Tag Archives: Kunming

Kunming, China to the Laotian Border

3/23 – Today is our last day in China, and we have some errands to run.  Most important, Jim has to find some more Lipitor.  We’ve had no trouble refilling his prescription in Europe, Türkiye, and the former Soviet countries, but this medicine is prohibitively expensive in China.  Jim’s research indicates that cholesterol medicine is not something widely prescribed here.  After trying several pharmacies, we walked into a hospital and tried the pharmacy there.  They had the generic equivalent of Zocor, a similar drug, so we purchased a month’s worth, standing on three different lines to get registered in the system, pay up front, then collect the pills.  Bureaucracy aside, we probably got them faster then waiting for a pickup at Walgreens, and without a word of language…

We ate lunch, packed up and left our hotel by 3pm, to take the Metro to the South Coach Station for our bus to Laos.  The Metro is brand-sparkly new, with attendants to help you purchase tickets from automated machines, and attendants to help you board the train. This photo courtesy of Google. image
You wait for your train behind a wall with sliding glass doors that don’t open until the train arrives, so no one can accidentally fall onto the tracks. image
The stations are announced both in Chinese and English.  The cars weren’t packed full.  It was a great experience!
Kunming recently built four bus stations located at the four compass points of the city, to spread out the traffic jams that used to occur at the central bus station. If you are traveling south, your bus leaves from the South station. So logical!  Here is Jim waiting for our bus to arrive.image

We boarded our overnight sleeper bus at 6pm for the 400 mile, 24 hour trip south across the Chinese border at Mohan to Luang Prabang, Laos. Some of the buses looked new and posh, but ours looked like it had seen better days, and lots of mud.image

The bus has three rows of double-decker bunks running head-to-toe, and an area in the back where it looks like lots of people are just crammed together.  No toilet on board, but we understand that the bus will stop every few hours.image

Jim and I have bunks on the left aisle, so we can see out the window.  The folks in the middle aren’t so lucky.  We’ve been issued blankets and pillows covered with light blue flannel sheets featuring Snoopy (spelled Snopy – in China, close is good enough…) and Woodstock – this is going to be just like a fun sleepover!  At 5’6″, I fit comfortably in my bunk, with my feet touching the board at Jim’s head.  At 6’3″, Jim looks like a pretzel.  One of our fellow passengers pantomimed that Jim would be better off stretching out on the floor!  Before too long, the rocking of the bus lulled us to sleep.
3/24 – at 2am, the bus stopped, and stayed stopped until 5am.  What’s the use of an all night bus if it’s not going to drive all night?  We’ll never know.  Today is Jim’s birthday.  He said there is no way he would rather spend his day…
At 10am we reached the border at Mohan, and officially left China, then walked up to the golden stupa that welcomed us to Laos.


This epic saga continues in the next post!

Kunming – the Golden Temple

3/22 – So far, we have visited several Buddhist temples.  Today we are going to a Taoist temple, on the outskirts of the city, a half hour’s taxi ride away.

The Golden Temple is located at the top of Singing Phoenix Hill, and is home of the Taoist Hall of Supreme Harmony.  It was originally built in 1602, and has been moved and rebuilt several times.  In the late 1800s, it was rebuilt using 250 tons of bronze, which shines like gold, hence the name Golden Temple.
The temple is at the top of the hill, and is reached by climbing a series of marble staircases.  Up, up, and up some more!  There’s a lift that looks like a roller coaster car for those who don’t wish to tackle all the steps.  Lots of souvenir and snack stands, and one very photogenic camel, who turned to face whoever wanted to snap a picture of him (her?).IMG_8243 

The hill is famous for its camellia and azalea gardens, and we got to see the last of the Japonicas in bloom.


Also, a lovely arbor of lilacs.image

Some folks practiced their music, while others listened.image

There were tranquil ponds, and a statue of Kwan Yin, Goddess of Mercy.imageimage

We climbed the bell tower, where folks queued up to ring the bell for luck.image

From the tower, we looked out over the smoggy city.imageimage

The main temple featured a bronze statue of Taoist hero God Zishi.image

Not sure who this guy is…image

A peaceful, lovely day.image


Kunming – Golden Horse, Jade Rooster, Green Lake

3/19 – Today we ventured out to find some sights that looked to be within walking distance from our hotel.  Remember when we used to walk everywhere?  Since we’ve been in China we’ve been forced to take taxis due to the hugeness of the cities, our inability to read the street signs, and the lack of Google Maps on my phone.  It’s a beautiful spring day – remember, Kunming is the city where it’s always spring- and it was nice to walk for a change.

Our first goal was the Golden Horse and Jade Rooster Arches, which are the symbol of Kunming.  Over 400 years old, they stand side by side, representing the center of the old city.   The Golden Horse is in the foreground, and the Jade Rooster is beyond.

The arches are now surrounded by upscale stores and souvenir shops.   This shop sells compressed wheels of tea. Yes, that is a mountain of tea in the foreground.IMG_8203


Lots of pretty flowers.image
We stopped for lunch at Dicos, a fast food seller of chicken and fish sandwiches that we have seen in several cities, but have not tried.  Jim is a master of pantomime ordering.  Chicken- thumbs up, fries- not so good.  And don’t ask for extra ketchup…


In the afternoon, we set out to find Green Lake Park, a huge park right in the center of the city.  We found a neighborhood park, with men playing checkers and women practicing their line dancing.
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Now that the weather is warm, we see many women here shading themselves with parasols, or shielding their faces and necks from the sun with face mask contraptions.  Fairness of complexion is highly prized here, and the makeup commercials tout making one’s skin lighter.image

After asking a few more times, we found Green Lake Park. It was, indeed, huge, and had at least ten groups practicing their line or circle dancing, cranking up their boom boxes to outshout one another. See the New York Times article on the Chinese government’s plans to regulate the Dancing Grannies here. http://sinosphere.blogs.nytimes.com/2015/03/24/china-seeks-to-impose-its-own-routine-on-public-dancing/?emc=edit_ee_20150325&nl=todaysheadlines&nlid=68623949&_r=1.imagePacked with people and snack stalls, we strolled around, admiring the egrets and the black swans on the lakes. A lovely afternoon.


Chengdu to Kunming, China

3/17 – There was nothing else we wanted to see in Chengdu, so we are continuing south to Kunming.  We enjoyed a leisurely morning, as our train doesn’t depart until 15:00 this afternoon. Same hotel breakfast ( I skipped the pickled cabbage and had an extra egg), and an especially good lunch of dumpling soup with leeks and chives.  Jim had a spicier dish comprised mainly of chicken skins.  

We gave ourselves an hour to complete the 10 minute ride to the train station, so, of course, circumstances conspired against us. Background:  hotels in China ask for a cash deposit when you check in, then send a maid up to inventory the room when you check out, to make sure you haven’t stolen anything.  Some hotels have items for sale in the room – razors, decks of cards, cans of soda, beer, and snacks – clearly marked.  Most hotels provide an electric kettle and teacups, bottled water and a variety of tea, gratis.  When we tried to check out of this hotel, we were presented a bill for 40 yuan for the sundries we had used – the tea, the tissues, the bottled water, and what we thought was a complimentary toothbrush.  After almost a month in China, this is the first time we have encountered this.  They also claimed we stole a towel, which others online had reported was a common ploy to extract more money from tourists here.  I shouted and waved my good arm around, gave back the toothbrush and got the damage reduced to 15 yuan ($2.42), but it cost us 15 minutes in the lobby.
We hustled down to the main road, (Jim still lugging both our packs) but had a hard time getting a taxi to stop, and when we finally did, the traffic was bumper-to-bumper all the way to the train station.  Passing through Security, I got pulled over because my passport number was not correct on the train ticket.  The young woman showed me the discrepancy and I just shrugged.  I didn’t type up the ticket – I didn’t even know they were putting our passport numbers on there!  We had to march over to the supervisor, who examined my passport and Chinese visa very carefully and then let us through.  We got to our gate just as our train was being called. Whew!
So now we are on the overnight sleeper to Kunming, in our comfy lower bunks of a soft sleeper with a door that closes, fresh linens (I presume), and a young man and a young woman texting away on their mobiles on the berths above.  The afternoon is warm (mid 70s) and we can actually see the sun as we leave the city.  Here are some views out the train window.


3/18 – After a bumpy night’s sleep, we arrived in Kunming at 9 am.  The train station is huge, and we have to walk quite a way before we can find a taxi.  Kunming is called Spring City in China, as the weather is always perfect – not too hot and not too cold.  It is a favorite destination for Chinese tourists.  Although there is some smog, the sky is definitely blue!
Jim booked us at a new hotel in the center of the city, which does not appear on any of our maps.  The only clue I have is that one of the exterior pictures of the hotel on the Booking.com website shows a large golden statue of Jesus.  Can’t be too many of those in the middle of Kunming!  Sure enough, we spot the statue, and identify the tall building that must contain our hotel.  It is an insurance company building, in the middle of a construction zone, but we know our hotel is on the 8th floor.  We’re getting pretty good at sleuthing our way around without being able to read the language. 


In the afternoon we checked out the options in our neighborhood – fruit shop, plenty of noodle eateries (not big enough to be called restaurants, just a few tables) of the kind we favor, but no market, super or otherwise, which is too bad, as our hotel room has a fridge and a microwave.
We has supper at a nearby eatery that provided a delicious full meal including soup, tea, two vegetables, a meat entree and rice for 15 yuan ($2.42). The proprietor came over after observing me eating with my chopsticks in my left hand, and tried to get me to take a new pair of chopsticks with my right hand.  I thanked her, but was puzzled.  I wonder if I am offending by using my left hand – I know I would be in India, but this is the first time I’ve been approached here.  She could see the sling on my right arm – this was one of the many times a bit more knowledge of the language would have helped!