We had been so proud of ourselves, Maya, Ezra and I, when we haggled a taxi driver all the way down to 20 rmb to take us from the bus station to the Old Town last week.
Arriving this time, I asked three young Chinese students if they wanted to share a cab. The fare was 8 rmb.
One of the Chinese students was looking for a place to stay, so he joined me on the way to the Panba Hostel. Yet even with google maps I was unable to navigate the narrow labyrinthian alleys in the rain. Finally the Chinese student called the hostel for directions. He asked me if I had reservations. “No,” I replied. “They are full,” he translated.
So the Chinese student bid me farewell in favor of a nearby hostel. Disregarding the phone conversation, I made my way to the Panba anyway and found they had one room left.
The Panba was one of my favorite hostels. Very helpful staff. Good food. Wooden decor that added that extra coziness in the rooms. If I had to dock points it might be for security, but then most accommodations I’d stayed in were about the same. Signs warn you at every hotel and hostel not to keep any valuables in your room. Not even in the locker in your room, if there is one. If you have valuables, keep them with you at all times or leave them with the front desk staff.
Like the Rock N Grill in Yangshuo, the Panba used a special metal key card to get into the room. Only it wasn’t electrical, it was mechanical. You insert a small metal plate into a slot on the door handle to open it. The first time I used it at the Panba (last week) I broke the lock.
The desk clerk came up with a spare key. But I hadn’t broken the key, I actually broke the lock inside. “Is anyone inside?” he asked.
He came back up with a saw and started sawing off the door handle, conceivably the only way to open up the room. This was going to take a while.
I asked him to step back and pulled out a credit card.
Within a split second, the door popped open. The clerk looked at me in astonishment. “I’m from LA,” I wanted to explain. In an instant I had voided the elaborate key card security system of the hostel. I didn’t want to ask how many door handles this guy had sawed off.
While we went out, the clerk replaced the door lock. It didn’t give me a feeling of added security however. In fact it was quicker to insert a credit card in the crack in the door than to put the key card in the lock. Perhaps the main deterrent of theft in China isn’t the security systems themselves but the severity of the punishment if you’re caught.
At any rate, I’m glad I returned to Lijiang because I ran into Benny and Olga the next day. They had just arrived from Shangri-La and showed me a whole new section of the old town I’d never seen before. The main part. All directions around Old Town refer to a water-wheel, which despite my exploring the first time, I had never encountered.
Dining at one of the two KFC’s in the main square, we learned we had booked the same exact flight to Chengdu in the morning.
After three amazing weeks, I was bidding goodbye to Yunnan Province—a province I had almost skipped.