UK you’ll be eyeing up a quick cycle back to Kunming to get that round the world connected up!

Food and people are amazing everywhere you go, it’s such a great experience on a cycle that you don’t seem to get travelling in other ways. Maybe living as a digital nomad could be in your future seeing by how much you enjoyed hanging out in Chiang Mai and Kumming 🙂

Notice Adam is a tad behind you on the videos 😉 that means you can chillax while he slaves over a hot computer 🙂

Hi Deano, thanks for your comment! Glad you like the route change – to say we are excited is an understatement! Haha – yes a trip UK to Singapore (or even Kunming) would make it a ’round-the-world’ trip so it isn’t a bad idea! Maybe one day 🙂 We have considered the ‘digital nomad’ lifestyle, and even discussed possibly living in Chiang Mai for a little while at some point! We seem to be on the same wavelength for sure. Adam has a few videos lined up ready to publish one a week whilst we’re in China without as much laptop time as we’re camping a lot at the moment. Thanks again for reading – it really means a lot!

I am thoroughly enjoying reading your journal and watching your videos. You are having such a wonderful time. Keep smiling!

Hi Fern, that’s great to hear you’re enjoying my journal and Adam’s videos: thank you very much. We sure are having an amazing time – have to keep pinching myself that we are doing this! We are just about to leave our first hotel room in 5 days after camping for 4 nights, it’s pouring it down with rain so I will have to keep reminding myself to keep smiling today! Thanks again for your comment. 🙂

Richard Miller

It is nice to see you are making a recovery after the accident and all seems to be going well. I think it is great that you two have decided to come across the North American Continent during your journey. I just hope you guys hit Anchorage in June LOL the weather may be a bit fairer then. Looking forward to watching your videos and reading your post.

Cheers!

Hi Richard – we are so excited for North America but our focus, for the time being, is on getting our selves through China, S Korea and Japan and making the most of our time here. We’ll be landing in Anchorage in mid-July so the weather shouldn’t be too bad (hopefully) although we’ve heard the mosquitoes at that time can be horrendous. Thanks for reading these posts and watching our videos. It means a lot to us.

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