Having been to 3 major cities in China it was time to explore the countryside, so in Hong Kong we booked a flight to Yunnan, a province in south west China bordering Tibet. We flew up to Kunming (the capital of the province) and then got a bus to Dali. The next morning we headed further north to Shangri-La, which is the beginning of Tibetan world at 3200m, and chilled there for a couple of days. The drive up was great, lots of rice fields, corn fields and other random agriculture with stunning scenery.
We met some Chinese travelers on our bus and we all went to the same hostel, where a double was 5pounds per couple (our cheapest accommodation yet)! Like Dali, these towns are divided into new and old, the old part being cobbled and pedestrianised. We explored a bit and stumbled upon a flavour of Europe, being "Helen's Pizza", and head waiter Marco, a real character from Bergamo. Within 10 minutes of us being in his restaurant he had pulled up a chair beside us and drawn us a map of the town and planned an itinerary for our few days there…….who needs tourist offices.
The following day we hired bikes and headed off along a plateau through some Tibetan villages, not long into this I got a puncture! I tried to give Kim a "backy", while she steered the unmanned bike…not happening. So I walked my bike for an hour back to the town and got another (Bad thing No1.) The next sight was to cycle to a local lake which was uneventful until on our return a crazy Chinese driver decided to open his car door as Kim was passing, she just about managed to brake and swerve. The guy was a little bemused when Kim gave his wing mirrors a rattle….hopefully he'll use them in future! (Bad thing No 2.) And our final mishap was only applying sun lotion once during the whole cycle (Bad thing No 3.) We got very burnt.
One of the main reasons for coming this far north was to hike along Tiger Leaping Gorge. A gorge 16 km long, hiking to heights of 2650m, with breathtaking views and it had been recommended by everyone who'd been here. We started our hike at 11am and quickly realised that to see these stunning views we'd need to put in a bit of effort. I'll be honest, I had to do a bit of counseling to help Kim realise her potential at walking up mountains…, and not to concentrate on the fact that she felt like a sweaty mess!! The first rest point was beautiful and Kim was keen to stay there for the night. But after we got some food and water she saw the light and we headed on. The next section involved the 28 bends to the summit. Which was more like 36 (but I'm no accountant!) We made it, but Kim didn't like the way the locals taunted us with their ponies, hoping we would give in. The second day we started hiking before the sun was up at 6am (easier on the sun burn) and completed the hike by lunch time. We hiked right down to the river….the photos tell the story.
The next location was Lijang, a southern Yunnan tourist spot, with lovely cobbled streets and a nice river flowing through, with lots of gold fish fighting the currents. From here we travelled down to Jinghong, further south, which is where we are now. It's an Ok city, our initial impression was poor as the staff in our hotel must have went to training school in Mosocw!! But last night we had Thai food for 4pounds, beer is 50p and we met a great lady in Meimei's café who has given us great advice on where to go and what to do.
To give you an idea of the size of China, we've travelled south for over 14hours on buses and still have another 4 to go before we enter Laos……that's tomorrows adventure!