Yunnan Encounters – From Kunming to Lijiang

Well… after a short stint back in the office teaching my kids, I headed back out into the rest of China. This time it was off to the beauty of Yunnan province with a Gecko’s tour through the region. I was pretty excited about this one… everyone in the office had told me exactly how beautiful the province was. I was not disappointed.

After an extremely late flight into the hotel, I met out tour guide “Richard” known from now on as Chan. Slept well and wandered out into Kunming the next day. Kunming was suprisingly clean compared to Wuhan and a lot more picturesque. I headed into the Western Hills for the day, excited to get out of smog and city life. Wandered around and found a small pagoda on top of the hill overlooking the city. Then I wandered down through the Dragon Gate, a group of grottoes carved on the side of the hill by a Taoist Monk between 1781 and 1835.

View of Kunming

Temple abreast Western Hills

Temple abreast Western Hills

That evening the tour group met each other for the first time and after a short meeting we headed to the train station for my first experience on an overnight train in China. Much better than I expected, and even better when we arrived at Dali early the next morning. Dali was to become one of my all-time favourite places. It was just so amazingly beautiful that neither the words nor the pictures here could ever do it justice. You will all just have to go and visit it to see it yourselves, not least for the cheap silver jewellery.

The first morning was spent wandering around the Old Town, capital of Nanzhou in the 8th and 9th century. The Old Town had amazing architecture as you can kind of see from the pictures above. Many of the people here are from one of China’s 55 official ethnic minorities, the Bai people, who once controlled part of China, Burma and northern Thailand. After that, we went on a scenic bike ride around part of the Old Town and down to Erhai Lake. It was a pleasant ride, although the temperatures were low to mid 30’s.

Erhai Lake Wetlands

Tour Group ready to leave

Paddy fields around Dali

The day finished with an amazing dinner full of crazy food such as cockroaches and tree roots (the latter tasted just like popcorn). A picture of the “medicine” can be seen below.

Cockroaches and tree roots anyone?

The rest of the dinner

The second day was spent sightseeing in the areas around Dali with a few friends from the tour group. In the morning, we took a cable car ride up into Cangshan Mountain. The cable car took us up to Zhonghe Temple, not particularly amazing in itself, but amazing in terms of the views of Dali Old Town. Also amazing were the gravestones scattered throughout the mountain.

Sitting in front of the temple

Carvings on the temple

Dali Old Town

Gravestones

Squat Toilets

In the afternoon, Barry and I went for a pleasant boat ride into Erhai Lake. I saw what was most probably the most impressive temple that I have seen yet, and spent a lovely hour or so walking round one of the fishing villages on the other side of the lake. Unfortunately, my camera batteries died during the excursion so I don’t have too many photos of this yet, but am waiting a delivery from a friend so they should be up soon.

Me on the boat

Me on the boat again

The temple view from the river

The Chinese me

A smaller temple in the complex

After Dali, we jumped on a bus headed for Lijiang. Lijiang reminded me a lot of Amsterdam, with canals everywhere and beautiful architecture. But what Lijiang does best is shopping… lots of cheap souvenirs and just general shopping if you know how to and want to bargain. Basically, the entire time in Lijiang was spent shopping and eating. A nice relaxing day really.

River bank

Lijiang Old Town

The famous waterwheel

View from our hostel

Canals of Lijiang

Many things amaze me about China but the transport is definately one of the most shocking. Check out the transport that people were using… yes using. I particularly like the truck with no bonnet!

Transportation (1)

Transportation (2)

Transportation (3)

We spent the evening at a cultural event in Lijiang, the highlight of which was definately the elder of the group as seen below. The dominant minority group in Lijiang is the Naxi. Historically, the Naxi were a matriarchal society. Children belonged to the women, inheritances followed the female line, and female elders settled differences. The Naxi Orchestra, famous throughout China and some parts of the Western World accompanied a series of dances and an illustration of writing the traditional Naxi language (a lot similar to Egyptian heiroglyphics than traditional Chinese). The dances portrayed a series of events relating to ancient culture.

Famous Lijiang Band

Dancing in the cultural show

Lijiang Heiroglyphics

With the elder of the Lijiang Band

On a final note… check out the special delicacies list from lunch in Lijiang… my faves!