Kunming is the relaxed capital of China’s southern-most province, Yunnan, with a lovely old centre
A trip to Yunnan usually starts in Kunming, the pleasant provincial capital with its ‘eternal spring’. More about that later! We checked in in the New Era Hotel, a very new hotel indeed, judging from the lack of guests. The 28 story hotel provided a nice view of the city, and especially over the old quarters, the only attractive part of the city.
This area, also called the Muslim quarters, is a collection of narrow alleys and winding streets, some still lined with old wooden houses, and clogged by market stalls selling everything imaginable. Old men hang around, smoking their pipes, others sit at the food outlets, small hole-in-the-wall affairs serving noodles. Especially memorable are the rows of ducks and Yunan hams, made of beef rather than pork, displayed outside.
After some turns we reached the pet market, which was really mainly birds and exotic fish, and everything you need for it: cages, fish bowls, but also fishing gear. Some of the fish looked painted, so unnatural were the colours, and maybe they were, nothing is impossible in China.
We traveled to Dali in a luxurious touring car, and I mean really luxurious, an unheard of standard in China. Onboard toilet, complementary mineral water, lunch included, and a series of videos, or rather VCDs, featuring Chinese films with the obligatory fighting and excess noise. This type of bus, and the expressway that comes with it, are the early warning signs for how touristic this part of China really had become. The bus actually stopped in Xiangyun, half an hour or so before Dali proper, so we traveled the last bit by public bus, back to the familiar way of folding ourselves in the seats.
Next: Dali itself