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Published: November 8th 2015
You find yourself on train station in Kunming. You take public bus nr. 73 to the East bus station or Dong Zhan (better yet, take 73 G, because it's direct, and a bit faster). This is where you get buses to the, more or less, south, so, also to Mile.
For some reasons, the area is not written about so much. The name itself is a Chinese version of the name Maitreya Buddha – but, according to some stories, the name actually belongs to another person, a local tribal chief who lived there long time ago. The names are written with the same Chinese characters and pronounced the same, but now the chief is forgotten, and people think about Buddha when they say Mile.
»This is the place where clouds fell in love with people«, says Liu, and while the sentence is, in fact, a wonderfully fit description of whole Yunnan, she whispered it because the morning we drove there and back our buses stumbled into something we first thought was fog; and while I guess it is possible that it was fog, we couldn't help thinking it was just clouds laying so
low. The way the mountains looked and the way the sun was shining – out of shimmering whiteness, out of the hole in the middle of nothing – the way you could practically count every single colorful reality seeking sun ray – it just made sense to think that we were driving through the clouds, while still being on highway. This is the place where clouds fell in love with people, and the plants do not need water, because the clouds embrace them and give them liquid, by constantly making white love to them. That's just how Yunnan can make you think.
It makes further sense because entering Chinese towns is somewhat like seeing a mirage. It's there, but you are not sure what to rely on, and the first impressions just might be misleading. Mile is not exception. Approaching, you'll see the town spreading, you'll notice some tall buildings, but then you enter, so to speak, through back door – through old narrow streets and small bus station. Even coming to the center with the fountain doesn't improve the overall impression; it all still looks small and just developing. Mistake. Once you start walking, you'll see
that the town is almost divided into two parts. The new part includes wonderful ecological park with lake and hotels and so on. Both parts are interesting, but the second one offers something you must try. Hot springs.
It's not one. It's hundreds of them. Some are hotels, and some are private houses with wells and hot water. The water comes from the mountain, and is pumped from the ground through pipes. There's a lot of water, obviously. The hotel that we ended up in changed the water daily (mostly); that's why the water in the pools was so clean. The benefit of it all is also that you can find hot springs extremely cheap – we were paying 25 RMB (for whole day). The good part about hotels is that you can swim in the large pool under the sky and that you have different temperatures of water. Rooms in the hotel with private hot bath were 88 RMB. Some private hot springs are cheaper, but perhaps closed between the walls. The locals say that the most crowded times are summer and of course, weekends; I'd say that late autumn or early spring must
be perfect times to come. It's a bit cold, but this is Yunnan – so, never too cold.
The area mostly belongs to several Yi minority branches – biggest is Axi Yi. (Of course there are also Hui people and you are only couple of hours away from Hani minority area and terrace fields). This means that there is also quite a lot of festivals going on. Dates are based on the lunar calendar – 2.2. (fire sacrifice), 3.3. (dragon sacrifice), and houba jie or Yi fire festival in sixth lunar month are the most important ones. The places to go: Keyi village (with a small museum), Da Hei Yi, Shi Yi township, and from there Hong Wan cun (wonderful to translate – Red Ten Thousand Village). It's a tiny bit complicated to get to the last one – you have buses to Shi Yi township (also to Shi Er and Shi San, which BTW all means 11, 12 and 13), but after that, you are on your own – the road is a bit bad, and all you have to do is wave your hand and somebody will stop for you (and probably give you a free ride; you are a foreigner, after all). I do not doubt that in the times of festivals the transport is well organized – but I like this way also. Oh, why go there? The Red Ten Thousand Village is cultural heritage and as such protected; meaning, not changed much. Perhaps the word red from the name comes from color of the houses – soily light brown, almost pink, a bit redish. Locals say that the famous Axi dance, tiao yue, occasionally happens spontaneously, in the evening, out of boredom or perhaps good mood. Stay the night (home stay, of course). You might be lucky.
And if you do not catch the festivals, there is another option – ask about the market day. As always in this kinds of countrysides, the dates are rotating, so there's always a chance of bumping into one. Whether you end up buying something or not (medicine, baby carrier, fresh vegetables), you'll have a chance to see a tiny glimpse of how it all used to look like – older ladies will surely wear some of the minority clothes.
Since you are in the area of Shilin, it all also means that the moment you get to the countryside – and that's fast – you are in the midst of rocks, mountains and blue skies… all of it relatively similar to Stone Forest. Smaller scale, but no ticket. And scale or no scale, amazingly beautiful.
The local food – mi xian, of course, and lu ji, the chicken with local spices. Any time you got something to do with Yunnan spices, it's basically good. I'm a sucker for potato in Yunnan – the way they add spice to it just makes me go crazy. (And I love this personal BBQ's, where the host is sitting next to you and you just take the stuff from the »grill« and they count the tofu or potatoes by adding corn seeds on the side; corn seeds are a calculator. Ahhhh!)
In 2016 – supposedly in June – Mile will be connected to Kunming (and Guangxi and Guangdong) by gao tie
or bullet train; it means it will take around 40 minutes to come to Kunming.
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