Edit Blog Post
Published: March 8th 2008
Performers in Green Lake Park
Alligator skin banjo - need I say more?
While Kunming seems to have done quite a good job of tearing down its old buildings and recreating itself as any other modern Chinese city, it still offered a few tidbits of fun for Craig and I as we began and ended our trip in this ancient city.
Our hostel was located downtown, very near Green Lake, which is a large water park with walkways and pavillions. It's a fantastic place to wander in the evenings as every space is filled with performers practicing Peking Opera or other traditional music. Dancers fill the square with their choreographed moves to traditional music with a techno beat. Ducks and swans swim in the lake and street vendors offer you everything you never knew you wanted. Any extra time was spent exploring the happenings at this very busy park...a great place for people watching.
Noodles Noodles Everywhere
Our first brush with Kunming Noodles was relatively early in the morning, prior to catching our bus to Dali. With no breakfast in our bellies, we figured we could find something at the bus station. This open front operation was just the place! For less than 50 cents Canadian we had our
fill of freshly handmade noodles with beef and green vegetables and the very nice addition of fresh mint (a new one to us).
Kunming is famous for its noodles, so when we returned we sought out the much renowned "Over the Bridge" noodles. We read a couple of versions of this story, but the most common explains that a scholar was studying for his examinations on an island. His wife had to send over his lunch every day. She would put raw fish and pork and anything else she could into the chicken soup and the chicken fat would keep it all warm, so he could have several meals and lots of variety. So its actually quite the production now. You order a "set", and they bring you a boiling hot bowl of chicken broth. They bring you 10-20 little bowls of different ingredients, various meats and fish, green vegetables, mint again, and, of course, hand-pulled noodles. You put the meat in first to cook it, eat it, vegetables as the second course and noodles to fill yourself up. It was quite the experience...but not our best noodle experience.
Our best noodle experience came from seeking out the
Muslim quarter, which is not very impressive, but which does have a few little open air restaurants worth checking out. Here we tried the most amazingly tasty noodles with lamb, and had Cokes in glass bottles. It was dirt cheap like the first place, with flavours I cannot begin to describe. Plus, at this place we could watch them make our noodles while we waited.
Yunnan Provincial Museum
One highlight of our stay in Kunming was "killing time" at the Yunnan Provincial Museum. We didn't expect much, having visited a few Chinese museums, but we had a few hours to fill, and it was nearby. It proved to be a really fascinating museum; it wasn't huge, and only had 3 exhibits, but they were great.
Kunming is on the site of an ancient civilization called the Dian. Fifty years ago, a number of bronze pieces began to appear at the local bird and flower market which seemed particularly old. Investigation led researchers to realize they were at least 2000 years old! Arhaeological excavation around Lake Dian produced countless bronze artifacts in really good condition. The exhibit explains the archaeological dig, the relevance of the artifacts
Lion biting oxen butt
This sculpture is featured in many places in Kunming. Its actually a huge replica of a small bronze sculpture found in the Lake Dian excavations.
on display, and the nature of Dian society -- all written in surprisingly sensible English.
The top floor houses a number of relics from the excavation of the Three Pagodas in the 1970s in Dali. We actually missed the Three Pagodas (having intended to hit Dali again on the way back from Lijiang) and felt the worse for it when we saw the beautiful calligraphy and statuettes which were uncovered.
Yuantong Si is a gem of a temple nestled unannounced between the modern buildings in Kunming. It would be easy to drive right by and never know that such a pretty and lively little temple lay just beyond the gates. It is a working Buddhist Temple and a site of pilgrimage. For Craig and I it was a beautiful and peaceful place to explore for an hour and we had a lot of fun watching squirrels (my goodness -- wildlife!) performing death defying stunts, jumping from branch to wall to cliff face.
In order to catch the bus to Shi Lin, we had to go to the train station. Of course this makes perfect sense! The train
Who is hungry?
Common site in Yunnan to see your lunch strung up in front of the restaurant.
station is quite large, but by flashing our tour book with pictures of the Stone Forest (Shi Lin) we were eventually pointed towards a stockade of older coach buses. Our bus boasted only 6 passengers, but we left nonetheless for Shi Lin, amidst light drizzle that prevented us from enjoying the countryside. The weather cleared up on the way, and by the time we arrived, the weather was becoming quite pleasant.
The Stone Forest was a shallow sea some 270 million years ago. The limestone formed and since has been eroded into bizarre columns, reminiscent of the Hopewell Rocks back home in New Brunswick. There are a whole lot more of them, however, and they vary greatly in shape, depending on where you are in the park. The Chinese have had fun naming the rock formations; some do truly resemble sculptures of the animal or person in question.
Near the entrance to the Stone Forest, 20 young guides are seated in Sammi traditional costume eagerly awaiting someone to hire them. We felt we ought to support them and hired ourselves a guide, which was good in the sense that we were introduced to the route of the tour
guides through the maze of rock formations. An hour later, our guide was surprised we were going to continue to explore the 12-square-km park on our own, without her. But this time we knew the paths that would be empty so we ventured back in, got throughly turned around several times, and had a lot of fun scampering through narrow passageways and choosing our own adventure each time the windy path split in two. For anyone visiting, they will tell you it takes too long to reach the back of the park, you won't have time unless you do the bus trip. We added only 1.5 hours to our stay in the park and completed most of the circumference of the park, even the supposedly unattainable back end. The moment you leave the main pathways used by the guides, you have the place to yourself! In 1.5 hours of hiking about, we saw maybe 10 other people, which, in China, is downright amazing.
For our fellow travellers, we discovered that there are other sites some 30-50 km away, part of the same rock outcropping, which boast caves and a beautiful waterfall! To get there would require staying the night
in 5 Tree Village (the little town at the gate) and taking a taxi. We were unable to get there, but the pictures we saw made us think it would be worth the trip, and being more remote, it is probably less crazy with tour groups.
Home Again Home Again
Our flight back to Teda was delayed nearly two hours; however, we made good friends with two little girls (11 and 6 years old) and received a not-so-financially-substantial job offer from a school of English in Shanghai. We arrived back in our little apartment at around 1 A.M., and awoke the next morning to the usual smells and sounds of Teda, including of course...more fireworks. Groaning in exhaustion, and unable to sleep due to the noise, we looked at each other, grabbed our travel guides, and started to plan for our May Holiday.
Please Keep Sending Messages!
Miss everyone tons.
Tot: 0.169s; Tpl: 0.015s; cc: 12; qc: 57; dbt: 0.0771s; 1; m:domysql w:travelblog (10.17.0.13); sld: 1;
; mem: 1.2mb