In Touch with Nature
Trip Start Jan 22, 2007
75Trip End Ongoing
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Kunming is a fairly modern city where the construction appears to be finished which minimises the amount of dust polluting the sky. A lot of tourists stay a long time in this city just waiting to go to Vietnam and relaxing in Cloudland YHA. We met a few people here, one that got bitten by a dog and had to rush about 400km to the nearest hostpital with any vaccines, their taxi cost a bomb and would probably blow anybody's budget. XiShan is just outside town and has a walk along the cliff edge with views over lake Dian, but otherwise there's not much of interest here.
Dali, Salvador could have made his paintings here since it's the only place in China where you are offered drugs, mostly cannabis since it grows quite nicely at this altitude, some say the Jamaica of China :) The town has a lot going for it, it's fairly developed from a tourism point of view but the ancient city has managed to keep its charm since "real" people still live and work here. The prices are also very reasonable even in western style bars and restaurants. The old town sits between lake Erhai and a mountain range reaching up to over 4000m which just before we left had a blanket of snow. We cycled through the villages, across fields, along the lake edge but hiked only half way up the mountain due to cold weather and time constraints. Hiking up the local mountain for free requires that one first cross some farming fields before finding the actual trail. One thing that really surprised us is the fact that the local supermarket sell reusable bags instead of giving you 1 plastic bag per item which then get thrown in the street at a later point, looks like China may start recycling.
Lijiang however has been turned over to the tourist shops pushing out all the minorities which makes an unbelievable Unesco site. Although the town is really pretty viewed in a postcard sort of way the actual shops and hordes of people wandering through the alleyways make the town into a travesty of Unesco values and it has been warned by the world heritage that it could lose its status unless it readdresses this point. Of course it's too late really since the minorities will not come back even if the tourist shops close. Anyway that aside we came here to meet Laura and Matt, some friends we made a couple of months ago and do some hiking with them.
We set out for Tiger Leaping Gorge to make the hike over said gorge which takes you up to 2660m, there are a number of guest houses along the trail so you can split the hike over several days. On our way here we met Greg a Chinese guy from the Hainan island who now works in Shenzen and abroad, it was really eye opening to hear his fairly modern viewpoint and helpful to have him along on the hike. The views of Jade Mountain, the tiger's rock, the rapids and terraces were worth every ounce of sweat. We firstly stayed in Jane's GH and then in Halfway GH, we'd warn anyone thinking of halfway to remember it's only halfway polite, they almost refused to light a fire for us when we were eating, in anycase the next GH is only 10mins walk.
And finally we're leaving China, Dali we'll remember fondly as the place with snow on the mountains to bid us farewell and a christmas tree in Sweet Tooth (a cafe for great coffee and cakes). We think it's time since we've tried more foods than we can remember, surprisingly loads of different breads and cakes. So more news from Vietnam soon.