The fireworks in Hong Kong were incredible and we had a fantastic view thanks to our great hostel owner Wincent. He even bought us beers for after…what a great guy. We made our way back to the hostel where obviously some people kept drinking. I however had to be up early for my flight not mainland China.
I made it to the airport with plenty of time and passed through passport control with few issues. It did take me a while though to find departures due to the size of the airport and various shuttle buses that take you to and from different terminals. In this case I bag dropped in T1 and flew from T2. Hong Kong does provide a great service though of being able t check in your baggage in the city centre. Saves on lugging it around and very efficient. I didn’t do this but thought London should adopt this given the number of tourists and travellers. In the waiting area I noticed a western guy looking a bit lost so spoke to him in the queue for the plane. He was also travelling for a few weeks in China and had a similar plan to me. After a brief discussion Daniele decided to join me to the hostel and see if they had room and cancel his other reservation which he had made I order to get his visa. He had also been learning Mandarin for a few years so a bonus in terms of being able to get around using the basics. Getting to the hostel was easy and there was plenty of room so we checked in and went to explore the city by foot. Armed with a map we set out to look at the blue lake, the temple and the local market. Kunming has a laid-back attitude and has an interesting mix of people who look less Chinese and more Viatamese or Burmese. I guess that is part due to the war and its consequences in terms of refugees. There are many shopping malls and you can really see how the face of China is rapidly changing. English isn’t really spoken at all but some signs are in English especially street signs. Just don’t get lost as they wont be able to help unless you have the Chinese characters.
Yuántōng Temple was great and at over 1000 yeas old is the largest Buddhist complex in Kūnmíng. To be fair it’s been rebuilt a few times but still quite spectacular. There was also statue of Sak- yamuni, a gift from Thailand’s king. I don’t really get board of temples which offer a sense of calmness from the madness of the crowds at other Chinese tourist destinations around new year such as the stone forest. That’s to come! Green lake park was also interesting to stroll around and people watch it more like be watched. There were nice Chinese tea house structures and ponds you can walk around and observe how the locals while away the hours with games or Thai chi or just filling their faces with chicken feet and dumplings whilst spitting and snorting on the floor. Yep! Going to have to get used to barging, staring, and constant grunting and spitting. Nice hey! This is China #TIC where face book, blogging, Google etc is banned and anything can happen including conning and bribes for bus seats. Guide books are quite helpful though not just for knowing where to go and Chinese characters but also for a price guide. Think this may be handy for India. The markets were full of more animal sales, puppies, birds, turtles in plastic bubble key chains etc. There were also tea traders and street food. Prices are very different to Hong Kong and even in standard supermarkets. I use ‘standard’ loosely as you can buy a snapper turtle to eat in Walmart for £17.80. Spicy food is also all the rage which is a nice change. Fortunately the hostel does great food as many places are shut for new year still. We did however manage to eat some street food that came to 15 yuan (£1.50) for two of us.
So the stone forest takes two hours, plus to get there via bus to the bus terminal then us to the forest. We managed to get to the bus terminus but had to queue for over 1 hour to get on the express bus as it was so busy it’s locals on a day out. Trying to work out how to get into the forest was interesting and yet more huge lines of people pushing and barging for tickets. We met up with another couple from uk and Ireland who were working in Mongolia which eased the pain a bit.
The stone forest is a conglomeration of weird karst geology of grey limestone pillars split and eroded by wind and rain- water (the tallest reaches 30m high), the place was, according to legend, created by immortals who smashed a mountain into a labyrinth for lovers seeking privacy. If you can get past the hundreds off Chinese tourists shouting and screaming and pushing for pictures this is quite a fascinating place. After several requests for photos and cameras being pushed in our faces we were quite glad to get out and on the last but one bus home. If you see my face advertising some Chinese brand I don’t agree with any of it. I’m purely holding a banner. In fact all four of us were! Ohh I nearly forgot, we came across a wrestling ring in the middle of some some stone pillars so we watched that whilst again being watched. Food….we need to eat and get food. We walked to the hostel nearly being blown up by a small child letting off a firework off the bridge that landed 1 meter from the shop front #TIC. The hostel came up with the food goods and we had a few beers and retired to bed. We thought about a walk to the local hill but had heard it was also full of people so we opted for the bamboo temple which isn’t actually made of bamboo but made for a nice trip for a few hours peace and quiet. We even had some food made in the temple with the locals basking in the sun. Yep it’s a good 19 C here which is not what I was expecting. Evenings are cold though. The temple was lovely and proved interesting for its 500 statues of Nobel people which were very realistic. Apparently you are to enter the doorway with your left foot and then count to the right until you reach your age. This Nobel is what reflects your inner self. It didn’t help that there were 3 levels so hard to know where to start and stop. The bus back made me laugh as a child had a top stating “This way up”and underneath written “Lief is” I’m assuming this is meant to say life. Tomorrow we are going to try to get to Yuanyang rice field 7 hrs away. Who knows if we will get there as there are 4 buses a day and the computer system is down so been unable to book. Keep you posted.