The river Taping farther down, so different from its aspect a couple of days ago, where it rushed at a tremendous speed over its rocky bed, was now broad and calm and placid, and extremely picturesque. The banks were covered with trees beyond Manyueen. Near the water the undergrowth was of a fine green, but on a higher level the yellow and red leaves, hardly holding on to the withered trees, were carried away with the slightest breath of wind.
At Hsiao Singai, on February 15th, I again had difficulty in getting a room; so I waited, and whilst my men searched about for a place where I could sleep, an extremely tall fellow came up to me, and having felt with his finger and thumb the texture of my tweeds and expressed satisfaction thereof, said—
“Come, elder brother, I have my dwelling in this hostelry, and my upper chamber is at your disposal.” And then he added with a twinkle in his eye, “Ko nien, ko nien,"[BF] whereat I became wary.
Lao Chang, however, was more cute. Whilst I was assuring this well-dressed holiday-maker that he must not think the stranger churlish in not accepting at once the proffered services, but that I would go to look at the room, he sprang past us and went on ahead. In a few moments I was slowly going hence with the multitude. Lao Chang nodded carelessly to the strange company there assembled, and passing through the room with a soft, cat-like tread, began to ascend a dark flight of narrow stairs leading to the second floor of the inn. And I, down below startled and bewildered by mysterious words from everyone, watched his blue garments vanishing upwards, and like a man driven by irresistible necessity, muttered incoherent excuses to my amazed companions, and in a blind, unreasoning, unconquerable impulse rushed after him. But I wish I had not. There were several ladies, who, all more or less en deshabille, scampered around with their bundles of gear—sewing, babies’ clothes, tin pots, hair ornaments, boxes of powder and scented soap of that finest quality imported from Burma, selling for less than you can buy the genuine article for in London!—and then we took possession.
If once there is a railway to Tengyueh from Burma, a visit to West China, even on to Tali-fu, for those who are prepared to rough it a little, will become quite a common trip. A few days up the Irawadi to Bhamo, through scenery of a peculiar kind of beauty eclipsed on none other of the world’s great rivers, would be succeeded by a day or two over some of the best country which Upper Burma anywhere affords, and then, when once past Tengyueh, the grandeur of the mountains is amply compensating to those who love Nature in her beautiful isolation and peace. From a recuperating standpoint, perhaps, it would not quite answer—the rains would be a drawback to road travel, and it would at best mean roughing it; but for the many in Burma who wish to take a holiday and have not the time to go to Europe, I see no reason