Arriving back in China after a long time pissed me off a bit. Kunming has loads of expensive hotels, high-rise officeblocks, lots of cars, fancy dressed women; this was not China as I experienced it 11 years ago. After a couple of days my mood changed. Because of my experiences during my first visit I expected lots of red tape and nasty, uncooperative people and many hassles. It was nice to notice how the attitude of the Chinese people has changed (at least in Yunnan province). We met lots of nice people, who were very helpful even if they didn't speak one word of English. For example: we were brought to a busstation 20 minutes away, people sprinted 200 metres to catch a bus for us, we got free breakfast at a noodle stand and people we're very friendly almost everywhere. I liked the change.
The hotel opposite the borderbridge is quiet expensive at 240 Yuan for a single - and 360 Yuan for a double room. The Hekou hotel can be reached by walking up the street to the left from the bridge and taking the first (steep uphill) road to the right. The Hekou Hotel has rooms for 50, 60, 100 (aircon and hot water) and 150 Yuan.
Several trains leave Hekou for Kunming every day. There is a direct train at 13.20 PM (LC3), a hard sleeper (the only sleepers available) costs about 80 Yuan. The ticket window is open during four periods a day related to the departure of the trains. The trip to Kunming takes about 16 hours and the train passes through really magnificent scenery. To kill the time after dark: beer and reasonable food are for sale in the train's restaurant.
We arrived at 0600 hours in Kunming were brought to the Camelia hotel by taxi and had the traditional skirmish with the taxi driver. Even if you write the price down (which we did: 3 Yuan), you might get into a fight over the price (no, we are not going to pay you 30 Yuan).
The Camellia hotel has 'common' double rooms for 140 Yuan. The rooms are OK, but the beds are lousy; try some rooms (and beds) before you decide to stay there. The Yunnan Typical Food restaurant has good food (try their Sichuan-style pork: it's great). There are some nice sidewalk cafe's between the Typical restaurant and the Camelia that sell nice cold beer. Forget about draft beer; it's much more expensive than the bottled variety.
The Bamboo temple is a must-see (10Y), but forget about the golden temple. To many tourists, they charge 20 Yuan and after that you still have to pay to get into the separate building. If you go there anyhow: there is a nice botanic garden at the back of the premises, where they don't charge anything. Chichi park is as good as any other chinese landscaped park. Go there on a Sunday and watch parents spoil their one kid.
The Camellia hotel has straightforward trips by minibus to the Stone Forest for 40 Yuan. They start at 0800 PM, get to the park at 1100 and go back around 1430 PM. Entry to the park is another 33 Yuan. OK, the Stone Forest is a bit touristy, but should not be missed. Walk 200 metres past the chinese tourgroups and find yourself almost alone between the stone peaks. The scenery is amazing and gets even better once you climb up one of the peaks (not the official one with the tourgroups, but the one in the middle of the park without the railings). We thoroughly enjoyed the Forest and think it was one of the highlights of our visit to Yunnan.
We flew from Kunming to Lijiang for 330 Yuan and from Dali to Kunming for 300 Yuan. The airporttax was 50 Yuan in both cases. CAAC has changed to Yunnan Airlines and their office is no longer opposite the Yunnan Typical Food restaurant, but has moved a block south. Getting a ticket is pretty straightforward, there are some employees who know some English. Payment is cash-only. The airport bus still leaves from behind the old CAAC building and takes you to the airport in about 20 minutes for 2 Yuan. Silkair has flights from Kunming to Singapore twice weekly. The international departure tax is 90 Yuan.
All the hotels in Lijiang are under reconstruction following the earthquake in the beginning of 1996. It was difficult to find a room, but the Funshan, although under reconstruction, had some rooms left on the fifth floor for 170 Yuan. Hot water only from 7 to 11 PM.
We are not sure at what time the map of Lijiang in the travel survival kit was made, but we suspect that it was drawn after a couple of Xing Tao's. Just like Mao it's 70 per cent right and 30 per cent wrong. Speaking of Mao. Opposite his statue there's an excellent steamed dumplingstand. We ate good food at Mama Fu's and the Old Market cafe. In spite of a lot of stickers: the Old Market Cafe does not accept Diners Card.
We rented mountain bikes for 12 Yuan a day opposite the Mao statue. The ride uphill to Baisha is a bit heavy because of the thin air at 2400 metres. Fortunately it's downhill all the way back.
In Dali we stayed at the Red Camellia hotel a.k.a.qua the no 2 guest-house. They have dormbeds for 10 Yuan, doubles for 30 or 90 with shower and luxurious rooms for 180 Yuan. The no 1 guesthouse has rooms for 110, 2000 and 240 yuan. The Red Camellia has excellent mountainbikes for 10 Yuan a day. They are great to go biking through the paddy fields and to the lake.
On Mondays there is a (mini) tourbus to Shapin market for 13 yuan. The public minibus is 6 yuan one-way, so there's not much profit in taking either one. A taxi to the airport takes 40 minutes and costs 80 Yuan. No room for bargaining, as the plane leaves at 07.40 in the morning and there's no public transport at that time.
By Hans en Mirjam Damen