And the moral of the story is . . .

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Asia » China » Yunnan » Kunming
November 10th 2012
Published: November 15th 2012
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When travelling, you always meet other travellers who have been to the place you are planning on going to next, and what they tell you about that place can either make you really look forward to it or wish you were giving it a miss, depending on what they experienced there. It’s great to hear other people’s stories about places you are about to visit, as they can be a good source of information as well as get you excited for that place, but occasionally what you hear can be misleading – Kunming is the perfect example of this.

We had been planning on going to Kunming from Lijiang for ages; it was always in our China itinerary as it was on the way down to the rice terraces we wanted to see, just for a day and a night, but in the days leading up to us going there, we spoke to at least 8 other people who had come from there and not one of them had a good thing to say about the city – it’s dirty, there’s nothing to see, it’s boring, it didn’t feel safe, don’t bother staying more than an hour – these were a few of the negative points we were told about Kunming, so we started to re-think going there. We already had our train tickets booked there from Lijiang, and as it was a sleeper train which would arrive early in the morning, we discussed getting a bus straight out of there to the rice terraces a couple of hours later to avoid this city which no one had anything good to say about.

Luckily, we changed our minds at the last minute and decided to give Kunming a chance, and we are so glad we did! Arriving at 6am after a 10 hour sleeper train, which was not only our last one in China but also the best one we have had yet, us and Cynthia jumped in a taxi to Cloudland hostel. Initially we were just going to use Kunming as a base for a relaxing day and to catch up on internet bits that we haven’t had time for lately, but after checking in to our (nice) dorm room, we decided to check out what the city had to offer as it was still early (pre 8am).

Scott put together a great plan for the day which saw us first visit Green Lake to feed the red beak seagulls (who are only there in November) and walk around the surrounding park in the sunshine which was lovely – we also saw several groups of older men & women practicing Tai-Chi and dancing here which was fun to watch. We then found a great little French coffee shop and Scott treated himself and had the best coffee and breakfast of the trip so far, while I had hazelnut hot milk which was delicious. We all sat in the café for about 2 hours chatting and reading books, it was so nice just to relax and not rush around – we vowed to do more things like this in Vietnam as we don’t always want to be on the go. We then wandered through several different street markets which sold various things including jewellery, food, pet dogs & cats (I wanted all of them), birds, snakes, plants, toys and handicrafts, before we all had some good noodle soups from a local vendor and went back to our hostel in the afternoon. It was a really nice day and we were so pleased that we made the decision to spend the day in Kunming. Granted it's not filled with attractions and lots to see and do but it is a nice enough city to spend a day in.

That evening the three of us went for a walk and found a little local place which was busy (always a good sign) for dinner - the restaurants and cafes we saw along the way were quite high end so we were lucky to find this place really - and we had a yummy meal of local spiced beef, sweet & sour chicken and shredded potato and eggplant, with rice of course, for about £3 each. We have found China to be pretty cheap for food and accomodation, but everyone we meet keeps saying that Vietnam is much cheaper, so we can't wait for that. We went back to the hostel after dinner as we were all getting us early for our bus to the Yuanyang rice terraces, 7 hours further south.

As the title of this blog suggests, the moral of the story is - make your own decisions whilst on the road, as sometimes you get thrown a nice surprise along the way!

S&V's Travel Info & Tips:

General Info: Approx 10 RMB/Yuan to £1. Kuming is the place to extend China visa's and also apply for Vietnam and Burma visa's, but it takes a few days. Instead of waiting here for these services, it's best to get photocopies of your passport so you can move on to see somewhere else and then come back to collect them when ready.

Transportation: We took a taxi to our hostel from the train station for 15 RMB. Kunming is pretty big so getting around by bus or taxi is best, but some places are walkable (we walked from our hostel to Green Lake in about 20 minutes). The bus stations are all out of town and take a while to get there (the south bus station was over 70 minutes away by bus, 1 RMB) so factor this in when moving on.

Food: Lots of cafe's along Wen Li Jie which do great coffee but dinner was expensive there - find a local place off the main street. Noodle soups in the food market cost between 6-10 RMB. Our hostel did food but breakfast didn't start until 8am which we thought was pretty late.

Accomodation: We stayed in Cloudland hostel which was ok - dorm rooms were clean and cost 40 RMB each and the pillows were nice. They also helped us book onward bus tickets which was useful. We heard The Hump hostel was better overall though.

Other observations:

x) Again we saw lots of older people dancing and playing badminton in the parks - makes for light entertainment but was also nice to see people being active, as Chinese people throughout China seem like they are exercise - phobic!

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