Linda, that's a lot of questions. Let me answer a few for you.
You can travel Yunnan by yourself, which is very safe, also for 2 girls, but China does pose its challenges.
You want to connect your credit card to Alipay or WeChat pay. Cash is accepted, but it makes things much easier.
We also recommend to use apps like Trip.com for train and plane tickets and hotels. They're pretty foreigner friendly.
Specific locations of train stations vary. You can look some of them op on the website or in map apps.
Places will be open. Just expect that many people are traveling during the Spring Festival holiday, which will make your trip more expensive and hotels and trains a bit harder to book.
I hope this helps.
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Xizhou is one of Dali's gems, only about 18 kilometers north along the lake from Dali Old Town. The old town still feels authentic and is like a living gallery, showcasing the impressive artistry and culture of the Bai people.
It makes for a great stop on the way up to Shaxi Old Town too, which is perhaps my favourite place in Dali prefecture.
I've been to the Stone Forest many times and although when entering the park it may feel a bit like a tourist trap, there's areas in the back that, even during high season, are usually extremely quiet and can be explored without being surrounded by the crowds.
The landscape is unique and different from many nearly areas that also feature karst rock formations. Definitely worth a visit for those who haven't been yet.
Five stars for focussing on healthy foods. Homemade live sauerkraut, lots of dishes with quinoa, chia seeds, avocado, and tons of other superfoods mixed to create a tasty and healthy cuisine. I hope this is only the beginning of a new wave of alternative food options in the city.
One of the better options in Lijiang for a western meal. Had a set menu through meituan for only 99 yuan that included a very decent steak and onion soup. The environment is spacious and nicely designed with the restaurant being conveniently located in between the InterContinental and LUX hotel inside of the old town. We were not drinking, but they looked like having an impressive wine collection. 5 stars if they improve on speed and service level.
Sofitel is easily one of Kunming's top hotels now, featuring one of the best locations, in between the city center and the popular Dianchi Lake area.
The views from any of its rooms, as well as the buffet restaurant are quite stunning, offering previously unseen panoramas over the whole of Kunming.
There's a bar on the 50th floor, although currently it still has some work to do to be able to compare itself with similar 'skybars' in Shanghai or Beijing.