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May 15, 2006 – A journey to Kunming, China in Asia

Kunming, An Oxymoron Almost

To my surprise, Kunming is a pretty laid-back Chinese city, which is an oxymoron almost. Walking out of the airport, we expected the hustle bustle of a modernized city, a plethora of people, and of course, a bunch of touts to encircle Rick and I. Only a couple did and they were actually polite after we turned them down! Welcome to Western China?

Remin Lu at night, the main street in the city

When starting to explore the city, I had my guard way up. I soon loosened it once I figured that the people here are more relaxed, helpful, and not always going after your money. There aren't as many spitters, smokers, and chaotic traffic here either. I didn't see too many people littering too. This came as a relief as I don't enjoy being tense and stressed out all the time while traveling.

We came to Kunming for several reasons. One is to see the Shilin Stone Forest. Another is to have access to see many of the ethnic tribes of Yunnan province. Since Kunming is a pretty modern city, you won't see much of the real thing there. You need to travel outside, which is what we plan to do. They do have a museum that showcases many of the province's minority groups though. I did see some people dressed up in minority-style clothing at teashops and around the bus stations. A lot of them look Han-Chinese (majority group of China), but I can't really tell (heard that sometimes it's just for show or advertisement even though the person in minority dress is not of the minority group).

a woman in Yi-minority dress serving Yunnan tea

Kunming does have an older area with long-ago buildings. Part of it has been renovated to attract more tourists. They call this area Old Kunming Street. It's nice to wander around there for half an hour. Though, most of the shops there sell knock-offs and souvenirs.

a street in Old Kunming Road

The cuisine here is quite tasty. It's a bit similar to Southeast Asian cuisine. For example, the famous across-the-bridge noodles is similar to Vietnamese pho. You cook raw meat, vegetables, and rice noodles in across-the-bridge noodles, too. Another example is the hot and sour soup. It's similar to Thai cuisine's tom yum.

across-the-bridge noodles - ready to dump everything into the bowl of hot broth

Yunnan-style hot and sour soup

Took a day trip to see Shilin Stone Forest. I'm not sure if it's worth going since it's become a very touristy attraction. I say that Shilin is very touristy because first of all, there are a bunch of big tourist groups there. Second, most of the park is paved and manicured and not in its original natural setting. It reminded me of an amusement park (except without the rides). You will see nicely paved walkways through the forest and well-kept grass and flowers in the surroundings. Some of the stones are even manicured. Not really my idea of what a true forest should look like. But I suppose it's nice.

partial overview of Shilin Stone Forest

eagle-shaped stone surrounded by pretty green grass and flowers

stone water buffalo in a pond

Roundtrip bus tickets purchased at the bus station cost 43 yuan (22 yuan going to Shilin, 21 yuan coming back to Kunming) and the entrance fee for students cost 100 yuan each (it's 140 yuan for adults). A guide costs 60 yuan plus tip, and I don't really recommend getting one, which we did. You can wander around yourself and see the same thing. So the total came out to be $22.25 USD per person. That's a lot of money considering that you can get accommodations for less than $10 USD per night and eat for less than a dollar here. But it's still not as pricy as traveling around the States for example.

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