After being in Dali and reading about Lijiang, we didn't really had much expectations about the town. But the first impression was totally opposite, as it was the rest of the stay there. Lijiang is full of tourists, souvenir shops, restaurants and so on, yes. But still, it is so beautiful that you don't really care about that. Walking around its narrow alleys and being surrounded by such a beautiful architecture was like feeling in a fairytale village for a couple of days. Lijiang is how you imagine a traditional Chinese village. Touristified, yes, but worth the visit anyway!
The day we woke up in Dali to go to the train station and catch a ride to Lijiang was raining cats and dogs. Anyway, we put the raincover on and went to the station to buy the ticket. We still had to wait for a couple of hours, so went for some dumplings to kill some time.
The reason to stop in Dali was mainly because it was on the way to Lijiang and the Tiger Leaping Gorge further north. After reading a bit about it we didn't have much hopes for the old town but some for the Erhai Lake. And we were right: while Dali old town is totally spoilt and focused towards Chinese tour groups, the Erhai lake and its surroundings were a beautiful surprise, so the point is going straight to the lake, renting a bike and give pedals around the lake and through its beautiful small villages.
It took us quite a while to get from the rice terraces in Yuanyang to Dali. One hour to Xianjie, another one to Nansha, 3 more hours to Jianshui, and waiting there 4 hours to take a 12-hour train to Xiaguan. The train ride was again overnight in a hard sleeper, only disturbed by the hordes getting on it in Kunming on the way to Dali.
During my first trip to China I visited the rice terraces in Guanxi. They were really impressive, but what you get to see in Yuanyang is a few levels up. Hundreds and hundreds of rice terraces flooded with water, plus beautiful tiny villages, local markets and hiking opportunities make Yuanyang one of the highlights of the trip to Yunnan.
After the pleasant days in Xishuangbanna we took the bus at 12pm heading to Nansha, which is the capital of the Yuanyang region. This one was not a sleeper bus but a normal one with seats and supposed to last for about 9 to 10 hours. Surprisingly, after a bit less than 8 hours and after a ride through beautiful jungle landscape, we were in Nansha.
Finally, after the failure of Kunming, we found the Summer weather in Xishuangbanna. Warm, sunny days and the feeling of being in Laos, Vietnam, Thailand or wherever in South East Asia (but definitely not in China) together with a landscape full of jungle and lush vegetation, made the 5 days spent in the South of China a really pleasant ones.
The bus which took us from cold Kunming to Jinghong lasted for 12 hours. Actually the drive was for about 8 hours, but in China they have a strange tradition of stopping for 3 or 4 hours (sometimes even more) in the middle of the night so the drivers can sleep. This is quite annoying, as you are left inside the bus, cold and surrounded by snorers. I don't get it: if they have two drivers, why don't they take turns as in everywhere else?
Kunming is known in China as the eternal Spring city due to its nice weather all year long, so we headed there hoping for sunny and warm weather after being in permanent cold since Mashhad in Iran. Well, what we found in Kunming was rain, even colder weather than in the Stans and a freezing cold hostel, so the visit to the city was reduced from 2 days to a single one. Please, Kunming should be known as the Winter city!
We told the staff at Chengdu's hostel that we were heading for Kunming. "Oh, they have a beautiful weather, there!", they told us. So we happily got on the train, which after 20 hours took us to the eternal Spring city.
Like in Iran, the Internet connection in China didn't allow for much. Everything is blocked and the speed is slow, so not the best conditions to keep a blog. Anyway, after being through all the Stans in Central Asia, we jumped into China for a taste of real Asia!
To be honest, we were quite looking forward to leave the Stans and enter China. The Stans are nice, especially Uzbekistan, but they look too much like Europe (especially Kazakhstan), so after spending a couple of weeks there we were feeling like having a radical change and get deep into Asia.
Born in Barcelona and raised in Olot, I've been interested in travelling since I was a child, when every Summer I crossed Spain from coast to coast with my parents. Listening to my siblings' stories about their trips all over the world also helped, as well as watching Around the World with Willy Fog on TV :)
As I grew up, and while I was still studying... read more