Today was the opening day for two of Kunming's long-awaited infrastructure projects. Kunming Changshui International Airport and line six of the city's nascent urban rail network both opened their doors — Changhsui at 8am and the light rail station at 9am.
Light rail line six runs from Kunming's East Bus Station to the airport and there are currently no stops in between, although two along the way are under construction.
Inside, hundreds of people were milling around, taking pictures and trying to figure out the bilingual automated ticket machines. Tickets on opening day were only one way and cost five yuan. In the near future rechargeable travel cards will be available and discounts will be given to students and the elderly. People over 70 ride for free.
Security was heavy but the atmosphere was one of excitement and anticipation. We noticed a conspicuous absence of travel bags and luggage among people buying tickets. It turned out most were there for the same reason we were — to ride the new elevated train and see the airport firsthand. A security guard told us the station was selling about 1,500 tickets per hour.
When the train arrived dozens of passengers chose not to get off, content to ride it back and forth between stops. The air-conditioned journey to Changshui takes 25 minutes and provides elevated views of Kunming's outskirts when not passing through tunnels.
We arrived at the airport and queued up in a sea of humanity as people didn't understand how to swipe their train cards and pass through the turnstiles. Airport personnel were everywhere and cheerfully helped people to get through.
Despite the travelers checking in and the throngs of sightseers flocking to the airport, Changshui did not seem busy. It is a massive five-story structure and easily accommodates travelers and those there to witness Kunming taking a giant step toward becoming a truly international city.
Although media reports claimed the first flight out of Changshui was destined for Lijiang, several airport employees assured us the 8am maiden flight actually departed for Harbin. It left on time, and the first flight into the airport from Lijiang also came in on schedule.
Changshui Airport is operating a diminished flight schedule until July fourth but still has international departures heading to Singapore, Bangkok, Kathmandu, Mandalay, Yangon and Phnom Penh. Kunming's furthest non-stop connection on the first day was to Beirut.
As noon arrived many people began to unpack lunches and sit down for indoor picnics. Other people jammed into the airport's restaurants, only half of which are open before July. Hundreds of new employees provided directions and pointed the way for travelers and sightseers alike.
Conspicuously absent from the airport and its surroundings are any lodging options. There are no hotels inside or around the airport complex although at least two are under construction nearby. Both are far from completion and it appears travelers with long layovers will have to find accommodation in the city.
Outside of Changshui a queue of empty taxis stood ready to head back into town. Our trip to Green Lake Park by taxi took 30 minutes through light traffic and cost 80 yuan, which included a 10 yuan toll.
The day's travels provided us with evidence that Kunming's determined push to become an internationally visible city is starting to pay dividends.
Photos: Yereth Jansen© Copyright 2005-2021 GoKunming.com all rights reserved. This material may not be republished, rewritten or redistributed without permission.