Kunming is the capital of Yunnan province. It is described as city of eternal spring due to the mild weather encountered throughout the year. Unlike Dali, there is little of the old city left as bombing raids by Imperial Japanese planes during the Sino-Japan war destroyed much of the city buildings.
We arived in this city on night of 17 September via a flight from Tianjin. However we did not have the chance to make any visits until the last two days of the organised tour. Our hotel for the night we arrived was the Howard Johnson hotel. The hotel was booked by the tour company, and is located in a new planned city area that is some 30 over kilometres from the city centre. There are not too many people or buildings in the place yet, but in 10 years I’m sure it would be a well developed area, just like the Pudong district of Shanghai.
On the second last day of our tour, we visited several famous spots in Kunming city. It was very crowded and noisy at the city centre, and there were beggers making their rounds. The beggars were persistent, as they know that we were tourists who can be very generous with ‘aids’. I did not oblige, knowing that to give in to one means inviting a gang of beggars to appear soon from nowhere. Flowers, especially roses bloom very well here, but I found it difficult to relate this city as being the ‘eternal sping city’.
The Stone Forest or shilin, is the most famous tourist attraction for Kunming. It is about 90 minutes drive from city. Many people are fascinated by the appearance of uniquely shaped limestones, and stand in awe of the work on nature. The stone forest park was crowded with tourists, and at populars points in the park, we have to jostle among the crowds in order to move. I did not truly enjoy my moments there, and neither did I find the place that awesome. I would rate the limestone hills along Lijiang river tour in Yangshuo, the craggy peaks of Zhang Jia Jie in Hunan or the granite peaks of Huangshan to be much more awe inspiring.
The city seems like a giant construction site, where new highways are being built replacing old ones and creating more chaos as traffic dversion plans did not seem to exist. The city is also expanding fast as more people from the smaller towns and villages are moving to the city. A new metro line is also being built linking newer areas with the city centre. Overall though, Kunming. gave me the feeling that it is 15 to 20 years behind the current first tier cities of China.
- When booking a hotel to stay in Kunming, it is better to stay in one that is situated within city proper. The Howard Johnson hotel is new and really nice, but the location is just no ideal. Also, many taxi drivers are unsure about hotels in the newer district. Our taxi driver at the new airport did not seem to know where the hotel was, and had to keep on asking the radio operator about the location. It turned out that the hotel is in an unfamilar area for him, and he demanded 300 Rmb. This was definately too much. From my conversation with others, 200 Rmb is the more reasonable price. Another way is to ask the hotel or tour organiser to arrange for transport.
- One of the advantages of travelling in organised tours was making friends with co-travellers in the tour group. In my dinner group, we sat with couples from US, Canda and Australia and found them to be enjoyable companies. I found that some of the travellers who are originally from Indonesian to be jolly and very friendly. Though they could hardly speak any Mandarin, they were able to get the best deals when bargaining. It is through them that I discovered the fun of bargaining and the art of negiotiation.