If you've been in the streets this week, you may have noticed a parti-colored double-decker bus garlanded back-to-front with red ribbons — behold, the brand-new Kunming Sightseeing Tour Bus. Fully operational since June 1, these open-top "luxury buses" now offer the public a three-hour guided tour of Kunming, including ten stops at the Spring City's most lauded destinations. Passengers may embark and debark at any of the stops.
We boarded this morning at Jiameng Flower Market, along with a group from Jiangsu and, from the sound of it, a dozen Kunming locals all speaking in dialect. "We work for the tour company," says Li, the local sitting next to us. Apparently, they have all received a day off from work to do a round-trip test ride. Pointing to a woman under a pink parasol, Li whispers, "That's the boss."
Li's company receives funds from the Kunming Tourism Development Committee (昆明市旅游发展委员会). The committee pledged a total of 100 million yuan to tourism investment in 2014 — an amount set to increase by ten percent every year. Municipal officials hope to attract 70 million tourists to the city annually by 2016. Compared to the 56 million who visited last year, this is a sizable increase.
To facilitate this growth, Spring City developers are forging ahead with infrastructure projects. Construction continues on the Kunming Metro and the long-awaited new train station, while the country's fourth-largest airport opened in June 2012. The city has funded a 1,000-square meter indoor tourist complex, a series of "dream village" resorts and a promotional film. The movie, titled "Next Stop, Kunming", tells "a fresh and touching love story" featuring Dianchi Lake, Guandu Old Town and the Stone Forest.
For those who won't see the film, the Kunming Sightseeing Bus will suffice. The top deck is comfortable, canopied and not crowded in the least. One pays for clear views of the West Pagoda, the Golden Dragon Hotel, Jinma Biji Fang and Green Lake Park, all accompanied by a tour guide's favorably worded descriptions.
One can also, between the landmark stops, look out at half-demolished buildings behind blue fences, look down into truck-beds piled with sacking and look into the street, where cars, taxis and e-bikes pass, and stop, and pass again. Once, while we were riding, a taxi driver craned his neck to see us and yelled something. But there's no knowing what he said — we were too high up to tell.
Above is the route for the Kunming Sightseeing Bus. The tour lasts approximately three hours by bus, one hour by car. Tickets cost 20 yuan. A list of stops can be found here.
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