Kunming was my 4th Chinese city so I was a bit over it and keen to get into the rural areas quicker. It is a pretty nice city though and if it was the first place I had been I would have really likes it but as it stands I left after a day.
(Kunming, another big Chinese city)
I had met Claire, an Irish chick on the way to the hostel so we hung out for a bit and grabbed some food for lunch and dinner. I slept most of the afternoon feeling a bit sick from too many overnight trains and moving too fast. Despite this I still booked myself into an overnight bus the following evening to Kunming. This gave me a full day to explore the city, which really was quite nice, heaps warmer than any where else and lots of cool alleyways and markets to check out. I had some cheap food for tea then headed to the bus station. I got a bit lost trying t o find it but a policemen walked me all the way there and made sure I got on the right bus, super nice. However I somehow got scammed into paying an extra 40 RMB for ‘luggage tax’ which made me angry as the bus was already really expensive. In China overnight buses are “sleeper buses” so are actually fitted out with beds, tiny beds of course, made for Chinese people so really anyone bigger than me would not fit in at all. Still it was a heap of a lot better than a seat for 10 hours. We arrived early into Lijang at 6am where I got overcharged by a taxi driver then when arriving at the guest house they charged me for half a night stay because I came so early. I was a bit pissed off by this stage after a string of extra costs. But really was too tired to care so just paid the money.
Lijang is one of Yunnan’s top towns for tourists but mostly Chinese tourists who like, well a different sort of tourism than most. You know the only way to describe China is like it really- an Asian country with all its intensity, pushy people, curiosity about foreigners, heaving crowds- has suddenly got the disposable income to put all this into tourism. Which is of course precisely what China has done. Unlike India where people simply stare at you, Chinese people all have cameras and all subtly (or not so subtly) try to take your picture.
Famous sights and places like Lijang are not overrun with American tour groups but masses of Chinse groups dutifully following waving flags held by a tour lead yelling through a megaphone. In China there is no such thing as peace and quiet- there is just simply too many people. Given the amount of people busy-ness is just a fact of life, packed buses, surging train stations and traffic jams are the only way and no one seems that bothered by them. Which is nice to see people getting angry all the time.
Lijang is like this, packed full of Chinese tour groups, relatively few westerners. And Chinses just love the disneyland type tourism with people dressed in native costume and tacky souvenirs and the crowds don’t seem to be a problem. Lijang is home to the Naxi people who are a matriarchal society and still dress in traditional clothes. Its all historical area and really is quite beautiful, just full of people. There are public notices everywhere warning you about everything from “smoking is bad for your health” to “wine and dine healthily and quietly, do not waste food” and my favourite “leave the flowers in the plants and everyone will know what a true gentlemen you are”. Chinese people seem to love being told what to do.
The problem is that there aren’t many street side food vendors so food can be a bit more expensive. I had 2 days and was still feeling a bit wiped out from a cold so didn’t do too much and felt OK about spending a bit more money on some nice food. I was staying in the Panba guesthouse which was a lovely place to relax so did a bit of reading and relaxing. I wandered around in the sun for most of the days, splashing out on scrambled eggs on toast at a very western cafe, and tried a naxi pancake which was sweet and yum. There was though only so much wandering the historical streets you could do and both days ended up back at the hostel reading and chilling out. Lijang is nice, and I think if I was feeling a bit more energetic I would have hired a bike and seen a bit more around the town but it was OK, not amazing, very beautiful but just OK. 2 days was definitely enough then it was time to move on to trek the nearby Tiger Leaping gorge