Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Toolin' 'round Town

Since Elena had been sick last week, our time was limited for our "Discover Kunming" bus adventure. But, after consulting a map, I realized we only needed two days, not four. Making the outer ring of the city are what the Chinese call "resident districts". These are newly developed (and developing) housing blocks. Miles and miles and miles of highrises. That's it. As far as the eye can see. There are only a few "mom & pop shops" for the residents to get essentials and not much else. It's very sterile looking, boring and depressing. (I saw the edge of one a few weeks ago when traveling to a dinner function.) We live near the northern edge of Kunming, and what lies further north are the resident districts. No need to take a bus there! To the very south, before the resident districts begin, is the airport. We already have seen the route from the airport to campus and I don't remember anything that was particularly interesting. (Although, one day we will take the bus to the airport just for fun to see if we're missing something.) So, no pressing need to head south. That left us with east and west.

We first headed west on bus 66. A goal of mine was to find the hotel (written in Chinese characters only) where the ex-pat crowd has a Christian service on Sunday mornings. A group reserves a meeting room for a general Christian service and children's Sunday school. To enter, one needs to present a foreign passport and by law Chinese nationals cannot attend. I'd like to attend and hopefully connect with some other foreign families. Well, we found the street, but not the hotel. Maybe, by getting off the bus at the street and walking (and asking someone), we'll be able to find it. Heading west, we also found a Trust-Mart, similar to Wal-Mart, but smaller. It didn't have a vast selection of food, but did have a decent children's clothing department. There is also some kind of membership requirement to get the discounted prices. We were not impressed with the store and won't take the trouble to return. We also found a park. Small parks like these are common. They have several exercise stations, along with badminton and croquet courts. It's most popular with senior citizens, but people of all ages use it regularly.

It's an "exercise" for Gustavo and Carlos to figure out how to work the equipment!

That was about it for the route. There is a large park with playscapes on a different bus route. Also heading west/southwest, one can access the mountains and lakes just outside of the city. We plan to do that during the next vacation.

Heading east on bus 96 was a lot more fun. We finally made it "over the river" to the other side of downtown. Here are the big hotels, western style restaurants and large government buildings. We traveled a beautiful boulevard filled with gorgeous flowers and landscaping. Also, we went by two churches! Yes, a building with a cross on top! They were locked up, of course, and I have no idea if they are in use. There are Christian Chinese. (A few very vocal students made sure that I knew they were Christian.) Kunming has a French history and perhaps the buildings are from that era. We couldn't see from the bus if there was any Roman script on the buildings. We also passed two more Carrefour stores and stopped at a Metro store. A Metro is a warehouse style store without the required membership. It was fun seeing what they carried. This is the one store you can buy things in LARGE quantities. Shopping for food/paper products in China is like shopping in a minature world. Everything is packaged so teeny, tiny! Metro had a decent selection of products in every area, minus the bakery department. Except for a few things that we want in larger quantities, we won't make Metro a regular shopping stop. I guess that leaves us with our favorite downtown Carrefour for our shopping needs! Also heading east from our home is the zoo. I think I read the zoo has panda bears. It will be a surprise and a delight for Carlos to see!

We don't see many gas stations. Prices range from about 54 cents to 60 cents per liter. What do people in Windsor pay per liter? What are gas prices in Michigan now?

Thanks for joining us on our "Discover Kunming" trip. Another day, another bus!

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