Saturday, December 16, 2006

Travelogue - Kunming

KL – Kunming, Yunnan province, 3.5 hours @ 0930 – 1230 hrs

Our tour guide are Mr Benjamin and Mr Xu. Proceed for lunch first, so many dishes, I bet food are cheap here! Woah! The restaurant is so modern! The waitress takes our menu order with PDAs!! How about that? Then I take a peek at the main computer (looks like a jukebox) where it lists all the tables, with each table’s menu orders & their prices.

Key-ing in menu orders. Their PDAs are in the sling pouch

We then check in our hotel, before proceeding to Dragon Gate Hill. Takes a bit of time to reach there as the road condition is not so good, and traffic is heavy. When we reach there, we could see the biggest lake in Kunming. It’s quite windy up here, and it’s getting cooler. I can’t help myself from happily clicking away, ignoring poor Benjamin to relay all the histories of the Dragon Gate. At least I see there are other listening to him. But anyway, the basis of their story is based on belief in monetary prosperity and long life.

Tunnel only visible via mirror

There are some Indonesian and fellow Malaysian visitors here, I can instantly recognize their slang. “Sudah capek om!” We have to climb a flight of stairs (more like Batu Caves), and being unfit, plus after all the food bingeing, what do you expect? But anyway, enjoy the aerial view.

View from top of hill

Going back to the hotel is not an enjoyable experience, as we are trapped in traffic, with people coming back to their nests. We have early dinner, at 7pm at another equally huge restaurant, and didn’t finish the food. We tell Benjamin not to order too much, it’s a shame to have wasted precious food. But Benjamin tells us, it’s their culture – they must order a lot of food, and must not finish the food. If food is finished, it means the host did not prepare enough food! Not a good sign. OK, we shall respect their culture, so we decide to tapau the excess food, since breakfast is at the hotel. Hotel food = also not a good sign. I decide to skip the hotel breakfast the next morning.


Nothing much to be done tonight. So we hit the sack early, at 9pm. Kunming people eat and go home early, there’s not much night life. They like to watch TV, particularly the dynasty drama (a plethora of channels, but only 1 in English) or play mahjiang (mahjong).

Thursday - Jiuxiang Cave
Today we head for Jiuxiang, about 90 km from Kunming city. As usual lunch first, then head to Jiuxiang scenic area – a national park. It has a breathtaking gorge, where it plunges down equivalent to 13 storeys deep! We have to take a lift to descend 13 levels.

Nice little city..background reminds one of a European city..particularly Netherlands

On the way

We take a short sampan ride. I have a hand at rowing, but again being unfit, I feel tired after a while! The serenity however got me refreshed again.

The gorge & dam

Next we excavate into the caves, well not really excavate, just walking through the walkway into the caves. I really love this! The view inside the cave is so beautiful, with the river flowing that’s an understatement! You should just view the pictures itself, or better, be here yourselves for the live experience! Now I really should make the Mulu caves trip happen! Into my “To Do List” it shall go. The stalactite and stalagmites are nature’s work of art, a product of millions of years, like crystalline jutting from the ceiling and floor of the caves.

Into the cave!

We then arrive at a huge “hall” in the cave, where I feel it could be Mars we are in here, check out the pix! They set up some stalls in here.

The hall

As we trotted along, we see terraces of water puddles; where the water flows, cascading down, like a beautiful waterfall, only the flow is calmer. The terraces reminds me of the paddy field terraces abundant in Bali and Java.

In the cave!

I jokingly impersonated Batman, saying “To the Bat Cave!!” (Pls add your own “Batman tune” for the background music, with the “Bat” symbol swirling). To our amusement, we do arrive at the Bat Cave! Seriously, I didn’t know its existence before reaching there. Anyway, it’s all the way up from here, so they have a “Sedan chair” service to transport “ascending challenged” people. Of course I decline, I can make it up there! I reckon the name changed to Batu Caves instead as the ascend up is like climbing that cave in Gombak!

To complete the caving trip, we descend again, but via cable car, the one similar to those at ski resorts, where you just sit, and take the plunge when you reach your choice slope, or oh, in simpler terms, similar to the one at good ‘ol Bukit Merah resort.

The cpaddy field like terraces and later..Into the Bat Cave! (But where's the bat mobile?)

The cave experience is rejuvenating. I should be doing more of it. I’ve been to Gua Tempurung, where it’s more challenging, as there is no made for convenient paths, and at a few points you have to crawl (Rambo style, your torso on the floor) as it’s the only way to pass through the passage. And there are bats living in there, and bat guano! Better to wear your old clothes and shoes as you’ll be discarding them off by the end of the trip. But anyway, that’s another story. I’ll keep my fingers crossed for another cave trip.

Cable car

Friday- Stone Forest

Today it’s the highlight of the tour – what Kunming is famous for – the Stone Forest. It’s about 30 minutes from the hotel. When we reach there, there’s too many people already for me in a leisure mode to tolerate. I mean too many! There are more people than the stones that we are here for to see! And these people can really smoke! They smoke like chimneys, but drink herbal tea, as evident by their tumblers they carry around.

So this spoilt a bit of my mood. Still, the scenery is great – another nature’s work of art. The stones are actually limestones, and the place was actually underwater millions of years ago. There are shell fossils to prove that. It’s true- the outcrops that we see, were underwater structures, and they actually represent current underwater structures. That’s why outcrops are studied to get a better picture of the layerings down in the water. But again, this is another story of Geological leanings, so we’ll jut leave it at that.
I speed up to minimize the time in the crowded place, and skip the lookout tower. Benjamin tells us that these people are local people, but from other provinces, coming to see the famous stone forest, as it is only available in Kunming, and nowhere else in the nation. I see, that’s why they come in busloads. That aside, the scenery is really unique, instead of trees, you find a forest thick with limestones

From the Stone Forest, we head back to Kunming city. We stop by at Colourful Yunnan on the way, where they sell souvenirs and local products. Tonight we are watching “The Peacock Show” (a ticket costs RM90), which is a musical cum dance. It tells the legend of the Peacock and the numerous indigenous people, the “Ashima” who wears colourful traditional clothes, who are mainly from the villages, and are farmers. The dance is traditional, infused with modern touches of choreographing. It does cost a bit, but then again, the production is grandiose. I try to record parts from the show (since I paid a substantial amount), but was told off by the securities. I know it’s intellectual property, (the choreography and music), but I can’t help to save the splendour in celluloid, or shall I say, memory card.

Start of Peacock Show captured..haha!

Saturday - Kunming City
We are brought around the city, the Green Lake, the compulsory silk factory, and then off to tear our wallets apart – the shopping area! I don’t plan to buy much, just browsing for something I’d fancy. We also pay a visit to the mosque, where it’s the largest Muslim community area. They are famous for their lamb satay here, yummy! Also another early night for us, there’s really not much to be done at night, shops close at 9pm.

Shopping area!

Golden Arch

Fan Dance @ Green Lake

It’s the day to go home. Last visit is to a tea factory where they have Seven Leaves tea, Pu-er tea and Monkey plucking tea. They have their own nutritional values. We have a taste of the different teas, and then make way for the airport. We resume the wallet tearing ritual at the airport for last minute souvenir purchase. I got myself some Beijing 2008 Olympics paraphernalia. The price is reasonable enough. I manage to finish all my Yuan money, so that’s good. It’s always a deficit to exchange foreign currency back to your own, when you have changed it the other way round before.

Farewell Kunming, see you again.



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