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Kunming park guide

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The rain has stopped and the sunny weather is forecasted to last at least through the weekend, making now the perfect time to get out and enjoy Kunming's parks. Here is a guide to some green spaces around Kunming.

Cuihu Park 翠湖公园

Cuihu Park is Kunming's most magical place. Located in one of the busiest parts of the city, it does just what an urban park should do: offer a break from crowded streets and honking cars, and give people a place to meet and talk, sing, dance, drink tea or just watch the ducks swim by.

Right now the musical ensembles are especially plentiful and elaborate, in celebration of the upcoming Mid-Autumn Festival. It is a good time to see some traditional Chinese music.

World Horticultural Expo Gardens 世博园

Cactus room in World Horticultural Expo Gardens
Cactus room in World Horticultural Expo Gardens

Located in the northeast corner of Kunming, the Expo Gardens ('Shiboyuan') are one of the city's most popular tourist sites. It's Kunming's most expensive park to visit, but is worth the 100-yuan entrance fee (Note: From tomorrow until October 7 tickets will be available at a special price of 30 yuan). Strolling the expansive gardens can easily fill the better part of a day. You'll see Chinese-style gardens and greenhouses, ponds and temples. Climb up to the top of Golden Temple for a great view of Kunming.

Heilongtan 黑龙潭

Heilongtan or 'Black Dragon Pool' is pretty far north of Kunming's city center, but if you make it a day and also visit the Kunming Botanical Gardens, it is worth the trip. As you enter the park, you pass through an impressive corridor of bamboo stalks. Pretty quickly, you arrive at a goldfish-packed pond surrounded by beautiful old buildings. If you continue to follow the path toward the "tower," you'll pass more gardens and eventually arrive at the top of a ridge in back of the park, with a great view of Kunming.

Kunming Botanical Gardens 植物园

Not to be confused with the Horticultural Expo Garden, the botanical gardens are a lesser-known Kunming gem, located very close to Heilongtan. From the gate of Heilongtan, take the street that dead-ends into the street where Heilongtan sits. Walk about 200 meters and the entrance to the gardens will be on the corner to your left. The gardens charge an admission fee of 3 yuan.

Kunming Botanical Gardens
Kunming Botanical Gardens

The botanical gardens are not too extensive—you could easily walk through them in 30 minutes. But on a sunny day, you'll probably want to relax with a book on the grass by the big flower-lined pond in the back of the gardens.

The botanical gardens and Heilongtan can easily be done together in one day.

Daguan Park 大观公园

Daguan Park statues
Daguan Park statues

Located to the southwest of the city center, where a slim finger of Dianchi Lake pokes into the city, Da Guan is about the same size as Cuihu, but with a more linear layout. There is an entrance fee of 10 yuan. For 15 yuan, you can hire a long boat (with a captain) for a few friends to get a closer look at Dianchi. Or you can rent two-seat bicycle (10 yuan) or even a three-seater (15 yuan). The park also has a bunch of carnival games, including something that resembles a cross between a cannon-shooting range and a batting cage. And there are several hokey, creaky, colorful rollercoasters that are just as much fun to look at as we think they'd be to ride. In the back of the park, you'll also find a quiet sculpture garden with a few interesting pieces, and some old locals flying kites.

Wenmiao Tea Garden 文庙茶园

On Renmin Zhong Lu, just past the Wuhua district government building (the tall blue pagoda-shaped building), Wenmiao Tea Garden is tucked into the city so neatly it can easily be missed. For a 1.5-yuan admission fee, you also get a hot water bottle with green tea leaves. The small tree-filled park is composed of a walkway, a bridge, a large pagoda and several restaurant-style booths around the edges. Dozens of old locals play mah-jong and Chinese chess, but somehow there seems to always be an open seat.

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The Kunming Botanical Gardens (昆明植物园) is worth a visit when Autumn red & yellow foilages reach full vibrancy around November 11-15. A beautiful spectacle on the inclined slope near the North gate entrance path.

Endulge in morning/afternoon picnic beneath the colorful trees. The park also allows tents. A bit too late for fall leaves right now, so mark your calendars for next year.

Transportation is simple:

Take subway line 2 (blue) to northermost, penultimate terminal station called Longtou Jie station (龙头街站). Walk out B exit and a bus station sits outside. Take buses
9, 249, or 79 toward 植物园 (botanical garden). Conveniently get off in front of park's North gate.

Entrance fee is 9 yuan on Meituan, 10 at the door. Free for elders. Close around 17:00?

Scroll down Weibo timeline photos to get a rough idea of Kunming Botanical Gardens and above-mentioned changing foliage by timestamps in reverse chronological order from most recent:

m.weibo.cn/[...]

The ubiquitous Chinese selfies may be annoying to some, but they can be our eyes & ears.

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