I arrived in Beijing last night after an eight day long backpacking trip across Yunnan and into Sichuan. Traveling alone in China was interesting and enjoyable for a variety of reasons, one being that even though I set out alone, I often found company along the way.

I flew into Kunming and got in quite late, but rose early the next morning to catch a bus to the Stone Forest, about  2 hours away.

{The pictures without captions can be clicked on to reveal more pictures} 

 

Sunny days and rainy days don't actually look that different in China.

That very afternoon I took a 4 hour bus to Dali, on which I met a fellow university student who was heading back from his first year in Beijing. We conversed in broken versions of each other's languages though his English skills far outmatched my Chinese ones. I treated myself that night and stayed in the only non-hostel of my entire trip. 

I awoke to a beautiful morning overlooking Ancient Dali.

I rented a bike and headed out to explore the lakeside region where I was greeted with beautiful pastoral scenery and lakeside life.  

After spending my beautiful sunny day in Dali I slept in an Australian-run hostel where I met and conversed with a variety of characters. Two brothers from the U.S. who had quit their jobs to travel for a year, one Brazilian visiting his working girlfriend, a Swedish military man named Ludvig who spoke Farsi and a young Chinese American who is coming to Wharton for his MBA and I all gathered to share anecdotes from our travels. 

The next day I caught another bus to Tiger Leaping Gorge where I planned to hike for two days. I arrived at three in the afternoon and began my trek. 

 

Impeccable signage on the trail.

The first half I hiked in complete solitude which really allowed for my out of shape struggles to be hidden from the public eye. I reached the Tea Horse Guest House at about seven o'clock where I took a shower and settled down with two equally exhausted french families who had been travelling together. Then my new roommates arrived, an American/British couple and a young Polish student. 

The next day we woke early to eat breakfast and get on the trail. 

We made it down the mountain by midday and then American/British couple and I took a bus to Lijiang while our Polish friend continued on to Shangri-la. At Lijiang we stopped for some soup and baozi and, trying to get away from the pouring rain, hopped on a bus to get to a hostel. 

The hostel, which almost didn't have a room for me, helped me book two trains, one backwards, and one forwards, in order to get to Chengdu. We took showers, rejoined to play some games of pool, which I graciously let them win, and decided on a time to split a taxi to the train station.

My first train took me to a small town named Guangtong where I wandered for a few hours before my pack started weighing too heavily on my shoulders. 

 

Guangtong exemplified a small town where tourists have no reason to go.

They did have an excessive amount of mushrooms though.

At 9 at night I got a hard sleeper to Chengdu which proved to be quite a nice experience. I woke up at about 8 AM from an undisturbed night of sleep to the television near my cot and sunlight coming in through the window. After washing up and eating some breakfast I had packed I watched a Chinese romantic comedy followed by a period piece about female warriors who decide to fight after one of their men doesn't return from war. 

Hard sleeper compartments.

In Chengdu I checked into my hostel to lighten my backpack and ran into a student at Oxford who invited me to join him for a late lunch and walk around the city. We visited a Buddhist Temple, and a lively square where among various karaoke singers and badminton games a catwalk/dance performance had developed.

These women rocked it better than any runway models I've ever seen and I used to watch America's next top model.

After a dinner of hotpot Nicko (The English student) and I met two students from the local Sichuan University who showed us a very cute and historical shopping street before we ended the night with some ice cream layered with fruit. 

The next day I headed out alone to trek to a Panda reservation about two hours away from the city. The area was more rainforest-y than a cool mountain climb but the scenery was beautiful. 

The gorge was carved out by a lazily running river.

After the two hour hike I reached the spread out home of some sloth-like Panda bears whom I found doing what they do best, sleeping and eating. 

After my panda viewing I returned to Chengdu for the night. The next morning I waited out the rain and took a walk along the Chengdu river before I caught the Airport Express Bus and returned to home sweet home Beijing. 

- Percia Verlin

A relaxing walk to finish off my trip.

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