Drumbrake's Travels

My trip reports

2 Week Yunnan Trip Report

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August 2008

Thorntree report

Stayed in Kunming at Camellia Hotel for2 nights. It is a clean but basic hotel. Reception has fairly good English. There are computers to use (6 rmb for 30minutes?) and they say they will soon have wireless. Rate included breakfast which was ok. There was a large student tour group from Thailand there at the same time as us which made breakfast quite a crowded affair. First afternoon looked around Kunming and saw the East and West Pagodas. Second day, hired a taxi for 450 rmb to visit Shilin (stone forest) and Jiuxiang (waterfalls and caves). Both I think are worth it. Shilin is crowded, but by walking a little it is easy to escape the crowds, and the limestone rocks are pretty amazing. After visiting Shilin, we ate duck in a nearby restaurant – quite tasty and around 35 rmb for a small bird. Jiuxiang is also pretty amazing. I think if I had been there when studying geography at school, all the information about stalagmites and stalactites would have been much more easier to understand.

From Kunming we caught an early morning flight to Shangri La. Considering the earliness of the flight, we probably would have been better catching a sleeper bus from Kunming direct to Shangri La. This would have saved us both transport and hotel costs, as well as perhaps having a better night’s sleep. In Shangri la we stayed at Dragoncloud Guest House one night. Comfortable and clean, with electric blankets. Hot water and free wireless / computer. Breakfast was also pretty tasty. Just up the road there is a small Tibetan style restaurant with an English menu which serves pretty good food. We visited Ganden Sumtselling Gompa (caught local bus number 3 for 1 rmb) and enjoyed it. Besides that, Shangri la didn’t do much for us – the ‘oldtown’ is being re-built, although I know there are places in the outside the town worth seeing.

From Shangri la we caught the bus to Deqin 6-7 hours, and then a minibus/taxi to Feilai Si for 25rmb. The bus to Deqin is pretty tough going – you go over high passes – 4000 + metres so you feel the effects of the cold and altitude. It’s also a ‘normal’ Chinese style bus in that the driver, and other passengers are smoking, while others are being sick out of the window. Feilai Si was cool (in both senses) and cloudy (in August), but there were times of clearness when we could see the mountains. We stayed two nights at JZ Club Guest House which looks great on the website, but isn’t in reality! We ate several times in Once upon a time in Meili – good food and a nice atmosphere. We did one day trip from Feilai Si to Mingyong Glacier. We hired a minibus for 100 rmb- he took us first into town to buy a bus ticket, and then back to the glacier. The hike is about 2 hours or so up and then down again. There are horses /donkeys you can ride up, although they cause a problem as their hooves churn up the path, and their excrement mixes with the mud! If more time/better weather, we would have done an overnight to the Yubeng waterfall.

From Deqin we returned to Shangri la (7:30am bus) and then on arrival caught the next bus to Lijiang. We did consider getting a bus to Qiaotou, but looking online at weather forecasts it appeared that the next day would be rainy. We were also concerned about what kind of accommodation is available in Qiaotou. In Lijiang we first tried the International Youth Hostel but they were full. As we were tired, and it was drizzling, we chose the nearest option which was directly opposite the YHA entrance – Lishui Jinsha Kezhan – but a bad choice! 190 rmb for a double is ok, but the place is old and tired, and you can get better for less in Lijiang. The next night we moved to Lu Ming Ju , which is just around the corner from Moon Inn – 150rmb for a nicer, cleaner and overall better place. Lijiang is made for wandering and getting lost – do so and enjoy. We ate at several places – many have English menus, including ‘*Lamu’s House of Tibet*’ which didn’t seem to have a menu in Chinese! That was our most expensive meal, and not particularly good. We went to Baisha to the north of Lijiang (taxi was 30 rmb, minibus back was 10 rmb each). The frescoes were interesting, but very worn. The highlight was meeting Dr Ho (and son) of Michael Palin fame. A very friendly guy, who is still in demand for medical services – a female patient came to see him while we were talking.

From Lijiang we backtracked to Tiger Leaping Gorge, leaving most of our luggage at the guesthouse in Lijiang. We caught the 8:30am bus from the long distance bus station in Lijiang, and it left 15 minutes early as all the passengers were on board. However, about an hour or so from Lijiang, the bus hit a traffic jam on the road down to the river- it seems that all the Tiger Leaping Gorge tourist buses stop here for a small market and a toilet stop. As the road is narrow, this causes a bottleneck, and we were stuck there for around 20-30 minutes. Next, after we get across the river at the bottom of the hill, the driver’s mate (a woman) starts her selling spiel. All of the passengers on the bus are going to Tiger Leaping gorge, and most just on a day trip. She convinces some of them to transfer to small minibus (with Sean’s Spring Guest House written on the side) so as to avoid paying the admission fee. We eventually arrive at the gorge entrance in Qiaotou over 2 hours after leaving Lijiang, where we are ‘rescued’ from the touts by Margo of the Gorged Tiger Café . Margo gave us some good advice for the walk, and we had coffee and hot cheese and tomato sandwiches.

We were lucky on the first day of Tiger Leaping Gorge with sunny and warm weather. A guy with a horse followed us until the beginning of the 24 bends (3-4 hours?) incase we found our bags too heavy, or wanted to ride the horse. We had a light lunch at the Naxi guesthouse about 2 hours into the walk. The first half day up to the top of the bends is the most difficult part of the walk. Then it is down to Tea Horse Guesthouse (2 hours) where we stayed the night (double with private bath, 24 hour hot water, electric blanket). In total we paid 350 Rmb for two rooms, plus dinner and breakfast and several beers. Tea Horse is a nice friendly place to stay. Good value. When we were there, a group of gap year students on a tour also stayed – this can mean rooms can be in short supply as their guide had booked in advance, as well as there being noisy drinking until quite late at night.

The next day on the gorge we were not so lucky with the weather. We woke to low cloud and light drizzle. The rain was never very heavy, but the paths became very wet and quite slippery, and cloud often obscured the river or mountains. 90 minutes after Tea Horse we arrived at Half Way House which might also be an option to stay, and nearby to it there are some other smaller places. We continued past waterfalls until we arrived at Tina’s at lunch time. From there, we decided to go back to Lijiang – 50 rmb per person in a shared minibus – around 2 hours. Tiger Leaping gorge was good. In better weather we would have stayed another night and seen more of the gorge.

We stayed a night in Lijiang in the same guesthouse, and then the next day caught the 9am bus from the Express Bus Terminal to Lugu Lake . We had booked tickets before we went to Tiger, so had good seats. The 9 am bus then went to the Long Distance Bus Station in Lijiang where it became the 9:30am bus. So, if you are going, get on at the Long Distance Station for half an hour more in bed! The bus was supposed to take around 7 hours, but 2 landslides and an accident meant we arrived around 6pm. From Lugu there are minibuses that take you to Lige for 10 rmb in around 20 minutes.

For accommodation, Lige is basically divided into 3 parts. is in the first part and has a ‘nature reserve’ about 20 metres wide between it and the lake. Then the road continues round to a second smaller bay, and then there is a footpath to Lige island. Lige island would certainly be the quietest place to stay as there is no car traffic. In the first part, cars and vans start arriving around 8 am to take people back to catch the morning buses. although for much of the day it is almost silent. In the second bay, there are new places still being built, although there is an interesting one that is finished with rooms at 120 rmb and floor to ceiling glass windows. The upper level rooms are on two floors, and are all constructed in wood (including shower) in a traditional style. The bed is basically wooden planks with a thin covering.

The first night we stayed in a place owned by the same guy who runs ‘once upon a time in Meili’ in Feilai Si – the place in Lige is called Dong Li Hostel. We paid 50 rmb for a basic double with bathroom, hot water; ok but the toilet smelt a little. Next day with moved to the Old Xie’s IYH (where a double with balcony and lake view costs 150rmb. Prices there range from 20 rmb for a dorm with shared facilities up.

There are lots of other options including Lugu Dreaming House and out on Lige island Paradise Inn . Price at the Paradise were 220 rmb for a double. Looks very nice. I think for most of the year you could just turn up here and be able to find something, and probably be able to move into a lake facing room the next day as others check out.

There are several eating options, including those in the guesthouses, often with English menus, and barbecues options as well where you grill your own food. We have eaten in Dong li Hostel (good fresh food and cheap) and Ligespring Jazz Sofa (food not so good!). The lake’s fish are around 39 rmb steamed, but they are quite bony and the flesh is soft. Dali beer is 7 rmb in the youth hostel, 10 or more at some other places (some serve only foreign brands) but only 4 rmb in a small food store near the YH.

The barbecue was quite good. They have locally produced wine, but a little sweet for me. Meat such as lamb, beef, chicken wings or insides was 25 rmb a portion (large) while vegetables were 6 rmb a portion. Lamb was tasty while the beef was tough to chew. We went to the one with lots of photos on the walls, and the owner shouts BBQ at any non Chinese who passes.

There’s also a restaurant near Old Xie’s IYH which has an open kitchen visible through a window and a picture menu with Chinese. Servings are very big, and food is ok and cheap.

And the final place (we only tried on our last night) turned out to be the best! On the right of Old Xie’s IYH when facing the lake (past an accessories shop and ‘convenience store’ with the 4 rmb beer) is Mosu Restaurant (name and menu in Chinese only). The chicken with potatoes and something else we weren’t sure about was very nice at 48 rmb. You get a whole chicken, including the head, feet and insides so be careful if you are a picky eater! The restaurant is ‘decorated’ with lots of pine cones and prayer flags hanging from the ceiling – the pine cones seem to be a common feature here although not sure about their significance.

Boats trips cost 10 rmb per person for 20-30 minutes. Once 5 minutes out in the lake the rower will try to convince you to go to the other side of the lake (Sichuan side) for 20 rmb per person more. We bargained down to 70 rmb for a trip that lasted around an hour. A French family also hired a boat without rower; not sure how much they paid – but I could see that those boats are not that easy to steer or row!

If you can, buy fruit before you arrive, as there doesn’t seem to be anyone selling it here at all.

Trip out of Lugu Lake back to Lijiang took nearly 8 hours by bus. There are holds up about 90 minutes from Lijiang where a new road and bridge are being built. Otherwise, not a bad road, bus, or driver, but slow. Make sure you buy your tickets in advance as many Chinese tourists only do overnight trips to Lugu and phone the driver to book their tickets.

Had a little look in Luo Shui Village (where bus terminates). Might be worth stopping there the first night at Hu Si International Youth Hostel before heading on to other places around the lake. There is a bank (Yunnan Agricultural? and a ATM, but not sure if it accepts international cards), so probably best to stock up with Rmb before you arrive.

We stayed in Lijiang one more night due to the late arrival of the Lugu Lake bus, and got a double room with bath at . No hot water in morning, but otherwise friendly with English speaking staff. The next morning got the 8am bus from the Express Bus Station to Dali. This bus then stopped at the New Long Distance Bus Station and became the 8:30am departure! Takes about 3 hours to get to Old Town Dali, where they drop you near the West Gate. Stayed in Jade Emu Hostel which is near where the bus let us off, but proceeded to get lost. Went to Cafe Buena Vista and had a good cup of Yunnan Coffee and used their wifi to find the Jade Emu. Also booked train tickets at Cycling Dali (25 rmb per ticket commission which is a little steep). Jade Emu is nice – very clean; has lights which are bright so you can see yourself in the bathroom mirror; two drains so shower water clears quickly; soft (by Chinese standards) beds; reasonable menu. It’s not an old style place, but we have had that elsewhere. Good room for 120 rmb.

Dali leaves you with mixed feeling. The bad side includes the touts: “Jade Emu has closed – come to my place”; “want drugs or a woman”; the expensive attractions – Lake Erhai ferries cost – 80 rmb per person?? Good side is that most of the old town still has a very authentic feel – more so than Lijiang. We also caught the chair lift up to Cangshan Mountains (15rmb park admission (student price), 30 rmb chair lift one way). It’s quite a nice walk up in the mountains – cooler and through pine forests and past waterfalls – although the two caves attractions (Phoenix) were closed. Walked down the mountain past the Tianlongbabu TV City. The next day caught number 2 bus (1 rmb, circular route) to Caicun – where we found the cost of the ferries. Walked a little to the south and got some pictures of the lake before returning to Dali and lunch – have a Dali sandwich – a little like a Baba sandwich but between pancakes. Also ate a Sister’s café – 92-2 BoAi road in Dali. Quite good food in a Japanese style! Another place to stay that is interesting is Lazy Lodge – rooms from 88rmb.

We caught one of the overnight trains from Dali back to Kunming. I think the whole train is hard sleeper; it’s a double decker one with most compartments divided into 4 berths, except those at the end which have 6 berths. At the end of each carriage are sinks and 2 toilets. The train looked new, and was very clean compared to previous experiences of Chinese trains. There was music playing (although very different to what was played 10 years ago) and announcements such as beer being sold in carriage 8 – but all sold before we got there and in anycase not cold. Lights went out at 11pm sharp, then back on again at 05:30am. Between those hours I slept very well.

Back in Kunming we managed to find somewhere open to have a coffee, before going to Yuantong Zen Buddhist Temple. Get there early before the tour groups to really enjoy it. As we were leaving before 9am there were already 3 coaches outside. Next we went to Green Lake Garden which is a fairly relaxing place: badminton, sword dancing, tai chi and so on. For brunch we went to Salvadors . Expensive for China – but nice place to chill as we waited for trip back to the airport. Kunming Airport is not bad-has free Internet before security in the International Departures area.

Overall a great trip. Spend more time in Tiger Leaping Gorge, Lugu lake and Deqin (Feilai Si) and hope for good weather!

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Written by drumbrake

September 11, 2010 at 11:49 am

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