Date registered: February 15, 2012
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Hoping on a plane costs a lot of money and trouble, that's not something all of us can or want to afford. That being said, you have a point of course, most people don't leave Kunming that often, but even Kunming itself benefits from being in Yunnan, seeing as it has great weather and very nice surroundings; you can easily get a little bit of nature without even having to travel to another city, just get out in the mountains. In terms of amazing 'getting away'-opportunities, even if just for a day, Kunming has every other major chinese city beaten hands down, perhaps except Xining, Ürümqi and Lanzhou, and it seems to me few laowai wants to live in those three anyhow. For me, coming from a european city with extremely boring natural surroundings, this is a very big issue, as living in Kunming completely re-ignited a passion for the outdoors that I can never pursue in my hometown. (And then, sure, say Dali would be even better in this regard, but we're talking about major chinese cities only here).
I personally also think Kunming has a very nice cuisine, as I really enjoy yunnanese food, but I know the 'food in Kunming'-question is a sensitive issue on this site, so I'm not gonna push that one.
There is of course a MAJOR advantage of choosing Kunming over any eastern cities, and this advantage will remain no matter how polluted, congested, backwoods or whatever you might consider Kunming: Kunming is in -Yunnan-.
There's no telling what humans may or may not one day be able to understand; science this far has been ever-progressing. I'm not saying nature isn't to be respected, but it seems almost religious to me to claim that nature is some eternal mystery that's inherent impossible to understand or master. With sufficient technology and scientific understanding, it simply -has- to be possible to control nature, to a measure; I just leave it an open question whether 'sufficient' in this case would mean 'god-like, scifi, off-the-kardashev-scale-level', or simply 'current human capabilities'.
Of course you can theoretically control nature, it's just a matter of technological and engineering capabilities. It's an open question to what extent humanity at present has these capabilities, sure, but China is indeed trying very hard. Viewed form another perspective: historically, the chinese civilisation has always been nature's bitch, subject to earthquakes, floods and other ravagings that, at least in art and religion, gave rise to an idea where humanity is essentially a victim of nature. Hence all the ancient chinese paintings with a small human figure in the midst of an enormous natural landscape and so forth; this is in stark contrast to european art history, where man is in the forefront and nature the background. I won't speculate as to what extent this ideas might have shaped the development of China visavis the West, but the chinese government nowadays does seem to be pursuing some kind of wierd revenge...
'Hah', says the Gobi, and eats Beijing...
I wanna do this hike, but how more precisely do you find the original path, that you guys got to through some "light bush-wacking"?
And are their accomodation possibilites spread out along the trail, or do you need to time your treck so that you reach a particular place in the evening?
HFCAMPO: I was there a few weeks ago, the 'standard' road from Lijiang is in good condition I'd say (at least compared to every single road I ever took in Qinghai and western Sichuan), but it was raining and we encountered several brutal accidents along the way. For our return to Lijiang, however, we chose the obscure northern road from Yongning. This road was at the very least two times as long, including an expensive (100 yuan) ferry passage across the Jinsha Jiang because the bridge was not finished, but it was also perhaps the most gorgeous scenery I have ever seen, beating out Tiger Leaping Gorge, the Nujiang Valley, Tibetan Sichuan and even the chinese part of the Karakoram Highway. If you have a car and don't mind a very very long drive, it's an absolute must see, mind-blowing mountain scenery, but try to leave from Yongning early, as you'll get to go the backdoor route through the Jade Dragon Snow Mountain nature reserve in order to get to Lijiang, and when we got that far it was so late that it had already become dark, and we couldn't see anything. This road is, except the lack of a bridge across Jinsha Jiang, also in rather good condition, it's just extremely long, snaking through a ton of mountains.
If you aren't like, obsessed with overpriced western food and beer, around the same monthly budget as you had in Yangshuo should be fine in Kunming. 1500-2000 would give you a room in a REALLY fancy apartment, but it you wanna live on your own, you might have to move out from the city center a bit for that price. Personally, I'd say there's absolutely no reason to pay more than 800 for a room in Kunming.
The night life is okay, there's a vibrant local music scene, with some interesting chinese bands, but there's not many very laowai:y places, so if you like those, expect to see the same people a lot.
Kunming's traffic congestion is very bad, but the bus coverage excellent and extremely cheap; if you're prepared to spend some time in transit, buses'll do. Bicycles and scooters are both viable options too, but slightly more lethal, and scooter theft is a frequently discussed problem here on GoKunming. The mountains around Kunming offer interesting bicycling possibilities, if that's your thing.
The air is okay, I'd say, but I'm not too sensitive about that. The local dialect is okay, but not proper mandarin by any stretch, you'd better go to Harbin (yes, 真的) for that.
The most beautiful part is the ultimate northern one, beyond Bingzhongluo. Here, across the river and rather inacessible by bike, is the indescribably scenic village of Wuli, that you reach via a path carved out in the steep cliffside along the riverbed. From Wuli, a small trail leds into a deep, misty valley, again with paths in the cliffside, and absolutely otherworldly jungle. Follow this path long enough (several hours, you'll be able to judge by the litter that you're on the right track), and you'll reach the extremely secluded village of Yaotou, high up a mountainside. Again, this won't be accessible by bike unless you're like a magical world class athlete + suicidal, but I wanted to mention it anyhow because it's one of the most awesome places I've ever seen.
Anyhow, sorry for digressing; you'd definitely wanna take your bike all the way up beyond Bingzhongluo, as it's extremely beautiful there. Bingzhounglou itself has an extremely good and cheap restaurant in a basement along the main throughfare.
I'd take the bus to Fugong, which is the farthest you can get into the valley directly from Kunming, seeing as I'd wanna go as far north as possible in the valley on my bike.
Camping is possible, of course, if police or somebody objects just play the stupid laowai card. But I personally wouldn't bother as accomodation is super cheap in China if you have no standards + a minimum of language skill (though being two people so you can share a shabby double is by far the cheapest), and even in some obscure outback villages in Nujiang valley, there are guesthouses. Talk to chinese hikers you meet along the way, they often have some kind of maps and valuable area knowledge.
I don't think they will escalate, the North Korean regime is, unfortunately maybe, for all its bizarreness and randomness not completely insane, and they know that if they attacked the south, not even China would support them. They could destroy Seoul and kill millions, sure, but they would ultimately lose, and the US would be compelled to intervene and chrush them. North Korea's army is strong, true, but they're not Iran; they don't have an immense strategic depth, nor any friends whatsoever.
What North Korea is trying to achieve here, according to some analysts, and which seem plausible to me, is to somehow provoke ANY reaction out of the US. The US policy off late has been to ignore them, but North Korea wants to appear scary enough to achieve a peace treaty with the US, so that they, afterwards, can feel secure in their little despotate.
Whatever happens it won't affect us; China won't go to war, especially not one where it stands nothing to gain, and North Korea won't fire missiles at China, as China it it's only friend. People in Japan and South Korea might feel a bit worried, however, but again; I think it's very unlikely that North Korea would escalate the situation much further. The one situatioon I can see happening is if South Korea does something immensely stupid that provokes the North into heedless action, but again, it seems very unlikely.
Compare with Iran, though that regime is much more competent than North Korea's: Iran absolutely do NOT want a war with the US, but they do want nuclear weapons, as nuclear weapons have historically been the best deterrent against war with the US. Iran is therefore sometimes trying to see how much they can escalate tensions in order to get some small benefit out of it. North Korea is the same, just more clumsy and retared.
The temple itself is not very interesting, but the grounds are beautiful and the adjoining park (Admission fee: 5 yuan) makes for a pleasant stroll or picknick in a quaint and somewhat forgotten corner of Kunming. I don't know if people are ever allowed into the pagoda;if so, it would make for a grand view of the city, and be worth one extra star. Definitely worth a visit. Note that the temple compund and the park is connected via an underpass just behind the park's west gate.
Tuesday, May 21