Time to leave the relatively familiar Hong Kong for the unknown and our flight to mainland China and the city of Kunming. All fairly uneventful, we caught the MTR to the airport with a quick stop off at our favourite baked dumpling restaurant Tim Ho Wan, before boarding our China Eastern flight. Our expectations weren’t very high, being used to the EasyJets of this world but the flight was great, the food was really good, and they finished the meal with Haagen-Dazs.. so now our favourite airline! It was then a straight forward taxi ride from Kunming Airport, avoiding the touts and joining the official taxi rank got us a lady taxi driver and a trip to the hotel for around £9. Simples!
The next day was our first full day and a free one to export the city of Kunming – known as the Spring City for its livable climate and laid back attitude of the locals. It’s small by Chinese standards 3.5m people but really modern, very clean and full of very glam shopping malls. Just colder than we are used to – and i know no one in the UK is going to have any sympathy at this point but i like, totally, had to wear a jumper, you know?
We joined up with Zoe from Belgium – also joining Dragoman – for a quick tour of the city highlights, starting with the Yuantong Temple – the largest Buddhist complex in Kunming which is over 1000 years old. Outside the front door is chaotic with some fairly unfortunate souls begging but once inside it’s a colourful series of temples, with what we thought was a restaurant at the back feeding what looked like every one over 60 in the neighbourhood. It looked like people dressed to impress and red is definitely the colour of choice.
Exiting the temple we took a short walk to Green Lake Park – which is mainly lake with lots of walk ways cutting across the water to separate areas with food stalls, restaurants, markets, fairgrounds and seating. It’s a great place to people watch and see the much-loved red-beaked gulls which migrate to the park from Siberia every year and are adored by the locals. They feed them the same way we used to feed pigeons in Trafalgar square and thousands of them line every inch of the park, pooping with enthusiasm.
A quick wander back though town, we walked through the bird market (not one for animal lovers..) to find a dumpling restaurant for a well-earned lunch. Then a hike back to our hotel – stopping to watch the local restaurant staff starting their shift with a team song and dance routing. Seems to be something they like to do – as the road had several restaurants all with teams out front busting a move.
That evening we met our Dragoman tour group with a quick welcome meeting with Katy the tour leader, Anita the local guide and the newbies – 7 of us were joining a group of 9 who had come from other points earlier in the trip, before heading off to a local restaurant for food. Anita selected a range of amazing food some of which I’d never seen before – a dish with Lotus root was a new one on me, and my new favourite dish was slightly curried cauliflower which came to the table on hot plate and sizzled to a crisp. Chicken feet dishes are everywhere and are enthusiastically eaten by everyone but so far I’ve managed to avoid their charms!
The whole meal with a beer came to £3 each – I think our budget should be fine.