I would have liked to create a Fuyuan Town page, but it does not turn up on a VT search. So I will suggest it here as an Off the Beaten Path tip. In short, Fuyuan is a beautiful valley town surrounded by mountains on all sides with many pines nearby. Although the surrounding areas are all farmland, mining and timber areas, the city itself is bustling. Many new, comfortable and reasonably priced hotels have sprung up.
There is a "fake" temple being built (March 2007) on a hilltop. You can't miss it. I say it's fake because what they are putting up is something that never existed before, but on the hillside are parts of the original temple and burial site. The temple is worth a vist anyway (the perch gives good view of the town), but be careful some taxi drivers will try to charge quite a bit to drive up the steep hill (you can walk up though on the steps).
When you travel in China, in places like Yunnan, you can see children like this. This boy was with his mates playing in the street with a couple car tires. They were just having a good old time the way kids anywhere in the world, in a real boy way. Not video games. Not TV. No manufactured toys. No playstations out here. No DVDs being sold form cardboard fruit boxes. Just out in his little neighborhood having fun.
You sometimes have to go to places like Yunnan, outside the big cities, to see children just being children in the traditional way.
At the halfway point (end of your first day's hike), if your are legs are up for it, there's the descent down the cliff face to the river itself. It was built by Zhang, a primary school teacher who charges RMB 10 each way for the three-hour round trip, but you can opt out of the return leg. It's a sandy, slippery path which heads recklessly down a steep and dangerous cliff to the whitewater below. The Yangzi boils through the gorge at incredible speed, slamming into huge rocks and forming whirlpools and eddies that make the surface churn..
Da Nuo Hei is a small minority town to the east and south of Kunming and Shilin (the Stone Forest). It is one of many such hilltowns (there are also valley towns). Tourists almost never venture inside, which is precisely the right reason to drop in and say hello. Most of the people were unphased/indifference about my appearance in their village. Even the children didn't care. That made it great to just walk around and look at the scense: old women making woodchips, women washing their clothes in the lake, men attending to livestock, etc.
Many of the women were wearing traiditional clothing. I took some pictures of the people there; let me know if you'd like to see them! :)
There is a HUGE cave along the Nan Pan River in southeast Yunnan. You can see it from the big red bridge near the #2 power station. You have to walk up the hill. The mouth of the cave is absolutely huge, and if you go inside with a torch you will discover that it is very deep and wide inside as well.
For now, this cave is not on the tourist circuit, and you won't find it in lonely planet or even a Chinese language guidebook. Some local tourists do visit. They are building a road and more power stations along the river. One of the construction workers told me that in 5 years time (i.e. 2011) the area will be developed and touristed, so maybe by then this cave will have green neon lights and guides pointing out the rock formations of Chinese animals on the ceilings. For now, it is peaceful an cool inside.
One bad thing to see was that during my trip inside 5 guys were coming out. Each of them were holding 2-3 stalagcites which they had ripped/broken from the top of the caves. I noticed that many staglacities had been removed from the cave, and you have to go deep inside to see any at all. It's a shame, but nothwithstanding this, the cave is still absolutely marvaleous. It's fun to rely on your own torch to see where you're going, and to be the only person in the cave!
Culture Factor: **
Oooh Factor: **
Constantly changing up and down road from the "Kunming level" (1900m) down to the lower river level(750m) and back up to the Puzhehei karst limestone features (1400m) then up to the hilltop societies in the limestone mountains, a spectacular down-and-up (from 2050m to 970m in 12 km, then winding back up to the plateau again) at the western end. The cultural aspect is the numerous ethnic minorities along the route: Buyi near Luoping, Zhuang along the next 50km plus many Miao (Hmong) and Hui then the Yi of the Puzhehei plain, and finally the Miao in very large numbers. The hilltop market town of Lijiao, west of Puzhehei has an enormous Tuesday market....Miao and Yi in full regalia, vegetables, clothing, agricultural commodities, horses and carts everywhere, buffalo, chickens, pigs and ducks on sale, food stall, mens loafers in 400 loafer styles, men shoeing horses, women selling bananas at one kuai 50 a kilo. (I bought a horseshoe as a lucky souvenir. 10,000 Miao people now believe that Europeans breed one-legged horses). This is the road trip that stays with you for ever.
With the minorities and the different landscapes comes different architectural styles every 50km.
The views are also incomparable, with many "let's not drive this close to the edge of the road without contacting Air Traffic Control first" moments, and at least one drawn out holding of breath while eyes are closed (me, not the driver); this was for a point where the road crossed a recent landslide above a 150m sheer drop.
The total distance is about 300 km ( I need to check on a good map..I only finished the trip late this afternoon). It took 7 hours to do the Luoping to Puzhehei part because of road-building and 3 hours for the Puzhehei to Xiangbian part. Note that one of the best parts of this route is the ascent of the gorges to the north of Xiangbian on the way back to Kunming, but I haven't translated the town names on the map yet.
Because Yunnan is fed by many rivers and favourable rainfall, the soil here is very fertile which gives rise to many species of flora growing in the forests, plus good agricultural yields.
If possible, do stop along the journey and admire the beautiful countryside of Yunnan. Despite the mountainous terrain, people have managed to get agriculture going in Yunnan.
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