Monday, September 6, 2010

Kunming - Exploring the City

Even after going through the pictures and deleting the bad ones, I still have 279 pictures of my trip to Kunming. Most of them are of Shilin (the Stone Forest), which was absolutely as wonderful as Owen posted in his blog. I am overwhelmed by the sheer number of photos I took and don't know where to begin; I guess I will begin at the airport!

I learned not to go to the airport too early in the morning because the taxi was sooooooooo much more expensive than the airport shuttle, but I was too early to catch the first shuttle so I had to pay 140 RMB for a taxi. Ouch.

A funny sign in the restroom at the Jinan airport: "Protect Environment Saving Bumf"
I found my flight successfully, and after arriving in Kunming, retrieved my bag and made my way to the bus stop. Following the directions provided by the hostel, I took the city bus for just 2 RMB. At first glance, Kunming looks rather like every other city I've seen in China, but with more trees, especially pines.
The sidewalks in Kunming seemed much cleaner and better maintained, and the buildings shinier... but maybe that was just because I was on vacation?
Between the bus stop and the youth hostel, about a 5 minute walk, was this lovely small park. The local elderly community seemed to use this park as their community center, as it was always full of people, playing cards or mahjong or having impromptu music sessions (more on that Kunming tradition later when I report on my trip to Green Lake Park).

I am ashamed of myself for going to a Wal-Mart in China, but it was where the hostel staff told me to go when I asked for a supermarket to get some basic travel items.
It was nothing like Wal-Mart in the USA, inside or out. Outside was a kind of outdoor market, not really visible off to the sides of this photo, with vendors selling everything from shoes to cross-stitch kits.

Inside, it was like any other Chinese department store: large and overcrowded. This was the view from just inside the entrance. There were four floors, you had to either take the stairs or push your cart up a concrete ramp between levels. It was a bit mazelike, so I got rather lost and frustrated trying to find the items I needed, and was very glad to get out of there.
This is the intersection I turned on to get to the Wal-Mart. The street was lined with small shops on either side, many of them food shops. Notice the old(er) buildings in the middle, complete with grass growing from the roof tiles.
In these food shops I found I could get a sit-down fast food meal, Chinese style, consisting of 10 small dumplings in a steamer basket with dipping sauce, for 4RMB - that is about USD $0.60. Yum.
The Kunming Cloudland Youth Hostel, where I stayed. It was clean and well maintained, and very busy, possibly because it was the last week of summer holiday here in China.
In the alley to the left of the hostel, just against the hostel wall and visible out the windows of the cafe/bar of the hostel, were a row of mahjong tables under an awning, apparently belonging to a business next door. These were always busy, even when it was raining!
A view of the central courtyard from the balcony outside my room. There were soft chairs and sofas covered in striped fabric on every balcony for lounging and the weather was just right for sitting outside and watching people play ping-pong. The pool table was just below me so I couldn't see it from where I sat.
I stayed in a 6 bed dorm room and all the beds were taken every night, with new arrivals and departures each day. Only one other person in the room stayed the entire time I was there.
An unattractive view out the window, just like in the hostel in Qingdao... but I stay in hostels for the price and convenience, not the view!
However, I did find some little differences about Kunming that were charming, such as this little side street.
Going a little up the street, I was rewarded with some lovely traditional architecture.

Another little side street had this lovely historical relic sitting amongst all the high rise buildings. I couldn't tell whether it was abandoned or not, but it was obviously old and had fascinating details such as the mud bricks
And on the side, grass growing out of the roof and one very cool dragon sitting on the wall!
Yunnan province is famous for tea (I think the local tea was Pu'Erh tea), so Kunming had many tea shops, with wares spread out for browsing, that were more interesting and approachable than the too-fancy ones in Jinan.
The medallions and bricks are made of tea leaves. The round things on the shelf at left are pancake shaped blocks of pressed tea leaves.

I will need to make more than one blog entry for my trip to Kunming, so stay tuned!


  1. I could spend the day at a tea shop :p

  2. Oh, the tea shops smelled like heaven! I hope I'll get a chance to visit a tea plantation someday.