Questions for Peter_H

Old Nov 15th, 2009, 11:21 AM
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Lee
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Questions for Peter_H

I am bound and determined to abide by your do-it-yourself philosophy, but I would like a little guidance, please.

I want to visit Stone Forest in Kunming but I do not want the elaborate set tour that agencies want to sell ( China Highlights). I would like a short city tour and an overnight near the Forest so that I can tour it myself early in the am. Do you have any contacts in Kunming that will provide the minimum transportation for this trip?

I feel confident in exploring Lijiang area without an agency's help. I want to fly from Zhongdian to Lhasa ( aprox. mid April). Can I purchase the air tickets myself in Lijiang, maybe 4 days in advance, or should I get them from the agency doing the Tibet permits, etc.?

Do you recommend any particular agency for Tibet? I have contacted Sims but wonder if the paper work is better handled in Lijiang. We will not be stopping in Chengdu.

Thanks for your help.
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Old Nov 15th, 2009, 12:17 PM
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Is this me (Peter N-H)? I'm sure there are lots of other people who have been to the Stone Forest and to Tibet more recently than I have. It's a tremendous tourist trap of only modest interest, in my opinion.

There are regular bus services to the forest, and hotels at the gate. Most guide books will give you details, and many of the options can probably be found on line. It used also to be possible to reach the Stone Forest using an ancient French-built narrow-gauge line. The southern section of the line has been closed for some time, but the short run to the Stone Forest may still be open.

> Do you have any contacts in Kunming that will provide the minimum transportation for this trip?

Even if I did know of cars and drivers in Kunming my 'do-it-yourself philosophy' would, as it has in many postings here, be telling you not to book, and not to take drivers regularly recommended here, but to sort something out on arrival, in order to get the best price and have face-to-face contact with the driver to see if you feel he/she can be trusted. Organising a car and persuading the driver to stay overnight to bring you back would be expensive and unnecessary. There's a good, fast highway to the site, and plentiful comfortable buses.

> I feel confident in exploring Lijiang area without an agency's help.

You can, and should, explore any corner of China without an agency's help, which usually amounts to little more than helping itself. You don't need a city tour of Kunming, which has plentiful taxis and not many sights. You simply jump in a cab and show the characters for your destination, and pay what's on the meter.

> Can I purchase the air tickets myself in Lijiang, maybe 4 days in advance

This is a rare occasion when this might be wise, BUT you should be talking to local agencies to find out the actual market price. Book these remotely from an agency well in advance and you will be scalped. You probably won't be able to buy the tickets without showing the permit. You may find the agency arranging the permit won't do it for you unless you buy the tickets through it (although permits can be bought in Beijing without this problem).

> Do you recommend any particular agency for Tibet?

I'm afraid not. Tibet tourism is an absolute quagmire of corruption.

> I have contacted Sims but wonder if the paper work is better handled in Lijiang.

In general the paper work is best handled at the points which have transport leaving directly for Tibet, or where the Tibet 'Autonomous' Region's government has a representative office. You may well find Kunming, as the Yunnan Provincial capital to be the best place to make the arrangements.

Peter N-H
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Old Nov 16th, 2009, 07:21 AM
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Thanks, Peter--sorry for dropping the N.
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Old Nov 16th, 2009, 09:41 AM
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I visited the Stone Forest on my own, spending one night in a hotel there in the (vain) hope of beating the Chinese tour groups in the morning. I arrived by bus from points south, and took a bus on into Kunming. I don't remember the name of the hotel, but I'm sure Lonely Planet will list them. I ate cheaply and well (by pointing at food I wanted stir fried) in one of the places by the entrance (the hotel was further in). The best way to avoid the tour groups is to head away from the main areas. Fortunately, the vendors will mostly leave you alone, for once, as they concentrate on the groups.
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Old Nov 23rd, 2009, 08:00 AM
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Thanks for the info, thursdaysd. I now have hope to do it. Any other tips would be appreciated.
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Old Nov 23rd, 2009, 08:48 AM
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Don't know if it will help, but my TR for part of my time in China on this trip is at wilhelmswords.com/rtw2004/index.html
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Old Nov 24th, 2009, 01:28 PM
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Do you have a report on Lijiang and on from Shilin? I enjoyed reading the Chinese parts of the report.
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Old Nov 24th, 2009, 01:40 PM
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Shilin is at the end of the "Kunming - Circling South" piece. I never got around to writing "Kunming - Circling North" which would have been Lijiang and Dali.

Basically, I flew to Lijiang from Kunming, and spent one night in a noisy guesthouse near the the center of the old town. I was so put off by the massive tourist presence (mostly Chinese), that the next day I took a bus up to Daju at the far end of Tiger Leaping Gorge - I had decided that hiking it on my own wasn't a great idea, and in any case I was tired after seven months of travel.

I stayed in a very basic place in Daju (the bus driver didn't ask where I was staying, just dropped me at the guesthouse), but really enjoyed what I saw of the gorge. Then I went back to Lijiang and stayed very comfortably in the Zen Garden Hotel. Loved the scenery around Lijiang. I took a cramped mini-bus to Dali, and the train back to Kunming. Went to a wonderful local market while I was staying in Dali, but I don't know the name of the town.
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