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Last updated : Nov 2009
Landing on Planet China
Rating: (4.9 stars)

Kunming, China
Sep 24, 2003 09:10

Pros: fascinating place, many things to do and see, friendly locals, great food!
Cons: none

We made it safe and sound to Kunming - it really was much easier than we expected to get here! Along with Keren and Effy we were expecting the worst when crossing the Vietnam-China border, but it was all pretty smooth flowing and a girl even walked us to the bus station when we asked her where it was. Once we were on the bus and winding through hills past villages of mud brick huts, then through huge concrete industrial cities, we really did feel like we'd landed on another planet. Everything about China so far has been surprising, and very, very different to travelling in South East Asia. Hardly anyone here speaks English, and it's actually quite fun as we get to point at things in our phrasebook to communicate with people (it was all too easy in Vietnam ;-). Everyone stares at you and when we eat or buy things or basically do anything, a small group of locals will often gather around and laugh at us.

Kunming is a large, modern city (well the centre is anyway) with a population similar to Sydney's. There are skyscrapers, massive hotels, flashing neon signs (like Times Square!) and shops galore. We've already uncovered several bargains (e.g. a shop selling 10 yuan handbags, that's just over 1 US dollar!!) and have eaten up a storm. We were a bit apprehensive about the food after reading some scary stories about dogs and rats, but the food has been amazing! Tonight a group of us went to a restaurant where you have a huge hotpot in the middle of the table on a gas burner, divided in half with spicy oil/water in one half and a more neutral water in the other. You pick skewers of meat and vegetables yourself from a multi-tiered table, then cook them in the boiling water. It was spicy and delicious, but as we had no idea what they'd charge us we didn't eat too much. It ended up being just over $2 US between 5 people! We just visited a takeaway dim sum place (which we've already frequented - what pigs) and had lots..I think we'll be doing a lot of eating here!!

Today we caught a mini-bus about 12km's out of town to an 800 or so year old Buddhist temple on a hilltop (named the Bamboo Temple in English) which was very interesting. As well as a large colourful temple complex with huge gold buddhas, there were rooms containing many sculptures representing many different human emotions - they were life size and some were quite scary. We also walked through several different street markets, some selling fresh fruit, vegetables and herbs, others selling spices particularly chillis and chilli powder. All very fascinating!