Lockdown, Day III

Yes. It’s happened again

Sunday night-Monday morning, October 02-03, 2022, Yunnan province, China—215 miles to the Laos border:

Like so many experiences in China, it began as another exciting, culturally shocking, yet subdued night, before morphing as we slept into a wholly unexpected, startling phenomenon.

Thrilled as I was to see the Cambodian (or Dai) script on bilingual signs in the modest airport, the brand newness of our 24th floor hotel room was perhaps the best gift. I like this deluxe size room with expansive balcony and washing machine outside better than our own apartment in Shanghai.

Seems like we are the first ones to stay there. Some of the first, anyhow. Sukethai just opened this year.

As we walked to the night market nearby, common in Southeast Asia due to the brutality of daytime heat, we began taking notice of the importance of elephants and peacocks to the local peoples (predominantly the Dai ethnic group, with twelve other ethnic groups as well. Among them the Hani, Yi, Lahu and Jingpo peoples). For a student of religion, it was fascinating to feel immersed as if in a Buddhist community in Thailand, while elephant imagery brought to mind the significance of Ganesha for Hindus.

And yet, here I remained in mainland China.

With the Laos border a mere 215 miles away, as the crow flies, Thailand 490 miles hence & Burma 300 miles close, there is a delightful melding of cultures and faiths. The Buddhist temples with distinctively Thai/Laos design features of more sharply pointed “steeples.” A gold plated temple in the further distance reminiscent of Shwedagon Pagoda in Yangon, Burma. The tropical atmosphere of purple and pink flowers amid giant parasitic trees buttress these temples deep down here in Yunnan province. The environment is wholly unlike most of China.

Lest I lose readers to boredom—and perhaps friends in the process—let me cut to the chase.
Oh, wait! Just a few more tidbits about what I’ve seen here so far: Loads of tea houses, mostly selling the regional specialty of Pu’er tea.

Nearly life size elephant sculptures stretching over a sidewalk corridor. More giant peacock sculptures nearby.

Little drink stands along every major street with Thai language advertising tea and coffee sold in a little plastic bag, tied up with a rubber band and then placed within a little paper bag decorated with elephants, or other creatures. Very interesting way to package a coffee/tea. I wouldn’t mind except I hate using the plastic.

Finally! We wake up this morning to a text from the hotel staff: Our new neighborhood is now a quarantine zone. No one inside can leave the zone for 3 days. They even included a little map for reference.

How will I know how far I can go? Well, I learned during my run that with a few extra turns, I can stretch out about a 5k one way course. Then 5k home. It’s not the greatest course, but I ran alongside the Mekong River and a quiet road for a night market,mostly deserted by day.

I also learned I cannot run through the new barbed wire barricades. Guess this explains the sudden commotion I heard during dinner last night. And the cops shutting down the night market before 22:30 (think it’s usually open till 2am?)

There are now platoons of camouflaged soldiers everywhere along the perimeter of the neighborhood. Some soldiers are situated inside at various points. Neighborhood volunteers in their distinctive red vests wander about. A phalanx of blue uniformed folks—male and female—marched in military formation as COVID testing took place in the center of a street normally full of vehicles. I don’t know who they were.

Shanghai Lockdown ‘22 PTSD returns!

At a large gate full of police officers and soldiers, I asked a police officer, as I’m wont to do, a question I already knew the answer to:
“I can’t go out?”

Politely, calmly, he responded: “No, you cannot go out.”

This is a story from inside of Zero COVID China.


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