Back to China. A border crossing into China in no time. Thru southern Yunnan Province with a visit to the famous Yuangyang Terraces to finally reach Kunming.
Yuangyang Hani Terraces, 10th June
Our last night in Laos. In Luang Namtha, just a few km from the Chinese border. Here not much to do, just cleaning the car for tomorrow’s Chinese roadworthiness test.
A beer in the night market – unfortunately a place you get scabies by just looking at it.
Nevertheless, some nice discussions and photo shootings with some members of the Chinese Subaru Fan Club on the way to Thailand. Hopefully their cars are better than their reputation.
Next morning at 6am we’re ready for China. Remembering last October in Kashgar we’re expecting a whole day at the border and another 1 or 2 days to get the Chinese number plate and driving licenses.
Well, at least it’s not cold with 36°C and 99% humidity. 1h to the Laos border in Boten. A quick stamp in the Carnet de Passage – absolutely no problem that Prado stayed in Laos for 5 months. A stamp in the passport and we’re on the way to China.
Then the all impressive Mohan Border Post. We call our guide Sugi, calling himself Jens for long noses. A few minutes later he’s there. Customs check – 5 minutes. Passports – another 5′. We drive on to the last checkpoint of the border post. We’re refused to enter. After some time we learn that an all-important document is missing. Oh, we remember Kashgar’s document struggles. But finally no problem. 1h later we drive on to Mengla. So we’ve enter China with our car in 1½ h. Wonders still happen. Maybe Mohan Border Post will be canonized in the near future.
Whatever. In Mengla we have to pass our medical check. We’re able to walk, we can speak in a language nobody understands, and we can identify all kind of different Es in an eye test – reminds us of Thailand’s DLT. 2 minutes later we have passed.
Then the bureaucrat’s lunch break. 3h to wait. We find a pretty rustic place for a lunch. Our guide tells us that we’re invited. We sit at 1 of the tables, filled with plates of all kind of food. Not all to be identified easily. The small things probably mouse ears, the others maybe duck toenails, we imagine some sliced dog tails and eventually grilled cat’s nose. Who bothers.
Later someone explains us that we’re now at a Chinese family festival eating specific South Chinese delicacies like pork leg, fish head, beef salad, black pudding or simply veggies in some sour sauce. We’re slightly disappointed to learn the truth of these exotic dishes. Nevertheless, excellent. Even without barbequed cat paw.
The afternoon we sacrify to Prado’s road worthiness test. Thanx to Jens we don’t need to queue up. A pretty grim looking Chinese car testing specialist checks Prado. Brakes DO work. The tie rods aren’t pounded-out and finally the headlights produce some light. We have to wait. Maybe some 20’. Then our guide Jens arrives with our Chinese number plate and the driving licenses. They’re even plastified. Imagine – the whole super complicated Chinese procedure in less than 3h.
We should tell this to the Swiss customs officers when they’re in a bad mood. They could consider this border post as a valuable training opportunity. But let’s not dream about the impossible.
In the evening a couple of well-deserved beers in a roadside eatery. Not easy to order – all in Chinese and no pics on the menu. We really have the impression we’re the only tourists they’ve seen since the Romans tried to conquer China.
Then some 200 km to the east – to Jiangcheng. Some 6h on rather small winding roads. Hilly landscape, all covered with rubber trees and some tea plantations. Reminds us to Laos.
A short stop for the lunchtime noodle soup …
… and in the late afternoon we arrive in Jiangcheng. A small, rather nondescript town in the middle of nowhere. Much more a place to just stay overnight than a must-have-seen place.
Then on to the famous Yuanyang Hani Terraces. Another 300km, 7h on narrow winding roads thru a hilly landscape.
Mostly in good condition, some stretches in desperate need for improvement.
The area populated by numerous different ethnic minorities.
Then we arrive at the gate. A hefty entrance fee and we’re in the Yuanyang Hani Terraces.
A world heritage site. A landscape formed by the Hani ethnicity over 1000s of years to have enough rice to ensure survival. We decide to stay in the middle of the terraces. Of course imagining a romantic guesthouse in a traditional village populated by farmers of the Hani tribe, surrounded by paddy fields in this exceptional landscape.
Well, we arrive in a place with multi-storey buildings, mostly in urgent need for some maintenance, the main street a busy construction site, the place with clear indications that the waste management still has a considerable potential for improvement. It’s the village of Shengounxiang – no idea how to spell. Whatever, we find a decent place.
Then of course we have to see the terraces …
… especially the sunset at Badia. Even if it seems definitely too dangerous to do so.
The next morning: logically sunrise over the rice terraces is the ultimate event not to be missed. It’s at 6h50 at Duoyishu. So no problem. Nevertheless somehow below expectations.
Later the fog slowly disappears.
We’re on the way to the more or less traditional Hani village of Qingkou. Of course slightly improved to meet all tourist requirements.
A stroll thru the terraces adjacent to the village …
… then the big round trip by car. To start with the sunrise point we’ve already visited this morning.
To the southern side of the ridge.
Then to the most awesome spot: Laohuzui.
The next morning we are woken up by squeaking pigs. Too much beer last evening; probably fell asleep at the wrong place. Whatever, no need to be that pessimistic – it’s market day in the village of Shegounxiang. The whole Hani and Yi population of the area gather to gossip or to buy all kind of goodies.
Kunming, 11th June
Then we have to move on – of course in China we’re on an organised tour. Some 200km, 3h to Jianshui. By now partly on a highway. We find some accommodation in the middle of the famous old town. For Prado we need some searching. The solution is a well secured parking nearby. Then discovering the old town – a rather lively shopping area …
… a visit to the residence of some rather rich guys – the Zhu’s Family. Some 100 years ago they built their houses and courtyards over some 20 000 sqm. Just to live a few years in their premises. Then war and revolution sent them to the rice fields. Nowadays, a tourist spot. A place to pay a pretty solid entrance fee – just to learn how they seem to consider tourism.
Then the famous Confucius Temple.
Finally a look at the even more famous Double Dragon Bridge a little outside town …
… followed by a ceremony of eternal Chinese-Swiss friendship and …
… then it’s time for the well-deserved beer. After a day definitely symptomatic for a self-drive tour thru China.
On to Kunming the proud capital of the Yunnan Province. Another 200km and 120 Yuan on a superb highway.
On the way a stop at the Shilin Stone Forest. Another UNESCO World Heritage. Thus a place visited by up to 20 000 Chinese tourists (per day).
Consequently organised everybody else could learn from. Parking for 1000s of cars, a walk of more than a km just to reach the ticket office with dozens of counters, entrance fees you could live off for days, rows of ATMs to pay the fees, toilets with a view to serve at the same time 100s of people in desperate need, separations to queue up 1000s of people waiting for 1 of the dozens of electro carts driving u to the forest, numerous gates to check ur ticket – u name it, u get it. A tourist’s paradise.
Fortunately, today not that many visitors. After having walked for quite a distance to get tickets, to go to the loo, to find the shuttle bus and finally the entrance gate we’re a little tired. Never mind. So many incredible opportunities to take a pic …
… so many secluded places to explore – even if the adventurous footpaths are a little over developed, …
… and never being at risk of being lost in the labyrinth of this stone forest – provided you’re fluent in Chinese.
Should you get too tired – no problem. Others feel the same.
Whatever. The Shilin Stone Forest is somehow a must-have-seen sight. Not only to admire the erosion of karst rocks. Just as interesting is to learn about managing mass tourism at the Chinese dimension.
On to Kunming. Another 2h. Some search for accommodation. Then time for a real southern Yunnan splurge in a small restaurant.
A visit to Kunming’s old town. Formerly a very atmospheric area. Nowadays not that much left. But surprisingly still a number of roads lined by real old houses – not these Disneyland like fake houses liked by many local tourists. Unfortunately the whole area undergoes an important road improvement program.
A look at the famous flower and bird market – unfortunately temporarily moved due to construction works. But still some interesting items to admire.
After all these sights hungry? No problem try the ultimate Chinese hot dog.
On to the modern part of town.
Just amazing. Especially all these incredible opportunities to replace your old smelly t-shirt.
So far the present post. Much more about the same stuff and different stories soon.