There was a plan and it was good. Then there was a most unexpected incident and the itinerary went spiralling into oblivion, washed away by my tears. I had to dig very deep to accept the reality of the present and release my attachment to the outcome I had envisaged. Our highly anticipated trip to Yunnan province in China was foiled by a single sentence from the smiling immigration secretary at the Chinese embassy in Jakarta.
Do you have your KITAS? (a working visa for Indonesia).
With a surprised stare we answered no. No KITAS, no Chinese visa. Next please.
The embassy had recently changed the rule, and we were going by the email I had received earlier when a passport and driver's license was all one required. No visa, no China, do not pass go…
In shock, we laughed, I cried and we regrouped with a strong coffee and discussed our options. We had to leave Indonesia the following day as our visa stipulated, so would take the booked flight to Kuala Lumpur. From there we had no plan.
Our Air Asia flights to China were non-rerouteable and non-refundable, a generous donation to their profit, and to book a last minute flight from KL to Bali was cost prohibitive. We are both averse to cities, traffic and noise - the very essence of our time in Jakarta - so were not about to immerse ourselves in the agony of central KL. I had visited Melaka, in the south-west of Malaysia, as a backpacker in 1997 and remembered it fondly. The old town has been UNESCO World Heritage Listed,and with a direct bus link from the airport, we had ourselves a destination. With a large Chinese population, traditional shophouse architecture and green tea, we could squint and pretend we were in Yunnan, minus the mountains, yaks and snow, but with the added bonus of authentic and ridiculously cheap Indian food.
One week after leaving our island home we were back, our unused thermals still in the bottom of the bag. We both picked up a horrid flu from excessive exposure to open mouthed coughs and snorts on every mode of transport. My birthday was spent in bed rather than at the foot of a glacier in a Tibetan home stay, and my surprise dinner postponed. Aquaman took it all in his gentle stride, proving he is just that little bit more enlightened than most (or at least me).
Yunnan, you will keep. I have a well thought out itinerary for anyone interested. Wherever you go, there you are.