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Kunming Wheeling

I awoke, still feeling the last sniffly bits of the cold which had followed on the coattails of the E-Coli. It was a sunny morning in Kun Ming. Jie and Scott were already diving into putting the day together. We took the elevator downstairs (past the mysterious brothel floor) and met up with a fine gentleman who explained to us that he ran the only licensed bicycle rental shop in all of Kun Ming. Whatever this meant, we expressed gratitude and interest in cycles, and followed him on foot to the city gymnasium complex. It was covered with Beijing 2008 olympic paraphernalia, as Scott assured me would be the norm all over china.

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We stood and frowned at the cluster of bicycles presented to us. They were very new, all tiny, and most were mountain/stunt jobs, with funny attachments, mudflaps, and no bell. Shrugging these drawbacks away, we climbed aboard and were off. The things were very small. Good for stunts and going over curbs, hard on the knees.


We stopped for breakfast at a fantastic noodle shack (Beef Noodle Soup was the name, I believe) and ordered from the menu (which consisted only of small, medium, large, and extra beef –in chinese only). We were each given a steaming bowl, to which were could add cilantro, garlic, hot peppers, and other marvelous condiments from a nearby table. Slurping, I thought to myself: “we really do eat too well here at AsiaWheeling,” followed by “It must be so much harder to get E-Coli when you are eating with chopsticks rather than your hands.”

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Fueled by Noodles, we took off for the downtown section, to peruse shops, and try to buy a cup of coffee. Coffee is not easy to find in this land, it seems. But find it we did. And we most certainly got what we deserved. A sour cup of coffee and a fantastic conversation with a fabrics trader later, we hit the cycles, headed for the local flower market, rumored to be the best in all of china.

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We were not disappointed. There were rows after rows of endless flower stalls, big and small, all selling the exact same few arrangements. This was my introduction to a rather odd chinese theme: the same stuff is redundantly sold everywhere. Yet somehow these tons of shops are all able to survive on the same nicknacks, same selection of cigarettes and drinks, or in this case, the same flowers. We wandered through the enormous market, wading through a sea of cuttings and misshapen flowers, which had simply been discarded on the pavement. As we wandered we came across, in the middle of the flowery abyss, a substantial tea shop.

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Jie began to furiously engage the tea salespersons, and before I knew it we were sitting down at the sampling table. This fascinating piece of furniture was carved from a giant stump, lacquered to hell, and stained with ten thousand cups of tea. We sat and sampled for some time. With the lack of coffee in mind, I purchased some strong black tea, while Jie bought a two hefty bags of lavender.

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Feeling splendid, we remounted the cycles, and continued to cruise until dinner, which took place at yet another unbelievable local restaurant. Among the highlights of this meal was a dish made from a tree. The primary ingredient was what looked like a fine dendritic root structure, bathed in a succulent marinade. Once again we feasted. As the full moon rose, we packed our belongings into a taxi and headed to the bus station. In fifteen minutes time, I was clutching my valuables to my body, settled into the 3/4ths of a bed which was to be had on the overnight bus to Dali.

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