China’s huge population of 1.4 billion people consists mainly of Han ethnicity, exactly more than 90%, and all the other ethnic groups are acknowledged as minorities. Though almost every Chinese speaks the standard Mandarin, the minorities have their own special language and culture as well. The main destination in this trip is Yunnan, China’s botanic garden where lots of China’s minorities are habited.
Yunnan, literately the south of the colorful clouds, is situated in a mountainous area, with high elevations in the northwest and low elevations in the southeast. Many minority groups are living here, including Yi, Bai, Dai and Miao. The rich culture of the minorities and scenic nature makes it always on my top list to visit.
But first, Pandas
Yunnan is located in the far southwest of China, boarded with Myanmar, Laos and Vietnam. Domestically, it boarders with Sichuan Province. The flight going from its capital Chengdu to Shangri-La is even faster than going from Kunming, so it became our first destination of the trip. Sichuan is the biggest economic entity in the southwest China, and is also a hub to both domestic and international transportation.
Chengdu, the capital of Sichuan province, is easily accessible as it boasts an international airport with many connections to Europe. The flight operated by KLM (Royal Dutch Airlines) takes approximately 10 hours from Amsterdam to Chengdu. It is an overnight flight and allows you to easily adjust to the timezone in China.
Unlike Shanghai or Beijing, Chengdu airport has less international flights, which makes it much more efficient to get through the immigration check and luggage collection on arrival. There are several ways to go to the city center from the airport, Metro is always a top choice when you don’t have much luggage, especially during the rush hour when all the road traffic are quite heavy. Taxi is more expensive, but still within reasonable price (approx. 80 Yuan going to the center). Shuttle bus is another option.
Our first shock from Chengdu is the ‘people mountain people sea’. It was Oct 6th when we arrived, which is still within China’s Natioanl Day Golden Week (Oct 1st – Oct 7th). All the streets and shopping malls in the Chunxi road area were flooded with people who were frenetically shopping for clothes, local speciality or simply queuing for restaurants.
Chengdu has earned its great reputation for its food, laid-back life style, and friendly people. As the capital city of Sichuan, Chengdu is also the center of Sichuan cuisine, one of China’s Eight Cuisines. Typical sichuan cuisine dishes include Laziji (spicy chicken), Kung Pao chicken, Mapo dofu, and Hotpot. The sichuan cuisine normally comes with great combination of spices, tasting amazingly aromatic but also very heavy.
3 hours waiting for a hotpot table, you better be good!
While the spicy chicken or mapo doufu can also be found even in Amsterdam, though not so great as in Chengdu, it’s quite rare to eat an authentic hotpot outside Chengdu. So right after checking in the hotel, we went directly for a hotpot, and here comes our second shock.
The hotpot restaurant we went to is called Shu Daxia(蜀大侠), recommended by a friend from Chengdu. It’s a very famous hotpot chain, and popular amongst local people. The restaurant is crazily busy, and requires a ticket to queue for the seat. When we got our ticket number, there were already 70 seats of people in front of us. Luckily the restaurant is located in the CBD area, so we went to hang around the shopping area to kill the waiting time. After one hour of waiting, there were still more than 50 seats in front of us. We were trying to get to another restaurant (under the same branch) but there were even more people waiting, so we could only go back to wait for the seats. In the end we got our seat after more than three hours waiting.
We ordered a mild-spicy hotpot, and the biggest mistake we made here is that we underestimate how spicy can it be. Please don’t take it wrong, mild-spicy in Chengdu means wild-spicy already. And if you want try something more extreme? There are also mid-spicy and very-spicy hotpots optional. A saying for this hotpot is that it’s spicy in, and spicy out. You do the imagination.
It is said that in Chunxi Road, the center of the hotpot universe, restaurants without a line will not survive, so please do expect a line before you head to the restaurant. Despite it’s extremely spicy, it’s the best hotpot I’ve ever had. The broth is very aromatic, with perfect combination of all the spices. With this thick broth, you don’t really need any dipping sauce to enhance the flavor. The matching dipping sauce here was seasame oil, which actually helps to avoid the spice hurting the stomach. It’s definitely an experience everyone shall have in Chengdu. Don’t be intimidated by the spicy food here, you can order a broth without pepper, e.g. mushroom broth. Another reason you shall go for a hot pot is that some of the hot pot restaurants even include free Sichuan Opera show. One of the most famous acts of the opera is that the actors can change his mask with one move, which is amazing.
Leshan, hiking around the Giant Buddha
Leshan is famous for the giant Buddha carved out of a cliff. The buddha is a 71 meter tall stone statue, built in Tang dynasty. The buddha by the river is built to protect the people from the water accident and flood. Apart from the UNESCO world heritage statue, Leshan is also famous for its food, which attract even foodies from Chengdu to drive here just for a meal.
Getting to Leshan is easy. It is 137km away from Chengdu, more or less the distance from Amsterdam to Antwerpen. Thanks to the high speed train, it takes around 46 minutes to get there. After getting to the station, a taxi may bring you directly to entrance of the site. The entrance is 80 Yuan, you may also buy then e-ticket online through Alipay(Alibaba) or WeChat to avoid the line.
After visiting the Buddha, we went to the old town for food. For Sichuan people, Leshan is famed for its authentic food. Even some of the most famous food documentary including ‘A Bite Of China’ mentiones lots of food in Leshan, including Chuanchuan (串串), beef noodles（翘脚牛肉）, Tofu brain（豆腐脑）, Brown sugar pancake（红糖烧饼), etc.
Pandas, life is to be cute and lazy
Pandas as a national treasure is well protected in China. The most important and the only one reserve is in Chengdu, located 16km away from the city center. You can easily reach the park both by public transportation (bus) and taxi as well.
The panda park is always full of people, going in the early morning, before all the tourist groups entering the park, seems to be a good idea. The most attracting places in the park are the feeding rooms of the baby pandas. There are two of these feeding rooms, named as Sunny Palace and Moon Palace. There’s sometimes a long line for visiting the babies, and the security guy in the pavilion will guide people to prepare the camera, and keep moving to see the pandas, but the time is enough to make photos, though no longer than several seconds. Make sure you go visit these pavilions before the crowd arrives.
There’s more than just hotpot and Panda
Attraction express(景点直通车): It’s worth to notice that apart from the public bus, there’s another type of shuttle bus connecting all the attractions, including Panda reserve, Jinli, Wide Narrow Alley, etc. You can buy a ticket at the exit of each attraction and the shuttle bus will run door to door within these attractions. After visiting the Pandas, we took a shuttle bus to visit Wide Narrow Alley, which costs only 5 Yuan per person, and takes less than 20min to get there.
Wide Narrow Alley
Just like Nan Luo Gu Xiang in Beijing, or Dayan Ancient town in Lijiang, the Wide Narrow Alley is built up on an ancient town, and has been developed as a pedestrian street for food and crafts shopping. Here you can find lots of snacks, including the famous rice ball (San Da Pao 三大炮）. It’s a nice place to enjoy a quaint stroll with friends and take dozes of photos. However the place has become very commercial, the prices here are much higher than outside, local people suggested not to eat here to avoid the tourist traps. The snacks or restaurants can be found in the Chunxi road, so it’s indeed not a place that you need to go for a nice meal.
Drink tea with locals
Chengdu is famous for its laid back life style. One of the greatest experience to integrate with the local life is to go drink tea in He Ming (鹤鸣) tea house, in People’s Park (人民公园). Local people come here to drink tea, play chess or cards, to enjoy the chilled life just like Pandas do.
The park is in walking distance from the Wide Narrow Alley. We took a quick walk to the tea house directly, ordered two types of tea. One is the classic tea, which is made by old tea leaves, tastes a bit dry. Another tea is fresh jasmine with green tea, with a very fresh but strong aroma. The classic tea is more for tea lovers with heavy taste, while the jasmine is suitable for everyone. The cost of tea is within a range of 20 to 30 Yuan. Considering that hot water is unlimited (to fill up the tea), the price is fair.
Pilgrimage of a foodie
Chengdu is the heaven for food lovers. When we were in Chengdu, we wasted no time to try all types of different food here. The restaurant Taolin (饕林) is one of the popular ones amongst the locals. The pork is juicy but not fat, and the potato is nicely marinated in spicy sauce. The spicy chicken is well fried and aromatic, which is so far the best spicy chicken we had. The beef is also perfectly cooked in a nicely flavoured pot with vegetables. The food here is definitely amazing, though the huge amount of oil and spices might not be very healthy. But when you get used to it, it becomes addicting.
Shangri-La, where the Lay’s exploded in the night
After visiting Chengdu, we headed to Shangri-La with a direct flight. There are 5 flights from Chengdu to Shangri-La, from 11am to 7pm, each flight takes 1.5hrs. Considering that Shangri-La is a mountainous place, taking a flight is a best option, let alone it costs only approx. 550 CNY and saves you a lot of time that you would spend in the bus zigzagging through the mountain roads. The airport in Shangri-La is relatively small and the baggage collection was done in record time. From landing to passport check and baggage collection we spent less than 10 minutes in total.
The altitude of Shangri-La averages around 3200m, which can easily cause altitude stress, including out of breath, feeling tired, headache etc. On our first night arriving here, we didn’t feel much difference (maybe because we were to excited for the new sights). However once we fell asleep we woke up couple of times feeling like loosing breath. It was a very interesting experience that we were not ready for. One of the most interesting events during the first night in Shangri-La was a moment when a bag of chips that we took with us from Chengdu exploded due to the pressure difference. Soon after the first bag the second one also exploded in the next morning.
Upon arriving to our accommodation we managed to organize a private taxi that would take us to our destination the next morning, to Potatso National Park. Potatso National Park or Pudacuo National Park (普达措国家公园; pinyin: Pǔdácuò Guójiāgōngyuán) is a 1,300-square-kilometre national park located in Shangri-La County, Yunnan Province in the People’s Republic of China. The park contains more than 20 percent of the country’s plant species, about one-third of its mammal and bird species and almost 100 endangered species. It takes about an hour to drive to the park, you can easily spend a big chunk of the day wondering around the park. We highly recommend to bring a lot of water and sweets with you which will ease the altitude sickness (if you are not used to the pressure at 3625 meters). You may walk around the park and take some of the free ferries (some of the ferries can be only taken with additional charge). We spent around 5 hours walking in slow pace and taking a lot of drone footage and photos as the park is very beautiful and we had a very clear day. You can spot a lot of squirrels, yaks and birds causally enjoying the waters and grassland around the park. There is a food alley at the entrance of the park but we have skipped it as it did not look very appetising for us. We headed back to the city to try something different we heard a lot about.
A Yak Hotpot to Relieve the Altitude Stress
After a long morning in the national park we have decided to try the local delicacy – Yak meat Hotpot. The delicious soup is not spicy, but it’s still full of flavour. You can choose of many fresh vegetables on display in any of the restaurants. We have opted for the local Matsutake (松茸) mushrooms that have a very unique flavour, some local potato slices and local cabbage. It all fit well in our soup and it was a perfect meal to cure our altitude stress.
In the evening we took another walk in the old city and it became more vibrant with tourists flocking towards the main square and enjoying the lights flickering all over. We did not feeling like eating another meal, but did went to one of the recommended restaurants to try the famous local drink, the yak butter milk tea. It is as delicious as described, we have finished the small pot of tea and we were ready to sleep for another night in the high altitude.
Ganden Sumtseling Monastery
The Ganden Sumtsenling Monastery, also known as Sungtseling and Guihuasi (Tibetan: དགའ་ལྡན་སུམ་རྩེན་གླིང་; Chinese: 松赞林寺, pinyin: Sōngzànlín Sì), is a Tibetan Buddhist monastery situated 5 kilometres from the city of Zhongdian at elevation 3,380 metres in Yunnan province. Built in 1679, the monastery is the largest Tibetan Buddhist monastery in Yunnan province and is sometimes referred to as the Little Potala Palace. Located in the capital of Diqing Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, it is also the most important monastery in southwest China. You can take a city bus (1 Yuan) or a taxi to the monastery from the city center (10 Yuan). The entrance fee covered a guided tour (but it is only available in Chinese), so if you want to, you can escape the group and wander around by yourself. Climbing the narrow stairs is one of the most exhausting excercises we have ever done. On the stairs local women sell yak yoghurt, yak butter milk and dried meat produce, if you are adventurous, you can always taste the fresh yoghurt.
You can explore the calm complex and wander around the monastery, the coolest thing is that you can climb up to the rooftop and have an overlooking view of the complex. If you would like to take a very picturesque photo of the whole complex you need to exit the monastery and head on the wooden paved walking path along the lake to the opposite side where is a view point suitable to take photos.
At the end of the two full days in Shangri-La we got used to the higher altitude and on the last day we did not feel any difference. After visiting the monastery we headed towards the local bus station to catch a bus to our next destination – Lijiang.
After our trip in Shangri-La, we took a 4 hour bus to Lijiang. The whole area is very mountainous, and so far there’s no train from Shangri-La to Lijiang, bus seems to be the only public transportation. The bus ticket can be bought in the old town, where the bus also comes to the center to pick up tourists. A better solution is to go directly to the bus station, and buy the tickets in the station directly. In the old town you will only be able to find limited buses going, while in the bus station there will be roughly one bus going to Lijiang every hour, making it much more flexible to travel. Our bus drive to Lijiang took 5 hours (1 hour longer than what they promised on the website). So be more cautious if you want to transfer after arriving in Lijiang.
Lijiang, which normally refers to Dayan, is an ancient town in Yunnan, and a hub connecting to lots of famous attractions, such as Yulong (Jade Dragon) mountain, Lugu Lake, Shangri-La and Dali. So the Lijiang tour also refers to the whole area. Lijiang is very popular among the youth thanks to the marvellous scenery and also the mixed minority culture.
After 5 hour bus drive, we finally arrived in Lijiang bus station. The bus station is only 1.4 km away from the ancient town, which is less than 10min taxi, and perfectly walking distance if you don’t have big luggage. However, be aware that there will be also ‘free’ bus drive to the old town or somewhere around. I am very suspicious about these because some of them are said to be actually scams. Anyway taking a taxi is very cheap in Lijiang, so we just try to avoid all the potential hustles like these.
Hotels in Lijiang
There are plenty of hotels/inns in the old town. The price can vary from 100 CNY per night to 1000+ CNY. The one we booked with very good decoration, cosy room, and super friendly service, costs only 220 CNY per night. It was so far the best hotel we have been to for the past several years.
Lugu Lake, those girls don’t want marriage
One of the must go places around Lijiang is Lugu lake. The lake is 300 km away from Lijiang city. The lake has very beautiful view, just like the Lake Como in Italy at the foot of the Alps. Moreover, it attracts tourist also due to its minority culture. The lake is habited with several minority groups, including the Mosuo people, which is said to be a sub clan of the Naxi people. The Mosuo people are the main tourist attraction for their matriarchal traditions and ‘walking marriages’, where marriage is not sacrosanct as women exercise the right to choose and change their “husbands” at will.
498 CNY pp. for the Lugu lake tour
The only public transportation going to Lugu lake is by bus (tour bus). Thanks to the new high way, the bus drive takes only 3.5 hours. There are schedule buses going to the towns around the lake such as Da Luo Shui. The lake is very big, so even after getting there, it’s also suggested to rent a car or taxi to drive around the lake. So far there are not much useful information online to plan the tour well, so we just took a tour package online (Fliggy, a tour site from Alibaba). The tour includes transportation (with a van) to the lake, entrance of the lake, guide, accommodation, drive around the lake, and two meals.
The van driver came to pick up at around 8am at the south gate of Lijiang ancient town. The van was driving all the way in the mountainous roads for 3.5 hrs, during which we also stopped for the Jinsha river. By the time when we arrived to Lugu lake, it was already afternoon. The driver/guide then took us to some hot spots for photographing. Though the view is indeed good, most of the sites are full of people, so the photographing was actually not a good experience. The best scene we went is the Lige island. The island is like a pearl standing in the lake, which has became one of the cover picture of Lugu tourism. The small island is dotted with hotels and cafes. It is a very beautiful spot for overnight stay, but prices can be very expensive.
In the night, we went with the guide to the Mosuo campfire. Here you can see the Mosuo people dancing and singing around the fire, and of course, you can also join them. Campfire party is the important event for Mosuo peple. If you are interested in someone, go dance with him/her by holding hands, and tickle it with your fingers during the dancing. If you got fingers tickling back, then it’s a match, if not, then go for the next target. Sounds like an old school Tinder, isn’t it? Good luck!
Dayan, the ancient town of rose cake
Dayan, the ancient town in Lijiang, is attracting more and more tourists here thanks to its well planned tourism development and also the location which adjacent to so many beautiful places. The town is pedestrian roads only, there are lots of shops distributed along the main roads, while the other parts are restaurants and hotels.
Walking in the town is not easy, because it’s big, really big. The only tip is to always find the main road, and mark your location with the main road as reference. Don’t worry about this, go to your hotel and ask the reception about the map, and they will be able to show you the main road and how to walk around.
The view over the old town is the best from Wang Gu Lou – located at the highest point of the old town (33 meters). On the hilltop a pavilion is standing which you can climb up and take remarkable photos of the rooftops. The road leading up to the park is dotted with cafes which offer superb views over the town. The price of the drink includes the charge for the view as well. If you would like to spend a serene morning just sipping your tea and enjoying the bustling view over the rooftops, this is a must visit for you.
There are 4 different types of shops in the town. Food shop/courts, selling all kinds of snacks from all over the country, like Yak jerky, rose cake, fruity tea, BBQ, etc. Among which the rose cake is a must try. The rose flavor is dissipating in the whole town, and it tastes really good. The nice brand is PanXuanJi, which has much better texture than the other brands, while its price is also slightly more expensive. While the rose cake is nice to try, the fruit tea is something you shall be cautious. There are lots of shops inviting you to try the tea, and then they will try to convince you to buy the tea in the pack. The tea itself tastes not bad (especially because they usually add sugar to the samples so it’s taste sweet and flowery), but the price is crazily expensive. A 100g pack might cost 100 Yuan, which is way too expensive.
The second type is the craft shops, selling items like drums, silver jewellery, hand crafts, and some local artists designs. Thanks to the drum shops, the whole town is playing the same song, called Xiao Bao Bei, which fits well with the drum rhythms and easy to learn from the song. It has been haunting in my brain ever since i visited Lijiang.
Travel agencies. Since Lijiang is the hub for the adjacent attractions, there are lots of travel agencies in the town, which makes it so easy to book a trip like Lugu lake or Jade Dragon mountain.
Restaurants. There are lots of restaurants here in Lijiang, mainly offering Yunnan cuisine. One of our favourite is Yunxueli (云雪丽), the fish, tofu, all types of mushroom dishes, are all amazing. Another dish you shall try is the scrambled eggs with Jasmine flower, of which the floral flavour balanced the egg in a perfect way. Another popular restaurant here is the Axiangpo rib hotpot(阿香婆). The base of the hotpot is pork ribs. The most famous Yunnan dish is the glass noodles, known as Cross Bridge Rice Noodles. A lot of local restaurants offer you the the rice noodles. They are commonly served in a big bowl of soup, with various different small dishes of spices and vegetables, and you can add up all the ingredients to your boiling broth together with the rice noodles. It’s a fulfilling dish that perfectly represents the warm nature of the local people.
The most recognisable attraction in the town is the Black Dragon Park. Located just in the north of the ancient town, this park has amazing views over the small pagoda with the Jade Snow Dragon Mountain in the background. The entrance is not free though, it will not ask for entrance ticket but instead the Ancient town management fee, which costs 80 CYN. The fee is generally more focused on the group tourists to pay contribution to the ancient town, but this park seems to be the only spot requires for this fee. The ticket/fee is valid for multiple days, and you can get back here to enjoy the view multiple times over your stay. If you manage to come here on a clear day you will be rewarded with splendid views. Try to come back during sunset as well, just before the park gates would close, it will definitely be a highlight of your day.
There are a lot of tourists in the park (especially at the entrance area) from where the view is just as pictured below. If you wonder around you can find a much more peaceful spot to rest and to enjoy the mild weather even in November.
Jade Dragon Mountain
Jade Dragon Snow Mountain (or Yulong mountain玉龙雪山) is a mountain massif or small mountain range in Lijiang. Its highest peak is 5596 m above sea level.
The Park operates a tourist cable car that elevates to 4,680 m for close views of the snow peak, which is criticized for accelerating the melting of the snow and reducing the water retention by the mountain. The mountain is close to the ancient town, so when the weather is nice, you can see the massif in the town. The view of the massif from the gardens at the Black Dragon Pool (Heilong Tan) is noted as one of China’s finest views.
Check the schedule of the cable cars before you go.
There are several ways going to Yulong. By the time when this article was written, there’s no public bus going there. Driving there seems to be the most straightforward way. However, if you don’t rent/have a car here, then another option is to hire a mini van with driver. This can be done through Alitrip(Fliggy), or go to any travel agency in the town. The cost is around 300 CNY(or 200) for a whole day trip. Another way to get there is register a one-day tour, which costs around 120 CNY pp.
The entrance to the mountain is 100 pp. After getting to the cable car place, you are able to choose cable car, depending on which route do ou want to go. Lanyuegu (blue moon valley) is the most beautiful site, with very deep and clear water, from which you can also see the reflections of the mountain.
Rent a car drive, but be careful when they try to convince you to buy stuff.
Avoid the scams in Lijiang
Avoid the scams in Lijiang
Lijiang is beautiful. The scenary views are so appealing that it’s easy to ignore its darkside. Better be safe than sorry, here are a few of them which you shall keep in mind:
1) Lijiang is a very touristy place, but it doesn’t mean the organization is perfect. The signs for the direction, for instance, is not very clear, espcially for English speaking. It is improving but far from perfect;
2) Nasty hotels: normally with 200CNY you can already get a very neat and clean hotel, however, some hotels are faking their score on Booking.com (or other website) and turn out to be very nasty rooms. We booked two hotels during the trip, one of them are very good, another one has slightly cheaper price, but the rooms are dirty and broken. The hotel photoshoped their picture in the website, while the real rooms has broken light, dirty and smelly bathrooms, which turned out to be a very bad experience. So in a word, most hotels are very nice here, but there are also nasty ones. The suggestion is that you always check the rooms before you really pay or sign in, which may save lots of trouble.
3) Cheap tours. One of the biggest scam is the Lashihai Tour. Lashihai is a wet land park in Lijiang, it has nice wet land and good for horsing. DO NOT GO THERE! Only the cheap tour will drive people there, and the tours are always cheap. However, when you get there, you have to spend at least 200 CNY to ride a horse, and if you want to do more activities, it will be more expensive, etc. In a word, just stay away from this kind of scam.
4) Free shuttle bus. This is even worse than the 3rd one. When you arrive in the bus station of airport, there are some people promoting their cheap transportation or tours to you. E.g. free shuttle bus to Lijiang. In the end they might take you to the Lashihai as mentioned in 3rd scam (Lashihai is literally also Lijiang). Then they will force you to spend money on the stupid items, in the end you will lose your time and money.
5) Oxygen bottle scam: You might need a oxygen for the mountain but it costs normally only 20 CNY per bottle. When we hired the driver to Yulong mountain, the driver was very friendly and convinced us that the elders (my grandparents) really need the oxygen bottle. So she took us to a place and we spent 120 CNY for 2 bottles of oxygen. In the end we didn’t use it at all, and threw it away after several days. Even for the elders, if you don’t go to the mountain top, it’s really not neccessary to get the oxygen, let alone the expensive ones. And they might also ask you to rent the heave coats, which is also not neccessary. 50 CNY for one coat is definitelly too much. Stay away from that.
6)Silverware. There are plenty of silver jewleary shops in Lijiang, and almost all of them are selling the same style of silverware. If you are not a big fan of silver, spend your money one something more meaningful.
7) Grandmother’s house in Lugu lake. This is an upgraded trick for 6). In Lugu lake, we went with the tour for a ‘Cultural visit to Mosuo minorities’. It’s probably not fair to call it a scam, becuase I really enjoyed the visit to the Mosuo faimily and the stories about the culture. In the tour, there is a lady bringing us to her family, specifically her “grandma’s room” (Grandma as the leader of the family need to manage the family well, so all the stories are from Grandma). She told all the culture things about the grandma’s room, and the interesting Mosuo marriage(ladies don’t get married, but only date. The uncle of the children rather than the father will be the men who helps to reaise the children). All the culture things are very interesting to know, but keep in mind that:
– Almost every all the ladies say they are the only child of the faimily which went outside the village to get education and work experience in the big cities,
– She is not making money of anything, she only wants to contribute to the whole village, which then gives allowance to the family
– Her brother made handcrafted silverware, it is slightly more enxpensive, but this is a community business, so we are free to buy or not. (It turned out these silverware are the same as in Lijiang ancient town, but just more enxpensive).
– In our tour to Lugu lake, all the meals are included. It was actually very big meal, it’s more than 10 dishes for only 3 of us. The driver with us didn’t even eat with us, claiming that he’s sick so he doesn’t want to eat with us. This is already suspecitive. The next day during breakfast we even saw that the lady just pour the porridge of the previous table into the big pot and then give to us. This kind of reusing the dishes is very disgusting. We are happy that we didn’t get into any disease from those food.
Dali, better go before visiting Lijiang
Compared to Lijiang, Dali is boring, that sounds very biased, but this is the conclusion we got after spending 4 days there.
Transportation: Lijiang – Dali, bus ticket 60 CNY.
Imagine Dali as a smaller and more rural version of Lijiang. The old town is smaller, there are less restaurants and shops, and the pedestrian area is lacking facilities. All this in comparison with Lijiang makes it a less attractive city, but if you would step by here first, you would enjoy the sights and would not feel so underwhelmed.
The main attraction in the city is the 3 pagoda park. Located around 2 kms from the old town, its a perfect walking distance through the rural streets of Dali and getting a sneak peak into the daily lives of local citizens. The park is quite larg and you can easily spend here a couple of hours just wandering around the park and exploring different corners in the park. The main attraction is the view of the 3 pagodas. The best spot to take a photo is from the reflection pond, which creates a mesmerising reflection image of the structures. Make sure to wander around the ponds, the rose gardens and the other temples located in the park. If you would get tired, you can easily rest in the shades of many trees with small benches dotting the park all over.
One of the best restaurant in the trip: Zuiliuli home kitchen (醉琉璃私房菜)
Weishan, the forgotten treasure box
When Dali turned out to be quite disappointing, luckily there are still something around that is worth to go. Weishan is another ancient town located around 50km to the South of Dali city. The town was a shuttle hub for the big region, and also a famous muslim community at the time. The town is not fully developed yet, and there’re no trains going there. Going by car or bus are the only options. For our visit, we took a bus trip from Alitrip(also named Fliggy, a travelling website by Alibaba) and the one day trip includes the commute and several hours visiting two locations of the town.
Dong Lianhua (East Lotus village)
During its peak time, Weishan was the shuttle hub for area, and there were lots of business going on here. There was also a big muslim community habited in this town, which grew to the richest community at the area. Nowadays there are still muslim people living here, and the original house for the richest guy is now kept as a museum for exhibition. The house is well maitained and you can learn the history that how muslim culture adapted its own way to the business with Han people.
After visiting Dong Lianhua (enough for the house), we then went to the Weishan ancient town. Unlike in Dali or Lijiang, this town has very few tourists, and all the business seems to be for locals. Though it’s a very small town, there are two famous restaurants you shall never miss. One is the called ‘One noodle’, which is noodle dish with only one long noodles making the whole bowl. The restaurant even got some records for its long noodles. Another one is the . Both are worth to try.
Kunming is the capital city of Yunnan province. The city serves as the hub reaching to the southwest, surprisingly there are also some places we found very interesting.
Open market (篆新综合批发市场)
This open market is definitely where you get your orgasm for food lovers. You can find lots of fresh food, both local and exotic. One of the interesting fruit we found is called Egg Fruit, the meat of the fruit has the same texture and taste as egg yolk. We also got lots of local bites, like lotus cake, buns, etc. There are also lots of fresh vegetables, making it a great place for locals.
Dian Lake (滇池)
After visiting the open market, we went to the Dian Lake, the most famous lake of Kunming. The lake is very big and can be grouped into different areas for visiting. We went to the Xishan (west hill) to get a bird view of the city. From the top of Xishan we then took a cable car crossing the lake to the Ethnic Village. The Ethnic village is a place where you can see all the performance from the minorities. We didn’t go for this because it seems to be very commercialised.
Mushroom hotpot (菌子火锅)
Afterwards we also visited the Yunnan university, Daguanyuan park and Yunnan Military Academy. All of these are good places to walk around. But the most important thing for the day is the mushroom hotpot my local friend treated me. It was a hotpot with clear broth, combined with all types of wild mushrooms. Each type of mushroom has their unique flavor, making it a really great experience for the trip.
Xiamen is a beautiful city. It is one of the top cities with strong economy. The central area Zhongshan road has lots of shops and food stalls, making it a great palce to hang around. For tourism, it also has a UNESCO world heritage island – Gulangyu island.
The island itself was an island to isolate the rich from poors in the mainland area. It has adapted European style buildings, the view from the top is very beautiful. However, it is far away from what we expected. It is probably not fair when we say we didn’t enjoy the Gulangyu due to its european style because we stay in Europe for long already. There are some places for great photos, and it’s a great place to walk around when it’s quiet. However, it is too commercialised. The food is not good at all, we tried three different types of bites in the island, none of them are good. All the shop here can be found in the city, nothing special can be found. What’s more, it’s very expensive here. 35 CNY for return ferry, and 90 CNY for the attractions. In the end we only stayed for roughly two hours.
Xiamen Airline, the best economy meal we had so far.
On our way back to Amsterdam, we took Xiamen airline. It was a big surprise to see that they offer really great food, which is so far the best economy cabinet food we’ve had so far. The fried noodles with pickled radish and Sichuan sauce makes it a great meal, the salad and pudding were also a nice combination.