I'm back. Afraid the blog fell into a big hole for a while - call it writer's block. I've (finally) brought it up to date with our trip south - mainly to have a record for myself, but also to make the lines in the little map look neat :-)
We were looking forward to travelling round Yunnan so were pleased to arrive in Kunming. Described as "Spring City" in the Lonely Planet, and after the cold spell further south, we lapped up the nice weather when we got there.
The overnight train from Nanning arrived before dawn so we had plenty of time to fill in before hotel check-in and it was chaos outside the railway station, so we decided to walk to the hotel. Left our bags there and had breakfast in a busy noodle shop over the road just as dawn was breaking. We then caught a bus to the Green Lake area in search of a recommended coffee shop and English-language book store. Neither was open so we went for a walk around the lake and back. Beautiful lake, reminiscent of Hangzhou.
Kunming had some great eateries. Salvadore's the recommended coffee shop (best coffee and breakfast yet), Prague Café (neck and neck with Salvadore’s), 1910 La Gare du Sud (best meal yet), Thai Restaurant and Bar (great for a change), Hong Dou Yuan (regional specialties). The area near the “hump” was also good for food generally.
We eventually found the bookshop and had a long drool but managed to restrict ourselves to one book each plus another on Chinese ethnic groups. These, along with the bag of Hainan coffee we’d bought at the Bo’ao Inn B&B (luggage smelt wonderful) we had to carry for the rest of the trip.
We made a few visits to Kunming – it was the hub we came back to after visits south and north. First stay was at the Kunming Hotel where we got a good deal through Ctrip. The location turned out to be great with easy access into the city centre and places of interest, all within easy walking distance of each other. The museum had a fascinating exhibit on ethnic minorities, mainly textiles and jewelery. The bird and flower market (which also had all sorts of the usual market stuff as well) was in a lovely old area where there were several streets blocked off and boarded up. I hope they’re not about to be razed to make way for more modern developments.
Xi Shan or West Mountain is a large park area on the edge of Lake Dian on the outskirts of Kunming. A bus or a hike to the top affords fantastic views down to the city across the huge lake. There are three temples and many interesting nooks and crannies to see along the way. We could have spent a day there, but by the time we’d managed to work out the busses to get there we unfortunately only had time to take the bus/tram to the Dragon’s Gate at the top. Glad we got there though.
On a later visit (to Kunming) we stayed for a couple of nights at the newish Upland Hostel which was quite close to the Green Lake. Here the locals await the annual migration of seagulls, and crowds go down to feed them. There’s a statue of the man who first began feeding them – I forget when. Apparently they arrive in November each year – there were hordes when we visited, and bird feed sellers everywhere and lots of people feeding them (the birds).
We also discovered a nearby shop selling ice-creams and had our first magnums since leaving home!