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.
A fond memory I have of China is when I met Nancy. Pictured above, when we were having dinner in Lijiang, which was also the same day we met.
The night train arrived in Lijiang morning time and the weather was bright, sunny with a light breeze, highly welcomed from me who experienced the most intense heat since being in China and it was a far cry from the wet and miserable time I had in Kunming.
I walked towards the exit after coming off the station platform and noticed a young and pretty Chinese girl running to walk alongside me. Not out of the ordinary, as I’ve said before. “Hello, where are you from?” Again, the usual conversation starter any English-speaking Chinese person with an intrigue to talk to a European-looking tourist would ask.
I answered and – “Oooh England. I would like to visit England, one day. I learnt English at school, what is your name?”
“Emma,” I said, “What’s yours?”
“Nancy.” As she spoke she blushed, looking down with a shy smile, which also made me smile. She said her English wasn’t perfect and apologised for this, which was maybe why she was blushing, but I told her it was perfect and I understood every word she said.
Nancy told me she was in Lijiang to travel and see Lugu Lake, I told her I was here to trek to and see Tiger Leaping Gorge (which deserves its own story in this series.) And when I explained I was alone, traveling, in China, Nancy almost gasped at me in delight and amazement.
“Oh I am too, but my parents do not know, I told them I was going with a friend, but really I wanted to experience traveling alone.” She blushed again.
She was really cute and dressed in a long, flowy skirt, a pale yellow cardigan which was buttoned up and almost reminded me of some of the styles back home. She helped me get the right bus, which was the same as hers before I had to change to catch a different one. When we parted ways she asked for my number to possibly meet up in Lijiang whilst we were here.
My hostel was tucked away from the main square and touristic streets of Old Town and had no other guests around when I arrived. Quiet and a bit bored, I felt at lost what to do with myself as I was still trying to adapt to solo-traveling, I decided to walk around Old Town and take some photos.
A few hours passed and whilst I was walking back to my hostel I received a txt from Nancy. She was walking around Old Town and we agreed to meet up. She told me she was by the Water Wheels in a white skirt and pink top. When I spotted her she was wearing that similar long, flowy skirt again with a buttoned up cardigan.
We walked around Lijiang together, chatting and eventually sat down for dinner in a scenic riverside restaurant (first picture above.) We ordered a few dishes and shared, as is the custom in China.
She explained her parents believe a girl traveling alone in China is dangerous, hence the lie she told them about coming here with a friend. Her father, in particular, does not want her travel alone or at all outside of China.
When I told Nancy my plans of what countries to visit after China I felt she was in awe of me and she told me she would love to do the same, one day. I said I was meeting a guy I was dating back home in Vietnam to which her eyes lit up, I showed her pictures of him and she then told me she once met an English boy whilst visiting the Forbidden City, in Beijing.
From then on she had a “shot of love” with him, as she described and they wrote each other letters with he actually travelled to visit her in her home province. This sounded a while ago, however. “English men are so handsome.” She blushed again.
After dinner she said she’d like to stay with me at my hostel, in my dorm. Feeling charmed by her gentle friendliness I said it would be a lovely idea so we walked back together, through now a very busy Lijiang, trying to weave in and out of the crowds in the narrow streets.
It took twice as long to get back and when we arrived Nancy discovered there were some boys staying in the same dorm as me, which I could see she didn’t like and to which she said she’d go back to her own hostel, because she wasn’t comfortable with that. A little disappointed but understanding, I told her that’s fine and I’d walk her back to the Water Wheels.
The crowds didn’t get any quieter and when walking through them I was mostly leading the way. It was dark now and this is when Nancy grabbed my hand to hold, again I felt her real innocence and so I held her hand all the way through before we said goodbye, back at the Water Wheels.
The next time I heard from Nancy was a few days later and on the night I was heading back to Kunming. We realised she would also be heading back that night too and our trains were actually half an hour apart so we could hang out again, which we did. Nancy showed me pictures of the stunning Lugu Lake and I showed her my pictures of Tiger Leaping Gorge. She then took a few photos of us both and uploaded them on what looked like a Chinese Instagram, which I would love to see now.
We still messaged each other occasionally throughout my trip and when I was in Australia I found out she was getting married soon to an ex-boyfriend, who proposed to her in a Church filled with candles. She told me he too likes to travel so may ask for my advice on where to go in the future.
And even now since I’ve come home we still email each other now and again and I hope one day when Nancy visits Britain I’ll be able to see her again.
Date Written: 30.08.2013 Place: Kunming, China Time: 17:42
Yesterday, in Lijiang, it absolutely poured it down with rain. Being caught in it; I stomped my way back to the hostel and had to change my clothes in order to hang them up to dry before my train back to Kunming that evening – departing 21:28.
A few hours later, with still very damp clothes and an unrepairable drenched iPod, I was getting hungry. So I put on my red woollen jumper my mum had knitted me and my wet jeans to head out. I then spotted a poster in the hostel advertising a pub named “Stone the Crows” – “lowest prices in Lijiang'”
I followed the directions and was surprised to see it was a rather small bar, with a welcoming dinginess, sparsely decorated with Christmas Lights. There was an Irish man behind the bar – “hellooo!”
“Urrr… Do you have a food menu?” I said.
“Um, not really.” But the poster said food, cheap food! “But we are about to start cooking a barbecue if you want some?”
I looked left to which there certainly was a barbecue inside the pub with mountains of meat ready to be cooked!
Excellent – I sat down and was also given a ‘Beer Lao’, a beer from Laos of course! Then a Welsh guy, I assumed help run the bar with the Irish guy, sat down and chatted with me.
He asked me about my travel plans with almost immediately asking ‘so no plan to go home then?’
I soon learnt he’s been living in China for 2 and a half years and not once visited home during that time. Nor has he missed it either.
He did mention his mum however did come out to see him last year.
We were talking about the experience of Christmas abroad before his barbecue duties meant the conservation had to end. He started cooking the BBQ which I soon filled myself up on!
I noticed 4/5 westerners in the bar and realised no matter how far you are from home you will always crave the foods you ate when you were there. And there’s sure as hell nothing wrong with that.
But what a contrast; an almost British summer barbecue, inside an Irish pub, down a wet alley, in sleepy Lijiang.
I later arrived at the train station early to find out my train was delayed. Nancy, a Chinese girl I met a few days before, kept me company for an hour or so before getting her train. I did not board my train until 23:35.