Skyscrapers, huge shopping malls, expensive shops, flashing neon lights... welcome to China???


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Asia » China » Yunnan » Kunming
May 9th 2013
Published: May 25th 2013
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Originally I was supposed to enter China from a totally different side – through Tibet, but had to change my plans in the end… Than I thought that maybe it was for the best as thinking of going to an altitude of over 4,000m was making me slightly uneasy – I think I’ve had enough of high altitudes for a while… The new plan was to start off in Yunnan, then through Sichuan head all the way to Beijing and finally back south through Shanghai to Hong Kong. But then since I was applying for a Chinese visa in Kathmandu, only got a visa for a month, which definitely wasn’t enough time for my itinerary. Ah well… I decided to stick to the plan though and see how far that would take me…

Coming from Kathmandu to Kunming you sure can get a bit of a culture shock! If it wasn’t for the Chinese symbols everywhere I would’ve thought I was back in the western world… Starting from a huge and very modern airport to shopping malls and banks everywhere, it sure was a totally different world comparing to my previous destination. But then there are small advantages to it as well – like a nice room in a hostel with no power cuts, fresh sheets, towel and even some toiletries!

Didn’t sleep much the first night, way too many thoughts flying through my head. First of all I was still wrapped in memories from Nepal but then also Kunming, a huge city of 2 million people (or more I’d say!) with massive skyscrapers and flashing neon lights all around, just seemed a bit scary at first glance. But then I knew it was going to be a challenge before I came here so it was time to face it! I decided to head to Green Lake Park first as it was 100m from my hostel and I’ve heard that you can see people practicing tai-chi in the mornings there. Had my doubts whether anyone was going to be in the park that morning as it was raining, but it turned out I needn’t have to worry as there were many ‘morning birds’ in the park already. And it sure wasn’t a rumour about people practicing tai-chi here, but there was much more to see beside that actually! I walked good two or three hours around the park watching people around me. So first there were all kinds of tai-chi lovers – younger and older people making beautiful slow movements practicing this ancient martial art either on its own or with the use of different objects like fans, weird long nails or swords! I could sit there and watch this art forever, so peaceful and well coordinated but very powerful at the same time… Just amazing! Then there were lots of women around doing aerobics (or something close to that) accompanied with loud (and sorry to say but pretty weird and tacky music) and finally there were people dancing all around, on their own or in couples, all strictly sticking to one choreography. Simply incredible!

I really didn’t want to leave the park as could have easily watched this spectacle forever, but there were more things to see around, so went to explore Kunming a bit more. First I headed to the largest Buddhist complex in Kunming – the Yuantong Temple. It was built during the Tang dynasty, approximately 1,200 years ago. There sure were a lot of people around here, but still I was the only foreigner around… Pretty strange feeling, quite intimidating actually… And it looked like many Chinese tourists were quite surprised to see me there as some of them smiled at me while most were simply staring at me. I got shouted a few hellos at me as well… Anyway… Very nice complex of temples. Many people around with incenses, quite a few praying in front of the Buddhist statues and even more... eating! Wherever I looked there were people sitting with rice or noodle bowls in hands! Hmmm… I remembered reading something about a vegetarian restaurant at the temples site so went looking for it and it didn't take long to find it as in one corner there was quite a big gathering of people. I wanted to try some food at the restaurant as it had pretty good reviews but gave up pretty quickly on this idea as looking at the three long queues to the restaurant put me off totally. Besides didn’t even have an idea which queue I should be standing at and since nobody around spoke any English, ah well… It was time to leave this place I guess…

I was pretty hungry after seeing all these people eating at the temples, so walked around a bit searching for some food, but either the places were empty or the people inside were so loud that I just felt slightly intimidated and didn’t dare to walk in anywhere after all. I don’t think I felt so helpless for quite some time now. The lack of common language to communicate in was really a big problem! Ah well… It was just my first day here, so was only trying to figure things out at this point and find my way around. Thankfully there was a bar with food in my hostel so just headed there and treated myself to some fried chicken. It was pretty good, but next time I’d prefer if my meal wasn’t drowning in oil please! 😉

After lunch I went to the bird market. Not sure how it looked like before but I say now it should be called something more like ‘rubbish market’ as honestly I haven’t seen so many unnecessary and tacky things on sale for a long time. There was a part with birds and flowers there as well, but only a few stands actually. And then there was one street where they were selling… dogs and cats – or more like cute little puppies and kittens! Well it took me a while to get away from there as simply couldn’t say goodbye to some of the doggies that fast.

Then just walked around in between skyscrapers, designer shops, shopping malls… through a concrete jungle that is! Well, not exactly a lot to see here (at least not my kind of surroundings)…. Was supposed to go to see the pagodas but got so tired of all the crowds and all the noise around me that just decided to call it a day… But first a small detour to my hostel through the Green Lake Park again. 😊 Yep, really liked this place! Once the sun set I walked around it watching people pass by, stopping here and there to listen to some aspiring artists performing some lovely Chinese songs, felt at peace again… that is until I started looking for a place to eat… Only couples or groups of people in the restaurants, no solo diners whatsoever, add to it a fear to communicate with Chinese people or more like a fear of being misunderstood and ending up ordering something ridiculous, yep! Was totally out of my comfort zone! So thought it would be best just to eat at my hostel again… After all I had plenty of days ahead of me to figure it all out and to be a bit more adventurous. Still it was definitely time to leave Kunming and go to some smaller town… Next stop: Dali!


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at the Green Lake Park at the Green Lake Park
at the Green Lake Park

This older man seemed to be spinning the ball for quite a while when I got there and it didn't look like he was going to stop any time soon... Still there was absolutely no expression on his face! I was wondering if he was actually enjoying it at all???


26th May 2013

China can be overwhelming...
but you'll adapt. I was surprised how much I could communicate with sign language. Your itinerary sounds great, so am looking forward to every blog.
28th May 2013

It sure can be overwhelming, but like you said you just need to find new ways to communicate...

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