22 March 2017

Kunming, Our first days in China.

After a long overnight flight from Oz, we landed at Kunming Int’l. Bright and early. Well, not so bright it was still pre-dawn, so pretty dark actually.

So with any new country, it can be a challenge to get from the airport to the city, luckily (for once) we were prepared with instructions on how to get to our hostel. Taking the easy option of getting a taxi. I don’t think either of us was up to navigate the Chinese bus system yet. Passing a couple of lackluster touts we started talking to the guys at the taxi rank. They worked out where we were going, plugged it into their phone map system and loaded our bags. On asking how much it would be they got a bit indignant saying it was a metre system. What did we take them for?!?

At the hostel, we were too early to check in, so we grabbed a map of town, and got directions to the main attractions and off we went.

Cherry Blossoms at the Zoo. A popular photo point

A quick walk to the bus and we hit our first hurdle. How much is a ticket, and does the price change over distance etc? Well, we new buses were supposed to be cheap, so we thought ten RMB would cover it. Not sure why, but the bus driver just waved us on. Couldn’t make change? Not enough? Too much trouble to explain to dumb foreigners? Oh well, we tried.

About ten minutes later we were at the Zoo. Not sure this is where we wanted to go, but there was a temple nearby, Yuantong Temple. It is a nice tranquil temple complex that stretches back quite a way, goldfish ponds and pavilions. A nice typical temple. Just what we needed to ease ourselves back into travelling.

From here we walked around the Green Lake Park. This is the main heart of old Kunming Tourism. At the moment a lot of the different ponds have been drained, but it was still nice walking around and watching people do their dancing, exercising, and similar. We also found out that Kunming has a sister city. It was Wagga Wagga!

Rebuilt Old City Gate. Most of the old buildings here are new.

From there we walked down to the old section of town. This took a couple of false starts, as we were getting turned around, and ended up closer to the hostel than the area we wanted to be!  Luckily the maps.me app came in handy when we realised we were lost, and it got us back on the right track.  So we eventually made it to the Flower and Bird Market.  There wasn’t much left, and the old buildings are crumbling away, or being rebuilt to look like the old style. At the moment this is a market zone with everything from fish and squirrels to walking sticks and the traditional bongs that the old people use here. They are massive! So should have taken a photo!

Back to check in then off to the Bamboo Temple. This is out of town quite a way up a mountain (considering we are already at 2000m above sea level). It was a bit complicated as you have to go to the western bus station then change bus. We were told this and given the bus number to take, but when we got to the station we couldn’t find the bus. It turns out that the bus leaves from across the road and about 500m away from the station. It also didn’t help that the bus is not listed on the boards that were up advertising the bus numbers that stop there (very handy, when it works!)

So a bit of back and forth asking people at each place, until eventually we managed to catch the right bus! Then it was off, winding through the last of the city, and up the hill. There were great glimpses back over Kunming through the trees as we rose higher and higher. Passing a few temples along the way we made it to a stop that everyone thought we should get off, and we had been told to stay on until the end?!? Ok, so the driver asked us where we were going, well I think he did, he could have just been swearing at us dumb tourists for not getting off. Pointing on our map to the name of the temple, we were told it was back the way we had come. He got the police to confirm this for us (they are everywhere, and usually quite helpful). Not knowing what we were missing at this stop, we followed their directions and headed back down the road. At least it wasn’t too busy as there was no room for pedestrians.

So down the hill we went, back to the last temple. On the outside a dust washed brown. Not the famous temple we were expecting, but apparently this was it. Paying the entrance fee and wandered in. It was the right temple. It is famous due to its figurines. These depict people from all ways of life, station, race and level of deformity!! Most of these are now in a couple of rooms at the front with a nun sitting watch to make sure we don’t take photos or damage the figures. She did offer a prayer for us as well. The rest of the temple is well laid out along traditional lines, and is a nice place to wander around in peace from the hustle and bustle of town.

Then it was a repeat to get back to town. It is going to be interesting in China when it takes you an hour and a half to get somewhere to spend an hour looking around and an hour and a half back. What could be a 2 hour trip takes half a day! I suppose this is the price you pay for not doing tours!

Now a few notes on the Cloudland Hostel: This is where we were staying. The girl at the desk first thing in the morning was sweet, but her English was not too good (well, we are in China!), after that it was all downhill. The people were nice, I suppose. If you could drag them away from their computers or phones. Getting information from them was quite hard, and they only supplied information on what was asked. IE, the bus up the mountain. It would have been nice if they told us it was over the road, and not in the bus station. Or even let us know attractions around town, as the only things we visited were things we had looked up before we got there. The info was accurate, but lacking in extra detail. The room itself was interesting. The best thing about it was plenty of international power points. I don’t think I have ever seen so many in a single room before! The most interesting thing was the view. From the bed you had a great view through a glass window onto the toilet and shower! You wouldn’t want to be travelling with just a friend!

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