Wednesday, October 12: Day X of “3 day” lockdown—Escape from Xishuangbanaa
ESCAPE from the inside—accomplished!
We have finally departed. It was 13:34.
We first arrived in the neighborhood which would become our prison ( of sorts) around 20:00 on Sunday, October 2nd.
We awakened the morning of October 3rd to find out our downtown Jinghong neighborhood was already locked down.
For nearly 10 full days, we lived within a razor wire perimeter guarded both inside and out by camouflaged soldiers, police officers, security guards, and with the cooperation of many red vested community volunteers.
It took 3 flight cancellations by the airline—most likely at behest of Shanghai authorities—for us to finally get a refund yesterday, then book train tickets. With that, our journey time home has expanded from 4 hours to about 28.
Last evening, we finally had a Mafia-style sit down with the hotel owners to resolve a dispute. Resolved.
I paid the equivalent of about $330 USD for 10 nights in a new hotel room (finished in just May or June) complete with an awesome movie projector, large balcony, personal washing machine, extremely comfy bed. Right in the heart of the action, as it were, in normal times like our first and only evening there in normal times.
330 may seem like an amaze deal by American standards. Yes. BUT, beginning October 5th, the local government authorities required all hotels in quarantine zone to stop charging any room fees.
The government also began providing free meals to us, at least for lunch and dinner. There was lots of white rice and relatively few veg options, but some good veggies. On our final day, a friend gave me a full veg meal she’d gotten from the gov. Where was this before??
Thankfully, we managed to always find a couple restaurants still willing to cook for us, on the down low. Then we hid out in other abandoned restaurants doorways to enjoy some semblance of normalcy—whatever that means anymore.
As we exited, we bade farewell to newfound friends—at the fruit shop; our good friends Clare & Tony at the tea shop across from the hotel; at the Sichuan restaurant where we had dinner that first fateful evening. Little did we know what was in store for us.
I’d like to put the hotel doors being locked for two days incident behind me. I’d like to focus on the fact that we are now actually on a train heading to Shanghai. But it still grates on me.
Thankfully, we were given the option last night in Kunming, capital of Yunnan province, to hunker down in a ticket office at the train station OR to take a bus—under full governmental control—to Vienna Hotel. No other option. But we had a good experience at Vienna in Shenzhen in July, so we went. We only had about 7 hours at the hotel and our room smelled like an American bowling alley in 1986, but we had a really nice shower and we’re able to grab a bit of sleep.
The darned hotel elevator was too small and there was but one so we were all nearly in panic about missing our train this morning. However, we made it onboard with 10 minutes to spare.
Carriage 5. Aisle 1. Our home for the next 12 hours or so. China is huge.
The big unknown now: What happens when we arrive at Shanghai’s Hongqiao Station? Can we become lost among the civilians—those not exiting a quarantine zone? I mean, we’ve already brushed shoulders with such folks at Kunming Station…
Or, will we be under full control as we were last night? A colleague has already told me after her inquiry that hotel quarantine is not necessary for us. I will be a VERY unhappy camper if we are forced into quarantine.
It would be the height of absurdity.