The Kunming Night

Kunming, September 13 2010 near midnight

The bus stop where we arrived in Kunming didn't look like a bus terminal at all. It was dark and no meter taxis to be seen. But there were many people outside. They looked anxiously toward our bus. I and Hendro thought they were families or friends of the other bus passengers. Maybe they were worried, because the bus arrived late behind schedule. Arriving almost at midnight like this, many of the passengers must have asked their families or friends to pick them up. So I thougt.

It took rather long until I got my travel bag out from the luggage space under the bus. When I got it, Ika and Mel were already talking with a man who was offering a lift to the hotel. The other people who I thought to be the relatives of other passengers gathered around us making a circle. Everyone watched Ika and the man talked, with great enthusiasm.

Ika said, "Kingworld International Hotel," but the man didn't understand. Ika repeated slowly. He still didn't get it. I gave the man a piece of paper with the address and telephone number of the hotel written. He looked at it and took out his cellphone. Everyone around us watched him closely. For a brief moment, only the voice of this man talking through his cellphone could be heard. I held my breath. A slight fear crept in me. What if I was fooled through the internet? What if this Kingworld International Hotel actually doesn't exist?

The confused look on this man's face soon faded away. He said something in Chinese while closing his cellphone. He laughed and everyone around us did. I could feel the relief in everyone.

Ika and him continued bargaining about the price. When the deal was done, everyone around us applauded. The man leaded us to his car. There several cars lining there, too. I think they were rented cars also. The car was just enough for the 8 of us and our luggage.

The people who had been around us watching seemed to be other drivers. What amazed me is that once Ika and our driver started the dealing process, the other drivers didn't try to compete to win us. They even rejoiced when at last he understood where our hotel was. They were happy for him when the deal was made. That's very much not like my home country.

Our driver stopped in front of a hotel where had no signs of "Kingworld International Hotel" at all. Everything was written in Chinese characters. I started to wonder again. Is this the right one? What if he just took us to any hotel, or to "his friend's" hotel in order to gain commission? I told my friends not to pay the driver until I made sure that it was the right hotel.

I got off and showed the voucher to a young bell boy standing in front of the hotel. "Is this Kunming International Hotel?"

He looked at it and nodded.

I proceeded on with the check in. There seemed to be other guests just arriving that night. So I had to queue in. All that time my friends were outside. I started to worry again. Did anything wrong happen with the driver? Did the driver ask for more? Any miscommunication?

When I asked one them what had taken them so long? The answer was, "Nothing. We were just chatting with the driver."

The lady at the front desk was quite friendly and could speak English. She required for our passports and asked me to pay in advance for the 2 nights I had booked. And then we asked her whether there was any restaurant opened. She shook her head but advised us to go outside.

We went into our rooms, put our bags, used the bathroom, and back down to the lobby to go out look for some food. 1 of us still hadn't showed up. Once again we had to wait. Hah... I don't like this. Due to pass experiences in Vietnam, deciding for what kind of meal to eat takes quite a while. We will have to walk and walk until all agrees on a place to eat. You know, I really hate wasting time on food. Now it's me who considers it a waste of time. If it were me, I would just go to the nearest place, have a quick meal, get ready for bed, and arise early in the morning to get the best shots I can get.

But this strolling around for food hasn't yet started. 1 of us is missing. It turned out that he went to complaint about the air condition that wasn't working in his room. He required another room but was rejected. He sounded upset.

While we were in the bus stuck in traffic jam, this same buddy said to another, "Do you realize how long we've spent merely on the road? It will make days if you calculate them all. Half of this whole trip up to now has been spent on the road only. Can you imagine that?"

This same buddy also wasn't satisfied with his room in Hanoi and didn't mind to pay extra to switch to another room. This same buddy also was the one who in Vietnamese Immigration Office had said, "Honestly, I want to go home."

Just several steps away from the hotel lobby I could feel hard wind blowing over us. It was a bit chilly. I wonder whether an air condition was really needed. I turned my head to this buddy,

"The air condition in my room is working. Take my room. I'll take yours."

The hotel staff had placed a standing fan in replacement of the broken air condition. But I and Dina never used it. Air conditions are never off actually at my home, because I really can't stand heat. But in Kunming, in a September like this, in a room that's spacious enough, air condition can just be a room decoration. If you know how Kunming is in mid of September, you can judge who's the one being unreasonable. But a true backpacker traveler will surely laugh at this.

It was 1:30 AM when we finished our dinner.

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