CHINA Spring 2012
|This is a gate... most of our internal flights started and ended with a bus taking us from the terminal to a walk-up stair somewhere out on the tarmac. Sometimes the bus would stop mid-way from the aircraft to pick up another flight-load (making for a very crowded bus) or to confusingly drop off some passengers in an out-of-the-way holding room. Instructions were given in megaphone Chinese, so we usually didn't get the message.
|Kunming (Spring City) has two airports... we arrived at the "in town" one, which was an easy taxi (and, as we later found out, city bus) ride to our hostel. Kunming is far more open and less high-rise than Hong Kong, with pleasant temperature and climate. It's the capital of Yunnan province. Yunnan is highly ethnically diverse, in part due to its proximity to the surrounding southeast Asian countries.
The Lost Garden Guesthouse (which we highly recommend) was tucked away on a back alley from a small side street that it took the taxi driver two passes (and a U turn) to find. The Samoyed served as reassurance that we'd found it.
The Lost Garden staff and ambience made our transition to "real" China easy. The afternoon staff spoke English well and was quite informed about where things were, bus routes etc. The morning staff was very helpful but not as fluent so detailed questions were saved for afternoon.
|The Lost Garden had a number of unexpected features... such as this delightful rooftop dining area.
|Two blocks away from the Lost Garden is Kunming's Green Lake park... a vaguely circular lake with numerous islands connected by walkways and bridges.
|We'd usually enter Green Lake through the South Gate
|Once in the park, there are various water-based activities to enjoy... boat and paddle-boat rental, plus thousands of black-beaked seagulls willing to be fed (vendors were selling loaves of bread for this purpose). It was always a nice respite from the surrounding city.
|Every morning there would be groups of people exercising... Tai Chi, slow fan dancing, ballroom dancing and other leader-assisted movement.
|In the evenings the pavilions would be outlined in lights
|Daytime revealed the fanciful relief sculpting of the pavilions and gates, with complex karst examples serving as natural wonders
|It was always a pleasure to just wander through the park as we'd start our day.
|The cities we hit all swarmed with motorcycles... and a high percentage of them were electric powered. This is only one, but we'd often find sidewalks filled with scooters "plugged in" to recharge their batteries.
|Here is rush hour...motorized instead of the throngs of bicycles in older pictures of China. In some areas there were motorcycle lanes, but that didn't prevent them from also driving down (or up) the sidewalks, too. Electric motors are quiet so they sneak up on you. We got to be good at looking behind.
|The cities we visited were not drab "soviet era" architecture... Chinese motif both as restoration (or copying) of the old, as well as similar themes in the new construction made everything visually interesting.
|Throughout the cities the store names were a continuous amusement. Some may have been direct translations, whereas others seemed to be erratic conjunctions of unexpected names.
|Two ornate gates stand in the center of Kunming... they were destroyed during the Cultural Revolution and rebuilt in 1999. This is the "Gold Horse" gate.
|Only a block away from the modern busy streets lies "older" Kunming. There is very little of this left. Street markets pop up here on some evenings
Again, we sought out the zoo (like Seattle, it's close to Green Lake).
Note the simple bamboo broom. Every park had people sweeping the sidewalks, usually with these bamboo brooms.
|The zoos we found were of the "old" style... animals in fairly bleak surroundings.
|The zoos and parks had ponds... and where there were ponds, there were Koi waiting for you to feed them.
|Looking down into the Yuantong Buddist Temple grounds. Built during the late 8th century and restored from the Qing dynasty onward, it survived the Cultural Revolution in part by being so far from Beijing.
|A typical lunch spot... choose your skewer or delicacy, and it's cooked to order. Karen's food sensitivities meant that we couldn't indulge this way.
|Crammed behind an active street market was this suprising wall. Kunming had at least 3 WalMarts, some of which had decent hot local food kitchens.
|Remember Hong Kong's bamboo scaffolding? Sometimes you just had to work without such luxuries.
|Another temple's ornate gate with spiralling dragon pillars
|Yunnan Province has been the site of a number of dinosaur fossil finds, so they're celebrated in this street sculpture.
|Dragons were everywhere... here's one at an ehtnic costume shop (on the right... is the shop on the left "non-ethnic"?)
|Another hallmark of the Kunming area are their fine cured ham products... so gift packs of vacuum-sealed hunks of pig were quite common in the shops.
|Likewise tea from the Pu'er district is highly rated. The grey pillar in the rear is a stack of pressed tea "cakes". The dried tea sells for about US$2.50 per ounce, so those cakes can be worth many hundreds of dollars.
|Another symbol of Kunming are three pagodas in the center of the old town. Two face each other a couple of blocks apart.
|Here's the second, seen down the pedestrian (and motor scooter) street that joins them. The street is lined with restaurants and comes alive at night. The bronze statue celebrates the tea industry's old tradition of pack horses bringing the tea from the mountainous growing regions to the buyers in the cities.
|The Panlong river runs north to south through the center of Kunming.
|There's a motorcycle (probably electric) under that stack of cardboard heading off for recycling. Throughout our travel we saw hundreds of people involved in recycling almost everything. Old women would stop and ask for our water bottles as soon as we emptied them. They were not begging for coins, but wanting to recycle the bottles for us.
|Not all building ornamentation could be described as "traditional Chinese"
|...and not all traditional Chinese motifs served "traditional" purposes
|One day we explored reaching the airport by bus... but boarded it going the wrong way. It ended at Grand View (Daguan) Park on the side of Lake Dian on the southwest of the city. Greeting us was a dragon in the shape of "2012" (year of the Dragon)... formed almost completely out of umbrellas.
|Daguan Park was huge... the square pond was the size of Green Lake near our Guesthouse, with a full-blown amusement park along the edge of the right-hand green area of this map. The square island was full of pavilions and food vendors
|The square lake offered boat rentals... some in the shapes of cars and ducks.
|The walkways were lined with blossoming cherry trees.
|A small fraction of the amusement park rides
|The square island's ornate and shady pavilion complex.
Then we went to the northeast corner of the city, which was the site of a World Expo in 1999. Since then it has become the "World Horticultural Park"... with the inital walkways a sea of poppies. The sails and hull of the square-rigger in the distance are also completely made of flowers.
|Tiers of buildings house meeting rooms and provincial displays.
|Throughout the park were ethnic-costumed personnel, willing to have their picture taken if paid. In the forecourt of the main building was a dance troupe being filmed.
|High above us were kites flying...
|...with the owners controlling them with large spools for their lines. They're standing near concrete recreations of the Stone Forest karst formations, with example petroglyphs.
|The kites above the Horticultural Park's main plaza, with its conservatory.
|The conservatory had towering tropical trees and foliage...
|...and the requisite regimented cactii...
|The park's swooping theme sculpture, with Kunming's skyline beyond.
|On the way home we passed through a quieter local park.
|After 5 days in Kunming, it was time to fly south to Jinghong. But the next page is going to take you out on a "day trip" from the middle of our Kunming episode, to the Stone Forest.
|Hong Kong (again)
all text and images copyright Karen and Dick Seymour 2012,
and may not be reproduced without written permission
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