In 2009 I was very lucky to be asked by my then 23-year-old daughter Danielle if I would like to accompany her on the first leg of her journey. This involved backpacking with her through China for 6 weeks.
A few years previously I had travelled to Shanghai to teach TESOL in schools for one year. I loved that time and wanted to see more of rural China…so of course I said yes. It was the year I turned 60. I was much fitter seven years ago. We had a hoot of a time and some very funny incidents occurred. What happens in china stays in china. Well unless you tell SAS a few tales…
First stop was Shanghai. We stayed in a hostel right in the city. Enjoyed seeing some of my old friends and showing Danielle the sights of this exciting city. She lashed out on some shopping, fake Prada and other brands at the “illegal” markets, and haggling prices with street vendors and being fussed over by the people. We spent a day just walking down Nanjing Street jostling the crowd to The Bund. This area is spectacular especially at night. We took a boat ride along the Hung po river. The light show was amazing. We snacked on street food which we found was interesting and tasty, and neither of us got sick at all. I love the taste of authentic Chinese food. Another night we saw the Chinese acrobats. So clever.
Then we flew to Kunming, which is the capital of Yunnan in south west China and one of the poorest and most scenic provinces in China. This was the start of our backpacking in the rural part of China. There we stayed in the “Hump” hostel. It was named the Hump because in WW2, US planes flew dangerous missions bringing aid and crossing the “Hump”, the towering mountain ranges between India and Yunnan to help the Chinese fight the Japanese invaders. Photos of these events were displayed throughout. The Hostel theme was based on this event and not the events for which we thought it was named. It was a bit more basic but very popular with backpackers. One night outside our hostel in the big Plaza we watched a lantern ceremony. Hundreds of floating lanterns with lit candles inside were set afloat into the night sky. Quite spectacular.
While there we also visited the “Stone Forest” a two hour bus trip from Kunming. The Stone Forest is a huge area of multi shaped limestone rocks, pushing up out of the earth to form an alien looking landscape. They vary in size and shape. Some are huge and jagged and can be as tall as a ten story building. Some have familiar shapes and are of course given names like “old man” or “mother and child” etc. I was not convinced all were truly natural. Man made trails and steps meandered throughout the forest in typical Chinese fashion. Guides with their little flags would lead tourists through the maze of rocks, pools, bridges, and steep staircases with scenic lookouts atop, stopping to take posed pics at every turn. Local villagers performed their traditional dancing in colourful dress amongst the rocks. It had been raining and the steps were very slippery but no one seemed to fall, not even the girls strutting along in their stiletto high heeled boots. Very impressive. I was glad of my trusty old joggers with a good grip. I did struggle up some steep slippery steps to a high lookout to get a good view of this alien science fiction landscape. Pretty impressive. Danielle went for a jog out into the wilderness and nearly got stuck in a narrow crevice.
From there we boarded a bus to Dali. Very scenic trip that winded its way over mountains, around lakes and past little roadside villages and farms. Dodging people and animals and trying not to tip over the cliffs. Weaving through huge valleys with terraced crops of yellow and green.
This was the first week of our adventure.
Have you been to China?
To write for Starts at 60 and potentially win a $20 voucher, send your articles to our Community Editor here.