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Trip Report Yunnan Province, China, Trip Report: May 26-June 10, 2017

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My husband and I traveled with our daughter and her husband to Yunnan Province for 2 weeks in May/June. We are independent travelers, and I usually plan all of our trips. Because I was planning other trips for this year, I asked my husband to plan our trip to China. He decided to use a travel agent to make the trip planning easier, and so that we could see many places during our 2-week trip.
We used Yunnan Adventure Travel Co. located in Kunming. Their email is contact@yunnanadventure.com

This was not your typical large group tour. The travel agent customized the tour just for the 4 of us. My husband told them where we wanted to go, and he asked them to include 2 free days. The price included breakfasts every day (at the hotel), and lunch every day. We were on our own every night for dinner. Our hotels were 4-star hotels in excellent locations. Our tour did not include any mandatory shopping opportunities!

I highly recommend Yunnan Adventure Travel. They were very flexible, which would not be possible with a large group. Some mornings, due to either illness or jetlag, we delayed our sightseeing. Initially, we wanted to spend 3 nights at Lugu Lake, but we changed that to 2 nights when we were there, and added an extra night to Lijiang. Our daughter and her husband decided to go to Shanghai after spending a week in Yunnan Province, and the travel agent made all of the last-minute arrangements for them.

This is our itinerary:
Kunming – 2 nights
Overnight train from Kunming to Dali
Dali – 2 nights
Lijiang – 2 nights
Lugu Lake – 2 nights
Lijiang – returned to Lijiang for another 2 nights
Shangri-la – 2 nights
Kunming – 1 night before departing for home

It was a very long journey from Boston to Kunming! We flew from Boston to Toronto; then we had a 13-hour flight from Toronto to Beijing. Our flight to Kunming was delayed, so we had a long lay-over in Beijing. We finally arrived in Kunming at 2:00AM!!!

KUNMING:
Hotel – New Era Hotel – located in a very convenient area, within walking distance of the ornamental stone gateways in Jinbi Square. These arches looked beautiful lit up at night.

Our breakfasts at the New Era Hotel were probably the best we had on our trip. The breakfast included a very large Chinese buffet and a very large Western style buffet. The dining room had lots of windows with nice views of the city.

Kunming is the capital of Yunnan Province. It is 2000 meters above sea level, and its nickname is the City of Eternal Spring. It’s a modern city with very, very little pollution.

Sightseeing:
STONE FOREST:
For sightseeing, we drove 86 km to the Shilin (Stone Forest). Stone Forest is a huge park with bizarre but stunning limestone karst formations. They are otherworldly! We really enjoyed Stone Forest, although it was hot and crowded when we were there. As you move further away from the entrance, the crowds do thin out. There is a lot of walking, and some up and down walking, too. My guidebook criticized Stone Forest for the Chinese characters written on some of the karst pillars. However, there were very few of these characters, and because Stone Forest is so large, it really did not detract from the beauty and enjoyment.

GREEN PARK:
We also visited Green Lake Park on a Sunday during the Dragon Boat Festival. It was very crowded, noisy, and busy, but I really enjoyed it. I’m not sure it is this crowded on week days, but definitely very lively on weekends. There were many, many groups of people dancing and exercising. I thought it was refreshing to see people so uninhibited in public and so obviously enjoying themselves. The park is pretty with lakes, flowers and weeping willow trees.

After walking around and enjoying the dancing and exercising groups, we found a café located in a quiet part of the park, and enjoyed some cold drinks with our tour guide.

GUANDU ANCIENT TOWN:
One afternoon, we visited Guandu Ancient Town, which none of us liked. It was very crowded and noisy, with loud obnoxious blaring music! Most of the stores sold junk; there was nothing we were interested in purchasing. We did visit two small temples, which were a quiet oasis.

BIRDS AND FLOWER MARKET:
Another disappointment was the Birds and Flower Market, which sold more junk than anything else. The lanes were very narrow and crowded, and we didn’t linger long.

THE OVERNIGHT TRAIN FROM KUNMING TO DALI:

It was my husband’s suggestion to take the overnight train from Kunming to Dali to give us more time for sightseeing and to not pay for a hotel that night. Well, we all agreed this is something we will never do again! Apparently, the only train that goes from Kunming to Dali is the K train. Trust me, it is not a luxurious train. We were all in shock when we saw our overnight accommodations! The room, which sleeps 4, was like a sardine can! There were 2 upper bunks and 2 lower bunks, with a very narrow space in between. We stored 2 suitcases in the alcove above the upper bunks, and we stored the other 2 suitcases standing upright on the floor. We had very, very little space to move around in. I woke up every time the train stopped, and we all could hear the constant clacking, clanging, and whistle blowing. The train would stop, then lurch forward about 20 feet or so. Sometimes we didn’t see anything that resembled a train station, so not sure where we actually were. We can laugh about the experience now, but I do not recommend it. Maybe younger people might like it, but my daughter & son-in-law are in their 30’s, and they admitted this was a little too rough for them. My son-in-law’s sheets were damp, probably from the AC which was just above him. So he slept on his blanket, but got cold during the night, so I gave him my blanket. But then I got cold, so my daughter opened up her suitcase and threw some of her clothes on me.

So you can imagine how we felt after not getting any sleep and arriving at the very noisy and crowded Dali train station at 6:30AM! There were honking cars and a garbage truck blaring “It’s a Small World After All”! We were so happy to hear our new tour guide call out our names!!! This is when having your own tour guide and private driver is worth every penny!

To be continued . . . .

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    Looking forward to more.

    Sorry the train trip didn't work out. Much depends on the train class, and soft sleeper can be quite comfortable. I have also done one trip a while back in hard sleeper, which is six berth sections open to the corridor and very hard berths....

    I was in Kunming in 2004 and much of the old sections were being torn down and rebuilt as pseudo-old. The Stone Forest was very popular even then, but like you I found it quite easy to lose the crowds by walking further.

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    Thursdaysd, where else did you go in Yunnan Province?

    We were in Kashgar in 2006 and loved visiting the old town. I understand that has now been torn down for modernization.

    BTW, I have enjoyed reading your report about Turkmenistan!

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    Kathie,
    Even though there were a few things we were disappointed in, we loved Yunnan province, and I highly recommend going there. Where else have you been in China?

    Yunnan Province is very different from the East Coast of China. It is more rural and mountainous, and was always remote from mainstream China. While our 4-star hotels all had western style toilets, many public places still only had squat toilets and one place only had a trough.

    I also had intestinal issues, even though I only drank bottled water, and I avoided raw fresh fruit and vegetables.

    I will hopefully submit another installment tonight!
    Karen

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    Karen - I spent a bit longer in Yunnan than I had planned because I was escaping bad weather in Chengdu.

    21-Oct-04 Night train to Kunming
    22-Oct-04 Kunming
    23-Oct-04 Bus to Tonghai
    24-Oct-04 Bus to Jianshui
    25-Oct-04 Jianshui
    26-Oct-04 Bus to Gejiu
    27-Oct-04 Gejiu
    28-Oct-04 Bus to Shiling
    29-Oct-04 Bus to Kunming
    30-Oct-04 Fly to Lijiang
    31-Oct-04 Bus to Daju
    01-Nov-04 Daju
    02-Nov-04 Bus to Lijiang
    03-Nov-04 Lijiang
    04-Nov-04 Bus to Dali
    05-Nov-04 Dali
    06-Nov-04 Day train to Kunming
    07-Nov-04 Night train to Nanning

    Daju was the far end of Tiger Leaping Gorge - six months into the trip I didn't feel up to hiking it but had found Lijiang rather touristy and wanted a couple of nights elsewhere.. The loop south from Kunming was well off the tourist trail and fascinating, I spent a couple of nights in a traditional Qing dynasty home. The only thing booked ahead was the flight to Lijiang.

    Glad you are enjoying the TR, still have three or four posts to do.

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    DALI:

    Hotel – Landscape Hotel – located in Dali’s ancient town.
    This is one of our favorite hotels, designed in the Bai Minority’s courtyard style. I believe there are 9 courtyards. Our room was clean and spacious, but plain. The bathroom was a good size with a huge walk-in shower. The hotel serves a western style breakfast and a Chinese style breakfast. We didn’t care for either one, and we actually had breakfast at McDonald’s one morning! We hardly ever eat at McDonald’s at home, and certainly never on vacation. I’d like to add that many of the hotels served stir fried vegetables for breakfast, which just did not appeal to me. My family and I are adventurous eaters and love to try different ethnic foods, but I could not acquire a taste for stir fried vegetables in the morning.

    Dali’s ancient town is beautiful, with old traditional architecture and leafy tree-lined streets. I should point out here that Yunnan Province is home to over 20 ethnic minority groups in China, and the Bai minority people reside in Dali. We really enjoyed Dali; it’s crowded but not unbearably so. We strolled through the ancient town, climbed one of its towers, and walked along the restored sections of its Ming Dynasty walls. Dali is in a gorgeous location, too, with Erhai Lake on one side, and the green Cang Shan mountain range behind the town.

    SIGHTSEEING:

    THREE PAGODAS AND CHONGSHEN TEMPLE
    The three Pagodas, the symbol of Dali, are very picturesque and make for lovely photo opportunities. However, you cannot go inside them. For us, one of our highlights was visiting Chongshen Temple, which is in back of the 3 pagodas, built on different levels into the mountainside. The original temple was founded in the 9th century, but it was also enlarged in 2005. My guide book criticizes the temple for being so large, but we found it interesting and beautiful, with the mountains as the backdrop and stunning views of Erhai lake. We took our time wandering through the temples, and taking photos of this beautiful site with its prayer flags, and enjoying the scent of burning incense. One of the temples houses 280 gold buddhas! What a great sight! So please don’t dismiss Chongshen Temple.

    CRUISE OF ERHAI LAKE
    We cruised Erhai Lake on a one and half story ferry boat. We saw a larger tourist boat (about 4 or 5 decks high) on the lake. Because our ferry was smaller and very simple and plain, it did not feel touristy at all. We stopped at a village along the lake and browsed through its market, which sold some interesting goods, such as different kinds of dried fish and miniature shrimp, things I had never seen before. There were the usual fresh fruits and vegetables, along with spices, clothing etc. We saw many grandmothers at the market, either working or shopping, and carrying their grandchildren on their backs.

    We then visited a small and worn looking temple. I don’t remember its name. It definitely was not spruced up for tourism but it was an interesting comparison to Chongshen Temple. They couldn’t be more different from each other.

    I haven’t mentioned food yet. We had delicious meals in Kunming and Dali. Everything was fresh and very flavorful. Unfortunately, I must have had something contaminated, and I became ill while in Dali. We were scheduled to visit Xizhou on the day we left Dali to drive to Lijiang. However, because I was sick, we couldn’t leave early in the morning. We left Dali around noon, when we had to check out of our hotel and I was feeling a little bit better. Because of the long drive to Lijiang, we had to cancel our visit to Xizhou, which was disappointing. According to my guidebook, Xizhou is a very important Bai town because of its well-preserved Bai architecture. So that was disappointing, but you have to be flexible when traveling. BTW, I did take a full-course of Cipro, and felt better after a few days, only to be stricken again. (More about that later!) I did offer to remain in my hotel room by myself while my family went to Xizhou, but our guide told us that wouldn't work because they would be backtracking to pick me up, and there wouldn't be time to get to Lijiang at a decent hour.

    I’d like to add one more thought/suggestion about Dali. My husband and our oldest daughter visited Dali in 2004. They had more time than we did on this trip, so they also spent several days renting bikes and visiting the small villages that line Erhai Lake. My husband still speaks fondly of that trip. So if anyone has the time, I would recommend doing that. Additionally, there are lots of hiking opportunities around Dali. We didn’t have the time for this, but I also have some mobility issues caused by arthritis, so I wouldn’t be able to do any of these hikes. Just thought I would mention this for the more athletic traveler!

    Our next stop is Lijiang!

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    Hi Karen, outside North America it is standard practice for multi-person compartments or sections to be shared with strangers. In western Europe it is usually same sex, but not elsewhere. In fact, as a solo traveler, I find it very annoying that Amtrak requires me to pay for a two person compartment! At least Via Rail in Canada does have singles. These are the only countries in which I have traveled in private compartments.

    Theoretically you could buy all the berths in a multi-person compartment if there were, say, only two or three of you, but in some countries I wouldn't count on keeping the conductor from reselling the empty berths.

    If you are interested in the trip (this was just part of a longer one) it is on my old website, but I ran out of blogging energy in Kunming!

    http://wilhelmswords.com/rtw2004/index.html

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    LOVELY LIJIANG AND THE TEA HORSE TRADE ROUTE:

    We continued along the old Tea Horse Trade route, which was the caravan route from Yunnan Province to Tibet, until we reached Lijiang. People in Sichuan and Yunnan provinces traveled by foot and horseback with pack horses to exchange tea for horses with people in Tibet – and so this route was called the Tea Horse Road.

    When we first arrived in Lijiang, we had a late lunch, and then we visited the Dongba Museum, which is small but interesting, and housed in an attractive building. The Naxi people live in Lijiang, and the Naxi shamans are translating old Naxi scriptures in this museum. We then visited Black Dragon Pool, a beautiful park with flowers, ponds, and bridges, with the mountains as a backdrop. We only saw a small portion of this park, and I wish we had more time here.

    Our guide and driver then drove our daughter and son-in-law to the Lijiang Airport so they could catch their flight to Shanghai. Our daughter was having some health issues, and a Western doctor she was referred to suggested she go to Shanghai to the Western hospital there if she continued having problems. This made her nervous, and they decided to leave that night. Whether or not this was necessary, we will never know, but she preferred to err on the side of caution. She had an appointment the next day, and everything was fine. Her problems were primarily asthma and high altitude related, and she felt much better after arriving in Shanghai (at sea level). She lived and worked in Shanghai for 2 years so she enjoyed being back there and showing her husband her old haunts. Because our return flight was through Shanghai, we were able to fly home with them from Shanghai and compare our travel stories.

    Our driver then brought my husband and I to our hotel in Lijiang, the Wangfu Hotel, located in Old Town in South Gate Square. This is our favorite hotel. It has several lovely and peaceful courtyards; our room was very large with a comfortable sitting area and a very large bathroom. There were two restaurants for breakfast, one for the Western style breakfast, and one for the Chinese style breakfast. We had omelets made to order, noodle soup made to order, and an assortment of meats, pastries, coffee, tea, and orange juice.

    Old Town Lijiang is beautiful, with traditional wooden buildings, narrow cobbled streets, streams with bridges, leafy trees, and beautiful flowers, such as purple bougainvillea! No wonder it is popular! But please don’t let the crowds scare you away. It actually wasn’t as bad as we were expecting. The area around our hotel was very quiet during the day, and only became busy at night when people were dining out. Families live in our neighborhood; in fact, we saw school children walking to school in the early morning. The Main Square (further away) and surrounding area is very crowded, especially at night.

    SIGHTSEEING:

    JADE DRAGON SNOW MOUNTAIN:
    This is one of our favorite sightseeing trips! After driving to Jade Dragon Snow Mountain, we took a bus for a 30-minute ride up the mountain. Then we took a chairlift for another 20 minutes to Yak Meadow. The chairlift ride was so peaceful with gorgeous views of the mountains, and fresh, clean air with the scent of pine. At times our chairlift almost touched the tops of the trees. It was a very relaxing ride. Yak Meadow is beautiful with abundant wildflowers, a monastery and yaks grazing in the meadow. There is also a trail that circles the meadow, but I was having difficulty with the high altitude and couldn’t do this walk. My husband and guide went inside the monastery, but I sat on the steps because I didn’t have the energy to go any further. BTW, I did purchase oxygen before we got on the chairlift, because it was exhausting for me to walk just from the parking lot to the chairlift.

    After we returned to the bottom of the mountain, we rode on an open air electric car to see the waterfalls and pools. My itinerary calls it the Baishuihe River, but I think our guide also called it the Blue Moon Lake or something like that. It is a series of small lakes and waterfalls. The water is a bright blue from the minerals and glaciers. We were able to stop several times for photos, and we also saw many brides and grooms having their wedding photos taken here.

    BAISHA VILLAGE:
    Our next stop was a late lunch in Baisha Village. This is not a touristy village, but a place where people live and work. It’s a very serene and quiet spot. There are only 2 main streets, and we had time for a nice stroll. There is also a temple located here (don’t remember the name) with a 600 year old mural. Unfortunately, at this point, it was very hot, and I was wilting and having leg pain, so I found a shady spot to rest while my husband and guide went inside the temple to see the mural and other miscellaneous buildings.

    The next day we detour off the Tea Horse Trade Route to Lugu Lake, at the Yunnan/Sichuan border!

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    Kathie,
    Lijiang is 2600 meters high. Both myself and my daughter felt the effects of the high altitude beginning in Dali. The altitude did not affect my husband and son-in-law, so I guess you just never know.

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    So true, the only reliable predictor of who will or won't get altitude sickness is whether you have gotten it before at that altitude. I had altitude sickness in Cusco, but not in the Sacred Valley or at Machu Picchu, and not in a number of places in the Himalayas that weren't quite as high.

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    THE JOURNEY TO LUGU LAKE:

    This is a spectacular drive over very high majestic mountains and very deep valleys. Before the new road was built, it took 6 – 8 hours to drive from Lijiang to Lugu Lake. Now the drive takes about 4 hours over the new road and part of the old road where the new highway has not been finished. The scenery is gorgeous and well worth the drive. Along the way, we passed small markets (some were only 1 or 2 tables) on this highway carved into the edge of the mountains. The few homes we passed were very poor and looked abandoned, but there were signs of life, such as clothes on a clothesline, a vehicle in the driveway.

    Hotel – Shilili Guest Lodge in the small village of Lige on Lugu Lake

    This guest lodge is in a convenient location, and has a lovely courtyard with a small pond and a footbridge. There is only one table with chairs and a thatch-roofed umbrella. It has a rather African feel to me instead of Asian. Our room (with balcony) was on the 3rd floor. There aren’t any elevators. Our room was a comfortable size but I thought rather dark. We enjoyed sitting on the balcony and admiring the lake view. We were disappointed in the Spartan breakfast, which consisted of hard boiled eggs, rice congee, and the ubiquitous stir-fried vegetables.

    SIGHTSEEING:

    CANOEING ON LUGU LAKE:
    Lugu Lake is very clean and calm and set in a beautiful location surrounded by low-lying mountains. The lake is on the remote Yunnan and Sichuan border. We went canoeing on Lugu Lake in Mosuo canoes called pig troughs because of their dug-out design. The canoes hold about 8 passengers, and the Mosuo ethnic people, dressed in their traditional dress, do the actual hard work of paddling the canoes. Our canoe was paddled by 2 men, but I saw some canoes being paddled by 2 women. They must be very strong! The ride to the island was a pleasant half-hour trip. Once we reached the island, you could take an uphill path to a small temple, but I chose to sit, relax, and enjoy the beauty.

    A DAY OF SIGHTSEEING:

    First we drove through farmland (saw lots of goats and sheep) to visit Zhamei Lamaist Monastery, but when we arrived, we were told “Bridge broke!” So we turned around and drove along the lake into Sichuan province to walk across the WALKING MARRIAGE BRIDGE. The ethnic people in this area are the matrilineal Mosuo. Women never marry, and they can have as many partners as they wish. The man walks across this bridge at night to spend the night with a woman, and then he returns in the morning to his home. The women are in charge! They have property rights, and they are responsible for raising their children. Clan names, and social and political positions are passed on through the females, not the males.

    The WALKING MARRIAGE BRIDGE stretches across the GRASS SEA (THE CAOHAI), which is filled with dense reeds. The bridge is made of wood and is more than 300 meters long. The location is very pretty and scenic, and the day we were there it wasn’t too crowded. This was a pleasant and bucolic experience.

    We also visited the LAMA TEMPLE, which is near the entrance to Walking Marriage Bridge. It’s a small temple that holds religious rituals and is a little worn looking.

    When we had some free time, we enjoyed walking along the waterfront park in Lige, with its willow trees and sandy beach. There is a small peninsula that juts out into the bay, which is filled with attractive guesthouses and restaurants.

    If you go to Lugu Lake, I recommend staying in Lige. When we first arrived, we had lunch in Luoshui, and that is where we took our canoe trip from. Luoshui is heavily developed with ongoing construction. Lige is smaller, quieter, and more pleasant.

    FOOD:

    While we enjoyed most of the food on our trip, we were disappointed in the food in the Lugu Lake area. Of course, one problem was that my stomach was still a little queasy. Most of the restaurants offered the same menu (a lot of spicy food, with little variation). I was wary of eating spicy food at this point so it was difficult finding something suitable. Also, we noticed the variety of vegetables was very slim. I assume this is because they only sell what is locally grown and in season. We never saw broccoli on the menu, for example, which was abundant in other places. The vegetables were typically bok choy and something else that looked similar but we didn’t know the name. At one restaurant we stopped at for lunch, my husband asked for scrambled eggs with vegetables. He was told the only vegetable available was leeks! I wish I took a photo of our leek and scrambled egg dish. It was about 80% leeks and 20% eggs! Not very appetizing!

    To be continued . . .Our return to Lijiang, and onward to Shangri-la!

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    Thursdaysd, I enjoyed reading your blog. How long was your Around the World Trip? What a wonderful "once in a lifetime experience"!Are there any countries you haven't been to yet?

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    That one was ten months - haven't done one that long since, although have RTW'ed again. Lots of countries I haven't been to, although I have covered most of the ones in Europe and Asia. I think I'm at around 75, and there are over 200, so certainly won't get to all of them, probably won't even make the Century Club.

    Glad you enjoyed the blog!

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    TWO MORE NIGHTS IN BEAUTIFUL LIJIANG!

    We had to return to Lijiang in order to continue our northward journey to Shangri-la, so we returned to Lijiang on the same mountainous road we traveled to get to Lugu Lake. Because we felt we didn’t need 3 nights in Lugu Lake, we cancelled our 3rd night here and added it to Lijiang, so we now had 2 nights and one full day in Lijiang. This was the best decision we made! We stayed at the same hotel, the Wangfu Hotel.

    This gave us a free day to explore wherever we wanted, so we chose to visit the beautiful Mu Mansion in Lijiang’s ancient town. The mansion was the home of the Mu clan, the rulers of the Naxi people for about 470 years in ancient China. Unfortunately, the mansion was burned during an uprising in 1870, and what was left standing was destroyed during the 1995 earthquake. The mansion was renovated after the earthquake. There are ornamental halls and beautiful courtyards and flower gardens that were rebuilt to resemble a mini Forbidden City. We took our time walking through here and taking photographs. Surprisingly, there were very few tourists here, so it was very peaceful and lovely. The mansion is built into a hillside, so it’s all uphill walking with places to rest along the way and view the Ancient Town with its gray-tiled roofs. Very scenic and photogenic! The hill is called Lion Hill, and when you reach the top, there is a very narrow lane leading down from Lion Hill to Sifang, the Old Market Square. The cobblestones can be slippery, so be careful walking through this twisty maze of lanes. There are stores and tiny cafes lining the lane.

    When we arrived at the square, we took our time walking through the square and adjoining narrow streets. It was very lively, filled with many tourists. What I didn’t like is the numerous clubs now lining the square with its live rock bands competing with each other! When my husband and oldest daughter were here in 2004, there were ethnic dancers performing in the square. Sadly, they have now been replaced by loud rock musicians.

    It was hot, so we stopped for fresh mango drinks, which I thought would be safe to drink because the mango chunks are peeled. However, several hours later I started having intestinal problems again. When I told my daughter this, she told me that she and a friend had intestinal problems after eating mangoes in Thailand! I think the problem could be that contamination was transferred on to the fruit after cutting and peeling the mangos. Anyways, as much as I love mango, maybe we should avoid them in Asia?

    To be Continued . . . a late start to Shangri-la

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    SHANGRI-LA (FORMERLY KNOWN AS ZHONGDIAN)

    As many of you may already know, Zhongdian won the competition and was re-named Shangri-la, after James Hilton’s novel Lost Horizon!! What a creative marketing tool to get people to come to a small town that was too remote and too high to attract many tourists. Not too long ago, Shangri-la was described as a “one-yak town” where “pigs nibbled on garbage strewn street corners”.

    We were supposed to leave for Shangri-la at 9:00AM in the morning, but because of intestinal problems again, I wasn’t physically able to leave until noon, when we had to check out of our hotel. Unfortunately, this meant we didn’t have time to go to the First Bend on the Yangtze River. So our first stop was at Tiger Leaping Gorge, one of the deepest gorges in the world. Because of the heat and because I have some mobility issues, we did not hike down to the bottom to be up close and personal with the gorge. There are a series of stairs, and I knew I wouldn’t be able to walk down and then back up again. So we spent around 10 to 15 minutes viewing the gorge from the top and taking photos. It was hot so we used our rain umbrellas for protection against the sun, and I purchased bottled water as soon as we got there. My husband had walked down to the bottom when he was here in 2004, so he wasn’t too disappointed.

    After having a late lunch nearby, we continued our drive to Shangri-la. Along the way, we saw beautiful scenery, grazing yaks, Tibetan style houses, and the Himalayan foothills. We reached our destination in the early evening and checked into our hotel, Zhaxidele Hotel. This hotel is a large modern hotel. It’s not quaint or visually appealing, but it has all the necessary amenities, and our room was a good size and clean. Breakfast was huge! There was a very long buffet table with many dishes; however, the food didn’t appeal to me for breakfast. Again, there were many, many stir fried vegetables dishes, and also some meat and vegetable combinations. Both mornings I had some hard-boiled eggs and rice congee. We tried yak butter tea, which was salty, and in my opinion, is an acquired taste.

    SIGHTSEEING:

    PUDACUO NATIONAL PARK/POTATSO NATIONAL PARK

    This is the first national park in China which for some unexplained reason has two names! It was one of the highlights of our trip. We didn’t research the park, so we really didn’t know what to expect. This park is beautiful and a “must see”. The park is comprised of several lakes (Shudu Lake and Bita Lake), gorgeous mountains covered in blooming azalea bushes, and alpine pastures with grazing yaks. Visitors must take the sightseeing bus which travels throughout the park and makes stops along the way for photo and hiking opportunities. Because these trails take about 1 ½ hours to 2 hours, we didn’t have the time to hike on the longer trails. We did, however, hike on a short trail that took about 15 minutes each way. This trail took us through one of the meadows where we saw the yaks close up and ended at a very pretty lake. We really enjoyed the park and wish we could have spent more time here.

    GANDEN SUMTSELING MONASTERY/SONGZANLIN MONASTERY

    The other highlight of Shangri-la is the Ganden Sumtseling Monastery, a 300-year old Tibetan monastery, the largest in Yunnan Province. As we drove up to the monastery from downtown Shangri-la, we were impressed with the view of the pale yellow monastery sitting on the hill with its golden spires, which was even more impressive with the bright sun shining on it. We stopped on the side of the road for photo opportunities.

    This is a huge complex of temples and buildings. We were allowed to visit 3 temples. We had to walk clockwise around the monastery and the temples, which is the custom of Gelupga-sect monasteries. Monks live and work here, and we saw many of them during our visit.

    THE OLD TOWN

    Dukezong (the old town) is actually not a very old town. It was built about 20 years ago. Sadly, a large portion was destroyed in a fire in 2013. There is still some re-building and construction going on. We didn’t spend a lot of time here because honestly it just wasn’t very appealing to us. Dukezong is not beautiful the way Dali and Lijiang are beautiful. There aren’t any trees, flowers, etc. There is also a main square with souvenir stalls, which is where I rested while my husband walked to the top of Turtle Hill to see the huge golden prayer wheel, supposedly the largest in the world.

    According to our tour guide, the new town is still growing. Some streets we drove down did not exist just a few years ago.

    I highly recommend traveling to Shangri-la for the national park, beautiful mountain scenery and hiking trails, and for the Tibetan monastery.

    Next chapter – our very long journey home!

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    Walking clockwise is not unique to the Gelupga sect. In fact I was quite surprised when I discovered that the custom was not followed in most Buddhist temples in China. It certainly improves traffic flow, although it is actually based on the idea that the right side is "better" than the left.

    Sorry that you had so much intestinal trouble.

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    Thanks for your informative report. Sorry you has some food issues...never fun to get sick on a trip.

    Kathie - what negatives did you hear about this part of China. We are thinking of going to this region next year.

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    Kathie and dgunbug,
    I definitely recommend traveling to Yunnan Province. With the exception of the old town in Kunming and the bird and flower market in Kunming, we loved everything we saw and did. The countryside and mountain scenery are beautiful and majestic, and Dali and Lijiang especially are very pretty and enjoyable. And there is no pollution!

    Where else have you been in China? Yunnan Province is very different from the east coast of China, (Beijing, Shanghai, Hong Kong, Xian, etc.) and it's also very different from Xinjiang Province. You might see more squat toilets in Yunnan than you might see in Beijing, etc. so just be prepared for that. And make sure you bring toilet paper into public bathrooms with you. My husband never got sick and he ate street food, which I avoided. So you just never know who will be afflicted. And the high altitude didn't bother him at all, either. The high altitude problems I had were manageable, and should not deter you from traveling to Yunnan.

    My last installment will be about our long journey home, with flight delays and a missed connection!

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    We traveled in Yunnan Province last year so I am really enjoying your report. We also took the train from Kunming to Dali but in the daytime. We were also booked in a sleeper car and quickly escaped to the bar lounge car! I understand how uncomfortable it must have been with four people and luggage squeezed in there. Our favorite place was near Dali, Xizhou, where we stayed in a traditional house turned into a hotel,Sky Valley Heritage Hotel. The food was excellent in Yunnan, such fresh vegetables and well prepared dishes. Whenever I see garlic, I think of Xizhou where the fields were full of workers sitting harvesting it with trowels and putting it into large straw baskets.
    None of us noticed the altitude there or in Lijiang but have been bothered in other places.
     

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    Karen - we spent a month doing the typical tourist circuit - Beijing, ping yao, datong, xi'an, nanjing, shanghai, Suzhou, and hangzou. We missed Hong Kong which my husband has already been to and Guilin which I wanted to get to last time. The yunnan province trip would include those as well. Of course china is a huge country and it can't all be seen. We'd love to go to Harbin for the ice festival, but being from Florida, we are not brave enough to tackle the cold and ice!

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    OUR LONG JOURNEY HOME!

    On the morning after our second night in Shangri-la, we flew from Shangri-la back to Kunming and checked into the New Era Hotel, the hotel we stayed in our first 2 nights. We had time for a delicious meal at our favorite restaurant in Kunming. I wish I had written down the name of this restaurant because it’s one of our favorites from the whole trip. We had time to browse through shops, get ice cream, and then go to bed early for our early morning pick up the next day.

    Our tour guide and driver picked us up at 5:00AM, and we were at the Kunming Airport by 5:40AM. What a busy airport so early in the morning. I couldn’t believe it! We had problems with the beginning of each of our 3 flights going home. We waited at a China Eastern counter for 15 minutes, and then discovered we were at the wrong counter. This counter was for flights going to Lijiang, Shangri-la, etc. Flights going to Shanghai and Beijing were at another counter. So we walked over to this counter and picked the shortest line. Well, that was a big mistake! There was one customer at the counter, and a couple in front of us. As it turns out, the customer at the counter was a travel agent who was checking in about 30 passengers! By the time we realized this, the other lines were very long so we decided to stay where we were. 45 minutes later, it was finally our turn. However, the reservation agent could not find my reservation! So she sent our tour guide and my husband to 2 other counters while I waited with our luggage. Someone finally found my reservation in a different computer system. That person wrote down a number, and our tour guide gave it to the agent where I was waiting. There was still some confusion, but after a few minutes, they finally checked us in!!!! We arrived at our gate at 7;20AM for a 7:40AM departure.

    We met up with our daughter and son-in-law when we arrived in Shanghai and shared interesting and funny travel stories. We boarded our flight from Shanghai to Montreal about an hour late, and then we sat in the airplane on the runway for 3 hours!!!! Our plane could not take off due to dense fog in Shanghai. Needless to say, when we arrived in Montreal, we missed our connecting flight to Boston. Air Canada put us up (along with other passengers) at the Holiday Inn at the Montreal airport, and provided us with food vouchers for breakfast and lunch for the next day. But there was another snag. The Holiday Inn shuttle bus driver refused to drive us to the hotel because the hotel told him they only had 2 rooms available and ordered him not to bring us there. Yet we had vouchers from Air Canada. My husband quickly called the Holiday Inn and reserved the 2 remaining rooms for us. Finally, we and the other passengers convinced the bus driver to bring us to the Holiday Inn. We got checked into our rooms, and the last we knew, the manager was figuring out what to do with the other people.

    It was midnight, and we needed a drink! So we convinced the very kind bartender to stay open a little longer and serve us drinks. I think we stayed up until 2AM. He closed the bar while we were still drinking in the lounge.

    So, the next afternoon we boarded our flight to Boston, and had to sit on the runway for 2 hours this time because there was heavy air traffic over Logan Airport!!! I couldn’t believe it. We fly quite a bit, and I know nothing like this ever happened to us before. We finally made it home in the evening, 24 hours later than we were supposed to.

    Despite the flight delays and some illnesses, the trip to Yunnan Province was worth it.

    If anyone has any questions, please let me know and I will try to answer them.

    Thanks for reading along.

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    Thanks for taking the time to provide a report. Sorry you had such a long return flight home and such aggravation, but after all is said and done, these inconveniences ar all part of the joys of travel.

    Can I assume you been to other area of China? How did you like this trip compare to the regular China circuit? Was it more foreign or equally built up like so many of China's growing cities? If you've been to the Guilin area, how were the rice fields in that area compared t the scenery in the yunnan province?

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    Dgunbug,
    I agree with you that these inconveniences are all part of the joys and excitement of traveling!

    This was my 3rd trip to China. In 2002 we went with a tour group on a 3-week trip to Beijing, Shanghai, Hong Kong, Xian, Guilin, Hangzhou, Suzhou and Nanjing. Then in 2006 we visited our oldest daughter who was working in shanghai at the time. Aftern spending time with her in Shanghai, the 3 of us traveled to Xinjiang Province for a week, where we visited Kashgar, Karakoram Highway, Urumqi, Turpan, and we stayed in a yurt at Heaven Lake.

    Yunnan Province is very different from the east coast cities. It is not as crowded and the cities are much smaller. Kunming is the largest city we visited. There isn't any pollution (maybe just a little bit in Kunming). And the scenery is very different. We traveled north towards the Tibetan border so the scenery is more mountainousn and dramatic. I believe the rice fields are south of Kunming, and we didn't go south. Yunnan is definitely more foreign. And the people look different because they are not Han Chinese. In Yunnan you will see very few caucasians. Most of the tourists are Chinese. We saw a small group of British travelers in Dali; a couple from Switzerland at our hotel in Lijiang. In fact, the Western dining room at our hotel in Lijiang had only about 6 Westerners when we dined there, and one morning it was closed because they didn't have enough westerners staying there that day to remain open, so we ate in the Chinese dining room.

    I loved this trip as much as my other trips to China, although as I said it is very different than the other places we have visited. I certainly didn't miss the pollution! I like to see the well-known typical sights wherever I travel (such as. Beijing, Great Wall in China, Eiffel Tower in Paris, etc.) as well as the lesser known sites and places.

    I hope this helps.

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    HappyTrvlr,
    Xizhou was on our itinerary, but we had to cancel because of a late start that morning. I think that was when I first had stomach problems. After reading your post, I regret not being able to go there.It sounds peaceful and a slice of real life.

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