Thursday, August 30, 2012

Honks and hugs

Tuesday in Kunming dawned extremely smoggy.  We are not sure why, but this is the most smog that we have seen here and it is not at all fun to be out in!!!

Michael had to make a final trip to KIZ  and I needed to purchase the all important suitcase so we headed out in opposite directions.  I walked back to Carrefour and into the business and tourist district of Kunming.  As it was fairly early, the streets were not very crowded and I was able to get some good, fast exercise.

I passed a crowd of people and realized that they were lined up waiting for the bank to open…..

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I am sure that these officially dressed men would have been happy to give me a massage or further diagnose my ailments…..DSC06546

I remembered this fountain from our first trip…..

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….and I once again passed these benches that are built to be very far off of the ground.  Most Chinese people cannot sit on them with their feet on the ground!!!

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Just outside the entrance to Carrefour, there is a vendor selling all sorts of dried fruits, nuts and other things that I was too scared to ask about…..

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I returned to the hotel, finding that Michael had arrived about 20 minutes before me and we spent the afternoon working, reading and relaxing.

We had a dinner engagement with our friend Jai-lin and were to meet her at KIZ at 5:30.  We hopped into a tax at 5:00 and thought we would have plenty of time…..NOT.   The traffic was completely stopped and at 5:25 we had only driven a few blocks.   I called Jai-lin and we changed the plans so that the taxi would take us straight to the restaurant.  We handed the phone to the driver and, after a 5 minute conversation, he seemed to know where we were headed.

As we drove further out, the traffic became worse and worse.  This was the typical five o’clock congestion, but was exacerbated by the continuing road construction going on in the city.  Several times our driver stepped out of his vehicle and stare pointedly down the street apparently willing the traffic to start moving.  On one occasion, he saw an opening on a side street and we took a rollicking 30 second detour which allowed us to move 3 cars further along. 

He was definitely NOT stoic about the trip and made all sorts of grunts and comments as we would drive for a short distance and then grind to a quick stop.  At one point he even slammed the steering wheel with his fist…..I worried for his blood pressure!!!!

After about 90 minutes in the car, he indicated that we should call Jai-lin again for additional directions.  After speaking to her he turned into a large Apartment Complex area, stopped and asked two pedestrians for directions and soon found the restaurant.

Jai-lin arrived about 10 minutes later and we began one of our favorite Chinese rituals…..the eating of a hot pot!!!

Each table had an electric burner in the center and soon a pot of boiling broth was placed on the burner.

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Next came a plate of fish, meat and vegetables containing everything from lettuce to mushrooms to lotus root…..

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The waitress got the pot started by adding the skewered shrimp…..DSC06555

….which quickly came out bright pink and perfectly cooked……

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The only problem at this point was figuring out how to peel them without getting completely messy, but they were so good that we really didn’t mind messy fingers!!!

This scoop was filled with a substance that made fish balls and the waitress expertly rolled the balls out of the scoop and into the pot…..

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We each added our favorites to the boiling broth and proceeded to dip out and eat whatever the scoop (or our chop sticks) came out with…..

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It was a wonderful meal and we thoroughly enjoyed the food as well as catching up with Jai-lin.

As we were leaving the restaurant two fun things happened.   First of all, there was a young boy (maybe 6 or 7) who was completely engrossed in who we were.  At his Dad’s urging he finally came up and “talked” to us, with many smiles and bows.

Secondly, I spotted this contraption sitting in the corner.  Although this is not a good photo, I was interested to realize that it was a locking umbrella holder.  When you enter the restaurant you place your umbrella on the rack and lock it with the provided key.  After eating, you use the key to unlock your umbrella before you exit the restaurant…..a great idea!!!!

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We then walked about 15 minutes to arrive at Jai-lin’s apartment.  Her Husband, Shu, was working out of State and couldn’t’ be there but we got to meet Jai-lin’s Mother-In-Law and, most importantly, her one year old son, Hen…….

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Hen was a sweet, happy little boy who was a little worried about who these very strange looking and sounding people were!!!!  I think that he would have warmed to us if we had stayed a bit longer.

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We spent about 30 minutes with Jai-lin and her lovely family and then headed back to the street to catch a taxi to the hotel.  The taxi stopped at the side of the road and cars impatiently honked as we said our good-byes and gave our last hugs!!!

On the way back we passed numerous work crews who were busy installing shrubs and trees along the newly renovated streets with many of them using a flashlight to see what they were doing.  We were shocked to see that most of these workers were women!!!   I wonder just how long they work into the night?

We did a bit more packing and then settled in for our final night in Kunming!!!

2 comments:

Linda said...

How in the world do you stay so fit and thin!!!! You will eat anything!:)
(My husband will too. He gets disgusted at me for my pickiness!)

Amber said...

There are a number of mini-hot pot places right near our apartment! Next time yall are over here, we'll take you to one :)

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