The road of a traveler is one of adventure, experiences, new faces, old faces and enough food to last months, and Yunnan is able to offer all this and more.
From the bright lights of Shenzhen to the tranquility and rich heritage offered by Yunnan, it is no wonder it is on the World Heritage List. It is always a pity that the camera is unable to capture what the naked eye is able to see. Pictures do this region no justice; the word breathtaking is not adequate to describe the province of Yunnan. An attempt has been made to guide an adventurous traveler to some of the amazing spots in Yunnan…and so let the trip begin.
There is an option to take the often cheaper flight from Shenzhen, where the plane will land at a small spot called Beihai Fucheng Airport, where you get off for an hour before getting back on a plane to Lijiang. Fortunately, the Lijiang Airport has a bus that takes you into the Lijiang city center. The bus to the Tiger Leaping Gorge is just two blocks away from where the airport bus drops you off. You might need to ask the driver where to get off as the stop for the gorge is not clearly marked. Upon arriving at the bus stop, it is a short walk to the ticket office (all students receive a discount, so milk this while you still can!). It is a 10 km hike to the second hostel in the Tiger Leaping Gorge. It’s the best rated one, and for a good reason. The host welcomes guests with a cup of hot mint tea and the menu. The menu has not only Chinese but Western dishes, much to the delight of all visitors. With electric blankets for the cold nights, it is still advisable to pack a warm sweater. The Mama Naxi hostel offers views of the Jade Snow Mountains in the distance and is nestled in a small rice farming village. With chickens, cattle and other livestock roaming and feeding around the village, it has a sense of tranquility, much needed after spending days in the bustling city of Shenzhen.
What lies ahead is probably the most challenging yet fulfilling hike of your life with breathtaking views of not only the mountain you are on but of snow peaks in the distance. 19 kilometers, 8 hours, two waterfalls and “28 bends” later, the final leg of the hike can be reached at Tina’s where a shuttle leaves at 3:30 pm to head back to the city of Lijiang. One would be amazed at what the human body is capable of achieving when pushed by ideas of views only a hiker is given the privilege to see after a long and often treacherous walk up steeps one does not expect. The “28 bends” is the most challenging section of the hike up to the highest section of the trail and is not to be missed.
Xiluxiaoxie Inn in the Old Town of Lijiang has the greatest service. They even offer to fetch your bags at the South gate of the Old Town upon request and the helpful staff are happy to suggest greats spots to explore such as the V.Sherry Restaurant, where supper can be had while in the Old Town.
After all the physical hardship from the hike, a lazy morning is recommended, with breakfast at N’s (also in the Old Town). N’s is rated the best breakfast place by past travelers with their amazing English breakfast or brunch served with a steaming cup of tea, coffee or freshly made fruit juice and homemade bread. If you are lucky, you will make it for the local traditional dancing in the square of the Old Town. There are ample stores to raid for small gifts for not only friends and family, but for yourself as well. Just outside the Old Town, there is a park one can visit to enjoy the nature the town has to offer and catch the last glimpse of the Snow Mountains in the distance, perhaps even have a picnic or relax under some tree shade. For great sun downers after walking around the town, one can have drinks at the highest point of the town, Lion Hill, where the view of the whole town can be seen as the sky turns crimson. The local food market in the old town is a great way to end the day with some good old Chinese cuisine. Xiluxiaoxie Inn then offers tired travelers an array of movie options to enjoy in the rooms, which is exactly what is needed to nurse aching feet and bodies after a day of exploring.
An early start is needed as the train from Lijiang to Dali takes about two hours. For the full experience, avoid taking a cab and take a tuk-tuk to the Old Town of Dali from the train station (both modes of transport are priced the same). Gogo Cafe inside the Old Town is an ideal spot to get breakfast and is just a short 10 minute walk from the Jade Emu International Boutique Hotel. An interesting sight just 1.5km away from the hotel is called the Three Pagodas. A short tuk-tuk ride can be taken back to the Old Town, where a classical Dali fresh produce market can be experienced. No words can describe what will be seen, maybe touched, let alone stepped on. One can walk around the whole Old Town within a few hours, with little stores to enjoy similar to those found in Dali.
For a touch of some German food made with love, head to Bakery 88 on Yu’er road in the Old Town, for breakfast and in fact any other meal. They will not disappoint you. Jade Emu offers a whole day tour around the lake of Dali, something worth exploring, ranging from a market tour to a traditional batik museum to beautiful views of the lake and an old general’s home. One cannot be in China and not take the night train. The night train from Dali to Kunming is a must.
The Lost Garden, a little piece of heaven in Kunming, is a great place for having breakfast as the day awaits you. A metro bus can be taken to the bus station before catching another bus to the Stone Forest, which is the highlight of spending time in Kunming. The Stone Forest is the perfect place to end the trip, with grass for picnics and plenty of routes to explore. They have it all figured out with an airport shuttle to the airport in Kunming, which in turn has a direct flight back to Shenzhen. With adventurous travel buddies, all this and more is possible.
Reported by Realeboga Maboe
Edited by Megan Mancenido