China Short Stories #3Posted: April 21, 2014
From all my wild and weird stories from visiting the People’s Republic of China I’ve decided to compile some of the most memorable into a list of short stories. If you want to read all of them, with my other tales from China, please click on the category ‘China Short Stories’ to the right of this page. These are not posted in chronological order.
I spent a lot of time in Kunming when I was China, not particularly out of choice, but more to use the city, known as the City of Eternal Spring, as a base. First of all, as I’ve mentioned in another post (My first day in Vietnam) I needed my Vietnam visa, which was obtained at the Kunming consulate and also because to travel to Lijiang (Expats in Sleeping Lijiang) by train is only possible from Kunming.
The ‘waiting’ days between collecting my visa and returning from Lijiang were bloody boring – to be to the point. Kunming has little to offer for a single female traveller, for the city supposed to be the eternal spring it rained a lot and had nothing to do or see. I found my only option (other than my much-anticipated visit to Lufeng Dinosaur Valley) was to visit the Stone Forest, which was expensive to do on my budget, so I left it. However, despite my time here being one long wait to leave, Kunming was not without its weird experiences with some of the locals…
I stayed, always, at the Hump Hostel when I was here, which had its own set of characters, but one in particularly was a middle-aged Chinese man I noticed reading a lot in the seating area. He mostly read newspapers but whenever I passed him he would look up and smile, a friendly smile, not often accustomed to your typical Chinese man. How English, I remember thinking. Whilst brushing my teeth in the communal sinks he spoke to me a day or so later, in perfect English and explained he indeed teaches English in Kunming and at first sight of me believed I was English (not hard to spot) and wanted to introduce himself.
Unfortunately I cannot remember his name but only recall what happened when he moved rooms into my dorm thereafter. I was sitting on my bed, a bottom bunk, my back against the wall and my legs in a straight line in front of me, with my feet just at the edge of the bed (I’m quite small.) He walked slowly over to me and stood opposite me and started a conversation, just like before, very polite and even with a natural English accent. He talked about teaching English and that I should consider this too because in China this job is paid well. After he discovered I was in Kunming waiting for a visa for Vietnam he proceeded to give me tips and advice for when I was there, as he has made this journey a number of times. For example what taxi firms to trust when I arrive in Vietnam, what a reasonable price would be and how to barter with the driver.
He soon learned I was planning to travel onto Cambodia, Laos and Thailand after Vietnam, where I “simply must get a massage” whilst I’m in Thailand, as they’re so cheap but incredibly relaxing. “I always get one when I’m there,” he said “but mostly, I go for the sex.”
The sentence for me dropped like a bomb. But to him, it was as if it was a normal thing to say like ‘oh yes make sure you try the fish and chips when you’re at the seaside…‘ He didn’t stop there either, he continued to tell me the Thai women are beautiful and know what they’re doing. “But for you,” he concluded finally, “do try a massage.”
During an inevitable awkward pause he began to smile at me, sweetly, as if he were my grandpa and I his granddaughter, and rubbing his hands. “Can I touch your feet?” He then said.
WHAT?! I thought in my head and before I had a chance to answer he knelt down and touched them anyway, rubbing them. “You have lovely little feet.” I was in complete shock, unable to speak. He giggled – yes, giggled! As if he was now the naughty little child. “Can I touch them again?”
And again he rubbed my feet without waiting for an answer and I, still stunned, probably had a look of worry on my face which I tried to express through a construed smile.
“There, now you will remember me, I hope you enjoy Vietnam.”
And with that he strolled away, probably to read his paper and I, forcing myself into the habit of wearing socks and sitting cross legged from then on, collected my Vietnam visa a day later, looked out for this man when I was leaving the hostel. Feeling relieved I couldn’t see him, I left without saying goodbye.