Kunming: Not as Pretty

I’ve been lucky not to travel all year. The flurry of work trips at the end of 2007 were too much for me – I was sick many times, exhausted, and unsettled. So, being in one place has been great – an energy of normality, of consolidation. It allowed me to forget about travel all together for a while, which was good.

So, it’s nice, on my first overseas trip of 2008 to remember what I enjoy about it. The different routine and weirdness of time zones allows me to think about life in a different way, my escape from routine reminds me to do things I might not have done lately, it allows me, in that change of schedule, extra minutes in an hour.

So, I’m catching up on personal e-mails here on this trip to Kunming (with brief stopovers in Bangkok to and from), I’m writing my first entry here in a few weeks, I’m waking up early, unusual for me in Sydney – though of course, it’s not early at all for Sydney. Waking up at 6:30 here, the city still dark (they don’t seem to leave on many lights in the buildings), feels like a fun change – though it’s 9:30am in Sydney.

Friends asked me what Kunming was like, and from my two previous trips, I’d said “pretty.” A friend who’d been here looked at me, eyebrow raised and said, “are you kidding? perhaps I was in another place.” So arriving at the airport and driving to the hotel, my faulty memory becomes clear. My overnight escape to Lijiang on the last trip made the whole trip seem prettier – such a gorgeous little place. And the hotel is luxurious, my room has a big comfortable bed with a gorgeous comforter and good quality sheets, lovely Chinese furniture, and tasteful decor – and free highspeed internet access. The New Era Hotel is right in the centre of the city surrounded by shops, close to a large mall, and some reconstructed buildings made to look old. So, it’s urban and bustling and I’m fascinated by its commerce, what are people buying these days, how is it different from other parts of the world. My boyfriend, who prefers a quieter life and doesn’t like shopping all that much, would hate it.

So, it’s not pretty at all, really. It’s just that I associate pretty in my mind with things that I like, and what I like during my work trips are comfortable hotels, interesting shops, and easy access to good things to eat.

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