When I first heard of this lake, I imagine a quite lake in the woods where the water is so clear and still you can see the reflections of mountatins surrounding it. Perhaps sitting on the bank and reading a book could be a great thing to do.
Hah ! All wrong !!! This is basically a pool of water surrounded by concretes: concrete banks, cement railings, and concrete buildings and sealed roads. This is a lake in the middle of the city with a circumferance of about 2KM.
There is nothing fantatic about the lake itself really. But there is one thing interesting about the people who visit the site. You see how the Yunnannese live if you come here at 8:30am or 5pm.
In various corners of the lake, different interest groups are busy with:
1) practising cha-cha, tango, waltz, tap-tap dance with a mini-stereo blaring away chinese music with cha-cha rhythm etc.
2) chinese dance. It can be fan-dance, silk-band dance (sorry about the translation), or the click-click dance where the dancer holds a pair of little plates in each hand to produce the click-click noise.
3) practising kungfu: be it tai-ji (the slow-motion kungfu) or some kungfu which makes use of the sword.
4) chinese opera. This is the most interesting. You see the musicians and their instruments as well as the actor/actress very serious going about their their performance.
There are only two things worth seeing:
1) how a man could write a couplet of 108 words long (usually the length of a couplet is about 14 words, 7 on each side of the main entrance) and,
2) sail the boat to the middle of Dianchi (the largest lake in Yunnan), to have a good look at the Western Hill. The locals say Western Hill(s) have a shape of a sleeping beauty, with the head on the left right to the breast and stomach and legs on the far right.
Can you see that ?
Also the boat trip allows one to witness how the lake is polluted by algae, to the point where although there is a lot of water in this huge lake, Kunming experiences household water shortage almost every year.
Admission ticket : 10 yuan.
Boat ride : get those "sampan", about RMB 20 per boat for an hour ride. You may want to row the boat yourself if you fancy.
As a western traveller, you may think this place is defaced by all those calligraphy by famous people inscribed onto the rocks. But the Chinese take pictures in front of them to make sure all their friends back home know they have been to the Stone Forest.
The entrance ticket is quite expensive at RMB80 per person. Take your time exploring this place which is very large, and usually tour groups only visit part of it where some rocks resembles some historical or mystical figures.
It's interesting to see on many rocks some marks of sea creatures. It is said that the whole place was immersed in the ocean millions of years ago, and hence the fossils.
But after a while, you may get tired of rocks rocks and more rocks.
The province is governed by the minorities of Yi. They address a lady as "A-Shi-Ma", and from the little "wings" on their headdress, you can tell if one is single (both wings), engaged (one wing), or married (wingless).
Men are called "A-Bai-Ge" or "A-Hei-Ge". A-Bai-Ge is a bit derogatory as it refers to playboys. The other one is a hard-working honest man.
This place gives an idea on how the minority races in yunnan live their lives. You can to view samples of their houses, their dances, their wares etc.
Admission is expensive at RMB 80. But currently (June 2004) there is a promotion: you can get an annual pass of just RMB 50, provided you are a student or a worker (with the necessary permits). So travellers, you still have to pay that RMB 80.
This is where you can have a look at all the ethnic arts and crafts, and the birds and fish and flowers of course.
Enjoy your day !
And pizza de Rocco (a brilliant Italian restaurant) is nestled off this street.
Just walk around the city with no certain aim, you will find little streets with stalls where different types of fungus or small souvenirs are being sold. We came across a small market street with vegetables, fish, meat and even brains in a plastic bowl! Very authentic!
This is definitely the must-see no. 1 around Kunming! We booked a tour at the Camellia Hotel (it was an all-Chinese tour) and were being picked up at our hotel. The stone forest is 120 km from Kunming, but it took us a long time to get there as we stopped at several jewellery shops and the bamboo temple. Of course the shops are tourist traps, but it is nevertheless interesting to watch the people, and as no one speaks English you are not bothered by eager shop sellers. When being at the stone forest, don´t take a local guide, it can be rewarding to get lost as you will discover paths high between the peaks and down to caves where you won`t meet anyone else.
Entrance fee is 80 Yuan, for students with international student identiy card 55 Yuan.
This is an excellent way to see the other side of the Hill.
When you get to the stop where the passengers vans end, you will find two cable car stations. One runs the proper enclosed cars the ferry passengers to the Minorities Park downhill beside the lake.
The other station have ski lifts that take passengers to the top of the Hill, where the Dragon's Back Door is (Long2 Hou4 Men2).
Take that one. The view - magnificent (imagine tree top slow surf) on a clear day. You can also see a mini stone forest there.
Then at the top, take your time coming down. It is a relaxing way to "track" Western Hills. No sweat.
Fare: RMB 15 per person. Insurance (optional): RM2.
In the ancient city of Kunming stand two ancient pagodas, one in the east and the other in the west. West Pagoda used to be located in the now nonexistent Huiguang Temple. The temple used to be called West Temple, so the pagoda was named West Temple Pagoda. Now only the pagoda remains. They were built between 824 and 859 in the Tang Dynasty. The square, thirteen-storey, rnulti-eave pagoda is some thirty-six meters high. Its interior is hollow, with wooden flooring and a staircase. The bricks of the pagoda are inscribed with Buddhist scriptures and incantations in Chinese and Sanskrit and the stamps of brickmakers
The local artist will paint a picture using your name in 5 min flat if you can provide your name in chinese characters.
Objects drawns are all auspicious stuff like :
1) bamboo (chinese idiom - bamboo brings peace)
2) phoenix (an auspicious mystic animal)
3) dragon (another auspicious mystic animal)
Cost: RMB 2 per painting.
One artist we met sang auspicious phrases for the objects he painted as he went along, like a monk chanting.
About 120 km south-east of Kunming. Take one of the mini buses from Kunming's long distance bus station for RMB 15 (one way). Ride takes approximately an hour++, but be prepared for detours to tourist traps cum toilet stops and temples, whilst putting up with rude & obnoxious bus drivers, and people who argue a lot :).
Entry Fee to Stone Forest = RMB 80 (rip-off in my opinion).
Rating = 3.5 out of 5
Located west of Kunming about 15 km out. To get there take Public Bus No 5 to Liangjiahe terminal and then from there change to Bus No 6, which will take you to the foot of the hills. Cost RMB 1 + RMB 2. From there you can grab the minibus up to the Tomb of Nie Er (RMB 4) if you don't fancy a long hike up i.e. 1.5 hrs :) Continue up by cable car for RMB 15. (one way)
Main feature is the Dragon Gate (Longmen Cun). Getting into the Dragon Gate and hill area will cost you another RMB 20.
An over-rated site.
Wow Factor = 2.5 out of 5
Located at the foot of Western Hills. Nice for a scenic tour or hiking. Best of all it's free. To get there, take Bus No 44 from Kunming's main train station or alternatively take the cable car down from Western Hill for RMB 30 (steep). Watch out for kite fliers who try their best to decapitate you, pesky seagull's poop, and old people who try to sell you bread.
Fun Factor = 2.5 out of 5
This place is about 15 KM to the north of Kunming. It covers a big area of huge trees, and other planted shrubs. Taking a walk on a sunny day will be nice.
Entrance ticket = RMB10.
In winter (2003), the plum blossom garden comes into full bloom, and it smells awesome. I was so accustomed to seeing plastic plum blossom it was an eye-opener to see a real one.
Other times, you can take a look at this interesting pair of pools connected by a narrow waterway. One pool is deep, the other shallow. The water is murky in one pool and clear in the other, like they don't mix.
There are also several ancient taoist temples scattered on the slope on one side of the park.
Built in the Ming Dynasty, it was originally a school founded by a Ming court official by the name of "Shi1 Shi2 Qiao".
Then in year 1634, his great grandson "Shi1 Sun1 Tai4" donated the building to the buddhists and had it converted to become a monastery.
This place is famous for a very old tree (broad-leaved epiphyllum), and hence the name. This plant is said to bloom only once in 10 years.
The park is huge, and squirrels run about.