Yes, it is incredibly touristy. But walk away from the tourists, don't take a guide and find your own path. You would be surprised how big the forest is and a mere 500 metres from the tourist spots, there is nobody. No noise, no tourists, just you and the forest. Meander away but remember your tracks!
Even within the the main tourist spots just go deeper into the stones, the tracks get really rough at some points and you need to be careful but its where the crowds don't go
We went to this Moslem restaurant, where the owner tried to shoo us away because he didn't have an English menu! But we stayed on the steps till they accepted us in. And our preseverance paid off. Very nice food.. unless you know a smatter of mandarin you may have to order dishes by the meat name (chicken, duck, fish) or point to something interesting at someone else's table. Bit of a food adventure but totally worth it.
Where: From New Era Hotel entrance keep walking straight, go beyond the photo shops, and its one of the restaurants on the left hand side. All the waiters wear traditional Muslim caps. You can't miss it
Take a walk around 8-9 pm in the evening inside the Green lake (2nd entrance) premises. You will find a whole host of Chinese musicians and dancers formed in little groups singing and dancing away. There was a solo woman just singing and dancing by herself. Very friendly folk who try their best to talk to you, despite your horribly accented or non-existent Mandarin. Please take your translation book along!
Again, not many people know this but Yunnan is the homeland of Dinosaurs in China. The
first complete dinosaur skeleton in China was unearthed over here in 1938 and since then, more than 100 complete dinosaur skeletons have been found and more are being discovered all the time.
Sadly, the dinosaur displays over here are not publicised in tourist literature. And due to a lack of funding, these majestic bones are left to languish in dark and danky museums in the city. While I paid over $10 to see the very same Yunnanese dinosaurs in HK, I saw them for free in KunMing.
Where: Kunming City Museum
This is a little known fact but during World War II, Kunming Wujiaba Airport actually accomomdated the legendary "Flying Tiger" squadron led by U.S. Air Force Lieutenant Claire Lee Chennault. If you pop down to the hip drinking joint (The Hump over the Himalayas) you can see pictures of the locals toiling to level the fields for the planes to land on .
If you intend to spend a long day in the Stone Forest, you can slowly make your way to the 10,000 yr old lingzhi rock. Along the way, you will come across farms and old tracks. It's definitely worth it!
The Western Hills, about 15 km from Kunming city, lie along the western shore of Dianchi Lake. It stretches from north to south for about 40 km. the Western Hills is a forested and lovely park which is perfect for hiking. Some of the major sites include: Huating Temple (Huating Si), an ancient Buddhist temple that was originally a retreat for the local ruler; Taihua Temple (Taihua Si), with its charming orchard courtyard; Sanqing Pavilion (Sanqingge), a Daoist temple dedicated to that religion's three major deities; and Dragon Gate (Longmen), a collection of Daoist caves and sculptures.
We recommend taking at least half a day to climb the Hills and explore the various sites along the way.
The Western Hills Park is located 16km southwest of Kunming city on the shores of Dianchi Lake. Bus No. 51 and No.6 both reach the the park. A taxi costs around RMB50 and takes 40 minutes from the city center. There is a cable car linking the Dragon gate and the Yunnan Nationalities Village. Two way tickets cost RMB60 and a one way ticket costs RMB40.
Huating Temple (Huating Si) -- Built in the 11th century, it used to be a county temple of the Nanzhao Kingdom. Rebuilt in 14th century, it continued to grow and later became the largest Buddhist complex in Kunming. The main temple contains a trinity of gilded lacquer Buddhas seated on lotus thrones. It is characterized by blue hair, august gesture and sumptuous setting. Comparing with the serious Buddha, the 500 luohan on the sidewalls, similar to those in the Bamboo Temple, then appear frivolous and easygoing.
There is no place called “old Kunming”, only scattered small streets to discover by yourself. If you walk around, East and South of Green Lake Park, try the narrow paths bordered by small houses used as workshops for craftsmen.
I do not know how long these houses will survive, it does not look like there is any will of preserving this memory of the past history of the city.
It has been destroyed but if there are still a few restaurants opened, taste the nice meals there. Maybe it will be too late, this old street is diing. Take the last chance to feel is atmosphere.
The ancient city of Lijiang was built in Song Dynasty, 800 hundred years from now. The town centre was surrounded by streets built by colourful marbles, making them dirt and dust free. Nearby Lijiang River is the Luku Lake, 2700 metres above sea level, where the matriarchal Moso tribe resides. The isolated and natural environment embraces the Moso tradition of no marriage.
Home to the ethnic group Bai, the region covers more than 30,000 square kilometres. It is renowned for its majestic mountain ranges and beautiful winding rivers. The nineteen peaks of the Cang Mountain range stretch across 10 miles; the three islands in Erhai Lake stand out from its pure and nurturing water.
The Zhongdian County was renamed Shangri-La in early 2002. Surrounded by Yunnan, Sichuan and Tibet, it is the highest point in Yunnan Province. It is a place of natural beauty with mineral lakes and snow-capped mountains. One can see easily see why it is deserving of the name "Shangri-La" from the English novel "The Lost Horizon".
This area is to the north of Kunming. Takes about 45 minutes. You probably need a car, otherwise take the minibus in Fu4 Min2's direction.
Once you pass the tunnel, the landscape suddenly changes to country Yunnan. The air is a lot fresher, and you see veg gardens, and hills one after another, on both sides of the road.
It's a pleasure to just drive along. Stop anywhere, and you can go hiking. There are people living up the hills I heard.
Built in the Yuan dynastry (1300's to 1400's), I was thrilled to see it. The horses trotted on the stone slabs all the way, over many hills and mountains before they get to Beijing. Apparently in the Qing Dynasty, the copper needed to make the coins came from Yunnan. So imagine it being transported on this road all the way to the capital.
This was in the compound of a resort. Kunmingnites love to spend their weekends here. The compound includes a small hill, plenty of fruit trees (yang mei especially), so people can do a little walking and fruit picking (when in season).
The facilities include a swimming pool, pingpong tables, basketball courts etc, two restaurants, and a cafe for the lovers of card games.
Kunmingnites love to play cards. A pot of tea, titbits and cards. That's all they need for the whole afternoon.
This place is about 45 min away from the city. You go through a tunnel and everything changes to the country scenery. This is amazing.
It's called Ming2 Xi1 Yuan1 holiday resort.
Kunming has undergone a major cosmetic surgery since just before the World Expo '99. High rise buildings keep appearing, and the older buildings are being demolished.
Old Kunming streets are lined with double-story shophouses. The groudfloors are built from bricks while the 1st floors are built from timber/wood, with tile roofs serving as the covers. The roofs allow grass to grow, and need to be cleared each winter, or so I understand from a local.
So catch a sight of them before they disappear completely.