Sunday, August 17, 2014

Back in Lijiang and Kunming - Yunnan, China

14th Aug 2014:
On the 14th we headed back to Lijiang. After squeezing into another minivan to get back to Jianchuan, there was a bit of a scare when we found the tickets for the official bus were sold out, however this didn't last long as we were soon scooped up by a private driver and with others paid 40RMB per head to take us near to the old town, from there we were able to hitch the remainder of the journey.

Giving Lijiang Old Town another bite of the cherry we made out way past the square and up the hill to find a nice view. We found a cafe with just that but got a little stung when the two cokes we ordered came with a price tag of 90RMB or nine GBP. The place wasn't even clean but we compromised by sending one back and sipping the remaining beverage as slowly as possible, damn you Lijiang!

Nice rooftops view in Lijiang

The most expensive coke in Lijiang?
Soon enough we were at a busy Lijiang train station. Kate had a nasty fall on spillage and hurt her knee just as we were boarding but being on the bottom (of three) bunks this time, she was able to rest and have doctor Bailey tend to her. This Lijiang to Kunming train was a little less comfortable than the outward journey owing to there being triple bunks and no cabins. Strongly recommend getting the bottom bunk if possible.

15th Aug 2014: 

We woke up in Kunming train station and took a nearby bus (number 25) to Beichen Pedestrian Street to get some breakfast and get some energy for the day. We had met a new friend called Nicole at the train station and she came to join us at Prague Cafe. The street has tons of eating options and boasts O'Reilly's Irish Bar, one of the best places to drink in Kunming (according to trip advisor, locals may know better).

Energy restored, we headed to Golden Temple on Mingfeng Shan (singing Phoenix Hill) to spend a few hours before heading to the airport. We bought tickets to try the German built sliding car which tugs you up a portion of the hill via a cable as you sit on it. The area has many interesting sights such as the temple itself, however for me the most interesting things were the historic bronze artifacts held in the museum (and replicated on the outdoor paths) along with the 500 year old massive bronze bell in the bell tower. 

Statue in the park

Bronze replica of an ancient artifact

Enjoying the Japanese garden

The 14 Ton bronze bell

Nicole and I also managed to work out a suitable Chinese name for myself, we settled with Bai Li Ping, we weren't sure which Bai character to use but we came across a Bai tree (cedar) and it was fated. 

Nicole and I by the Bai tree

Kunming airport was very busy and check-in queues were pretty brutal, luckily we left plenty of time. Stepping off the plane in Zhuhai we immediately felt the humidity and pined for the freshness of Yunnan. Even so, Zhuhai is a great place to come back to and having jumped from place to place it will be nice to stay in one place and see the gang again. 

They say if you travel to one place it China as a backpacker then it should probably be Yunnan. With the scenery on offer I can definitely see why. My only advice would be to make sure you leave enough time to explore the surrounding areas as well as the main towns. Much of Yunnan's infrastructure such as railways and highways were developed in accordance withthe towns that were hand picked to be developed for tourism or have at least been on the receiving end of heavy investment. Therefore,whilst it is straightforward for travellers to reach the likes of Kunming, Dali, Lijiang, Shangri-la, you are essentially following the path prepared for you by the Yunnan government. Try to vary from these channels and you may quickly find it inconvenient, expensive and in some cases near impossible due to the lack of infrastructure and difficult terrain. However, from the short time we travelled we found that the more you investigated independently and the more difficult the route was to arrange, the more rewarding it would be. Visit Yunnan with the sheep and you wil be part of the tourism machine. Visit Yunnan with your mind open and you will be blown away by awesome experiences and mindblowing surroundings.

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