User profile: GratefulGypsies

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Forums > Travel Yunnan > From Nightclub to Village: A Chinese New Year Tale

What's up, Kunming? I thought some of you guys might enjoy this short story I entered into the World Nomads contest this year. It's about how we ended up celebrating Spring Festival in a remote Yunnan village 5 years after making a new friend in a Kunming night club. The contest isn't about views or shares - just thought some of you might find it funny! GoKunming won't let me post the link, so here's the story in full.

"A rooster crows under my makeshift bed atop a wooden board, while the sounds of laughter and fireworks emanate from outside. It's 3 AM on Chinese New Year in the remote village of Xiaohe, and nobody's sleeping tonight. Cursing the chicken and rolling around in pain, I couldn't help but chuckle and wonder – How did I get here?

A few years earlier, I met Jack on a wild night in a Kunming nightclub. Between his broken English and my caveman Chinese, we shouted pleasantries across the table amidst seemingly endless beers, a thick cloud of smoke, and the pulsating bass. Not exactly an environment conducive to creating lasting friendships.

Fast forward a couple of years, and I once again found myself in the Spring City. Chinese New Year was fast approaching – a lonely time to be a lao wai (foreigner) in the city. Through the magic of technology I reconnected with Jack, who had moved to another city for work. Spring Festival was no time to be stuck in the capital; we would come to his village, stay in his childhood home, and celebrate the New Year.

Heads turned in curiosity as the three strangers descended upon the village. Even the dogs seemed confused by our presence. A few short hours – and several beers alongside shots of Chinese liquor (aka rocket fuel) later – and it was as if we were native sons and daughters, home for the country's most important holiday.

During the Spring Festival, the custom is to visit as many friends and relatives as possible. In the village, every destination is pang bian (nearby).

"Where are we going now, Jack?"

"Pang bian."

Walking into each home, we were greeted by a table full of food, a crate of room-temperature beers, and far more cigarettes than are necessary for a casual get together. Over the next two days, we ate our weight in pork (every family who can afford to do so slaughters a pig), fish (a symbol of abundance), and countless local dishes, most of them loaded with chillies that set your taste buds ablaze. Many glasses were raised, firecrackers lit, and songs belted out.

It's hard to believe that this all resulted from a chance encounter in a Chinese nightclub. Being invited into someone's home to celebrate their most important holiday is one of those rare experiences that only travel can bring. Walk into a local bar and strike up a conversation with a stranger – you just might end up in their village a few years later, nursing a painful hangover while roosters and fireworks serenade you."

Brings back great memories of our time in Yunnan and we hope to get back soon!



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We only spent one year in Kunming, but became great friends with these guys in that short time. We'll never forget Nevada serenading us in the Indian restaurant on Wenhua Xiang and insisting the staff give us a romantic dinner. One of the funniest moments in our time there. Then there were all those amazing nights full of music and good conversation at Sal's or wherever it was we were hanging out. We still think it was Nevada's good luck charm that got us tickets to the Grateful Dead 50th anniversary shows in the lead up to our wedding. You guys are Kunming legends and the city, along with all the people who know you, are gonna miss the hell out of you guys! We could use another Thailand trip, so don't be surprised if you see us sooner than later. Best of luck guys! -Sasha & Rachel


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