Published: October 17th 2009October 17th 2009
s small airport...about a 20 min. drive from my apartment
Finally an entry about Yunnan...! (FYI, for some reason the apostrophes are not showing up...)
OCT.2: After about 4 hours of sleep, I woke up at 4:30am to get ready, have breakfast and book a taxi to the Hongqiao airport
(which is the airport for domestic flights). Because it was Golden Week, none of the taxi companies would let us book a taxi the night before our departure---so we were worried we wouldn be able to find one so last minute. But we were fortunate because we were able to get a taxi to come (and the taxi arrived early). :)
We had to wait quite a while to get through the safety check (and my shoulders were starting to hurt a little because I had quite a large "hiking" backpack as my luggage for the trip) and a guard wiped this little square of white cloth over our bags and our shoulder. I have no idea what that was for...but a sign next to the guard had pictures of explosives. But still...what could this little square of cloth do?
ANYWAY, so the flight to Kunming
(the capital city of Yunnan province) was about 3 hours long and
just landed in Kunming
outside the airport...feeling tired, but excited...and trying to find a driver to take us to our hotel.
we were served a snack & a decent lunch. As we got closer to the city, I could tell almost immediately that Kunming was going to be quite different from Shanghai. There were still TONS of tall buildings and it looked like a big city...but it looked a lot older.
Our hotel in Kunming was called UChoice
. It was a 4-star hotel...it was pretty nice! After we checked-in & dropped off our bags, we went for a walk near our hotel. We decided to have some rice noodles for lunch since it is a a Yunnan specialty. We ate at a chain restaurant of the Brothers Jiang
(it seemed like it was a famous restaurant, with a long history)....
We all ordered rice noodles---it was a GIGANTIC bowl of noodles!
Then we went to the old town
of Kunming. As we walked, I noticed lines of folding chairs along both sides of the sidewalks---people were getting blind massages (its quite popular to have blind masseurs/masseuses; Ive seen several blind massage places here in Shanghai...but I hadn seen massages done on the sidewalk before). Well, it was pretty packed at the entrance gate to the old town of Kunming...but
once inside it wasn too crowded. There were rows of little jewellery booths/stands and other different knickknacks were being sold too. My roommate and I stopped at this one jewellery stand & the vendor started speaking to me in Mandarin like I could understand & speak it. I actually was able to understand some of what she said...but what was odd was that she asked if my roommates (who is Caucasian) parents were Chinese.
We asked our hotel concierge to suggest a good area to walk to...to find a restaurant for dinner. We ended up walking towards this little lake (which was full of overgrown waterlilies). The city was so quiet. We wondered where everyone was. We found a "western" restaurant because we had already eaten rice noodles for lunch & we wanted to have something different for dinner. The restaurant was not busy at all (but unfortunately that was the case for most of the restaurants we had passed by). I ordered a combo that came with steak, vegetables, and pasta (on a sizzling platter) and it also came with borsch, watermelon juice and a fruit salad. We received really good service--probably because we were foreigners and also
because there were so many waitresses on staff & not that many customers.
They even gave us a free plate of watermelon and a free bottle of imported red wine. We wanted to leave a tip or something...but tipping is a taboo in China.
The next morning, we had a little dilemma....we couldn find a driver to drive us to our next destination---Dali. We had initially planned on taking a bus, but the hotel staff said that we could only get tickets at the bus station & they were probably already sold out since it was Golden Week.
We had actually already booked and confirmed a driver the night before...BUT he called us that morning saying he could not drive us unless were willing to pay him more--supposedly so that he could cover the cost of getting a proper license to drive us. So obviously he was playing around with us & thought we had no other options. Jess (Aarons wife) made a bunch of calls...and eventually we were able to hire a driver & he said he would charge us 500 RMB less AND he said he could drive us to the Stone Forest which was a little
outside of Kunming & to Dali & to Lijiang.
We were SO lucky to have such an awesome driver. His wife came along too--since it was Mid-Autumn Festival (which is similar to our Thanksgiving) & he didn want to leave his wife home alone during the holiday. Once we got into their van--which they had bought 3 months ago, so it was SO new & clean--the wife gave us a bag of little oranges to eat. That was such a kind gesture! A sign that it would be a pleasant ride. Anyway, we asked for their names & they said they didn have English names....so we gave them English names: Brad & Angelina
So they took us to the Stone Forest
, which was about an hour outside of Kunming. It took a while to find a guide to drive us through the forest though---it was thanks to the efforts of our driver, Brad, that we were finally able to get a guide! He had walked around to persuade a guide to give us a tour; he was so happy for us when one finally agreed. All the guides seemed to have already been booked up by tour
one HUGE bowl of rice noodles.
groups/companies. The forest was incredible! Some of the stones were in the shape of animals (shaped by nature and time). Supposedly the area of the Stone Forest used to be a sea (millions of years ago)...and the stones are what have remained. My description of the Stone Forest would not do it justice...so look at the pictures!
After the Stone Forest, Brad drove us back to Kunming (since that was the direction towards Dali, the next city we would be visiting). We passed by an area of Kunming that made me feel like I had time-travelled to the 1950s....very old buildings & shops...and ancient looking trucks/cars (one truck that I saw was slanted forward & it had no hood)...But out of nowhere, I heard "Where is the Love?" playing. hmmmmmm. It was a strange feeling to see all these things that I think are representative of a past decade and amidst it all, I could hear hip hop music by the Black Eyed Peas playing.
Next to Dali, a 3-hour drive northwest of Kunming...
NOTE: I will be writing an entry about Dali and another one about Lijiang later...so stay tuned :)
in the van
I took a picture inside the van as we drove past this field. I wonder what those straw huts are....
There are more photos below