Tag Archives: Yunnan

Hiking, horses and hot springs – Tengchong, Yunnan

10 May

Tengchong, Yunnan – when I told Chinese friends that’s where my company’s outing was going to be, the typical answer was either, “Where?” or “Who planned the trip?  They must really like history.”  Tengchong is not a well known name, except for the fact that there was a monumental battle there between the Kuomintang government and the Japanese during the Sino-Japanese war.  It is a “developing” tourism spot in the mountain district and facilities and options for travelers are still relatively limited.  The highways are still for the most part under construction and there is no high speed train meaning that the pace of live is much slower than Shanghai or the eastern part of China in general.

It is also the home to one of the largest hot spring complexes in the area and many hiking trails through the mountains exist.  Because it is so remote, the number of tourists is much smaller than in Dali or Lijiang and the overall atmosphere was very friendly, though we still had a tour guide who was pushing her own agenda, wanting us to buy jade at her family’s store.  Tengchong had the feel of a prosperous small town (of 600,000) with folks involved in construction, the tourist trade and the jade industry.  I learned quite a bit about jade and perhaps some day will actually purchase the jade bangle that my mother has been suggesting since I moved to China.

Traveling always stretches my Chinese ability – picking up place names and words specific to a region.  This trip I am proud to say that aside from asking the meaning of some words I spent four days locked into Chinese conversation – from breakfast through to bedtime.  It felt good – I wasn’t thinking about it, just speaking and living and enjoying.

The photos here are a summary of some of my favorite moments during the trip – trying to capture the joy, the ease of the trip.  This was a smaller group – we were about 15 people, the perfect number for a small coach – and the familiarity and comfort with each other was something that you don’t find every day.  I feel very lucky to have had the experience.

Have you ever gone to a developing tourism area before it was fully developed?  What has been your favorite “off the beaten track” experience?  I typically don’t like tour groups but in this setting it worked very well.  What kind of groups/or not do you like to travel with?

Blue sky days

3 May

During my trip to Tengchong I soaked in the blue skies.  Living in Shanghai I don’t get many of them and so I am much more appreciative when I do see them.

In all fairness, there has been some sunny weather in Shanghai as well lately – spring and autumn (October) are my favorite seasons here.  I’m trying to take the time to enjoy them not only when I travel.

They may say clouds have a silver lining, but if they’re puffy white clouds in a blue sky, no lining needed. Hope that I brought some blue sky to your day today!

泼水节 – Or, how I got wet in Tengchong, Yunnan

1 May

Happy May Day!  China, like most other countries, excluding the US celebrates International Labor Day on May 1st, so today is a public holiday here.  Instead of talking about Labor Day though, I thought I would talk about another celebration, one that I experienced on my recent trip to Tengchong, Yunnan in the middle of April.

When I went to Tengchong,  I went one day later than my colleagues as I had some things that I needed to finish up.   One of the things I have learned in the last four years is that when you are in management you have much more flexibility than you may initially think.  I simply told the coordinator that I would come a day later and pay the difference in plane tickets and he arranged it all, didn’t even ask any questions.  Understanding that cultural difference has made my life easier as of late.

When I landed at the airport a very nice driver was sent to pick me up.  I originally was worried that I wouldn’t be able to recognize him, but he recognized me right away – as the only foreigner in the airport.  We got into his car and took off towards the scenic spot where I was supposed to meet up with my tour group.

He started asking me if I wanted to see any of the other sights in Tengchong which I declined as my flight was already over an hour late and I was ready to meet up with my team.  He initially said ok and then talked my ear off for the next 45 minutes.  It appears that I was the second foreigner he had ever been sent to pick up and the first one that he could talk to.  The other gentleman was either African or African American and had some serious communication problems (and stomach problems) according to the driver.  He started asking me about politics, about my life in Shanghai and I couldn’t help be in a good mood with his honest exuberance in the car.

We started to drive by a square with a large gold statue of a woman and the driver pulled over.  There were people all over the square and they had small florescent pails of water.  It appeared they were running around trying to get each other wet.  I asked the driver what was going on and he said it was a “po shui jie 泼水节” or water festival.  That day was the first day and it was a three day festival.  The purpose of the festival is to get others wet and if you get wet you shouldn’t be sick for the rest of the year.  He proposed we drive through the plaza and take a look.  At that point, I agreed – so we slowly drove forward – windows open to see the festival up close.

At first it was fun to be an observer – I snapped photos and saw lots of folks getting wet.  Then, almost before I knew it, a group of young men started running towards the car and threw a whole bucket of water at the window.  I and my camera both got wet as the driver quickly rolled up the window.  There was nothing I could do, but laugh – so as I laughed and tried to dry off my camera I gave it to the driver and asked him to snap a photo of me.

At least I shouldn’t be sick this year!

Enjoy the photos and let me know if you’ve ever celebrated (or participated in) a festival that is not your own.

Flowers of Tengchong, Yunnan

29 Apr

As I referenced in my post about my layover in the Kunming airport, I recently took a trip to Tengchong, Yunnan. The trip was similar to my trip last year to Zhangjiajie, Hunan as it was with my work colleagues. The scale of this trip was smaller – it was only folks from the Shanghai office and it was about half of those (a tour group of about 15 people), the ones who have been with me over the last three and a half years. At this point we can enjoy each others company without talking about work and we really had a beautiful trip.  The other advantage of traveling with my colleagues is that it really allows me to “go local.”  The entire time that I was there I saw no other foreign faces – zero – so I’m pretty sure what I ate and what I saw is well off the beaten tourist track.

One of the pleasures about Tengchong and Yunnan in general is the beautiful flowers everywhere.  The climate is such that it appears if you put the plant in the ground it will multiply and thrive on its own.  Looking through my trip photos (and I took a lot) I realized that flowers were a consistent theme no matter if I was visiting the hot springs, the mountain gorge, the old town, etc., so I thought I would combine my flower photos for a collage of Tengchong’s best as an introduction to this little visited part of Yunnan.

One note – I do not know the name of these flowers – in English or Chinese, so if you have any guesses or thoughts I’d be happy to have some idea of what I took!  Most all are flowering trees so it may be that I would recognize the fruit, but not the flower.  Which is your favorite?

Layover at Kunming airport

22 Apr

I was recently in the Kunming airport to do a transfer to another city in Yunnan called Tengchong.  The Kunming airport is definitely not up to the standards of the Singapore airport – with my major example being that all of the toilets in the airport (that I was able to find) are squat toilets.  This time I had a much more pleasant experience than the last time I flew through when I had some stomach trouble and the state of the bathrooms was higher on my priority list.

Since I had a couple of hours, I wandered through quite a bit of the airport and even pulled out my camera.  Because Yunnan is so close to Myanmar and Thailand, there is a lot of fruit available and some of it is very unusual.  These photos show Buddha’s hands, which I have never had, as well as the classic smelly fruit – the durian.

In addition the beautiful weather in the province means that there are beautiful flowers everywhere – even the airport.  I didn’t buy any because I was transferring and at the start of my trip, but the idea that you could buy them and bring them home was really nice.

So many beautiful flowers!

After I took these photos I still had some time so I paid 20 RMB (about $3 USD) for a chair massage and then headed to my gate.

Any favorite places for layovers?

Exploring – Kunming, Yunnan part 2

11 Dec

This is about the second part of my day exploring in Kunming.  For details about Xi Shan, please check out the previous post.

The Kunming Cultural Ethnic Minority Town was a unique experience. It was kind of like a low grade Epcot center, where they combined the traditional housing/villages of 25 different ethnic minority groups who come from all over China. It was almost deserted by the time I arrived around 2pm and all of the actors in the park looked very, very bored. I got invited to sit down and talk by pretty much every performer I saw.

The park was enormous – walking around was pretty tiring. I imagine if there were lots of tourists there and other activities it would have been a fun place to spend an afternoon, but I had already been on my feet most of the day and very few of the signs were in English.  Perhaps that is why Chinese tourists do not travel alone. However, when I had bought my ticket they had said that I could also go to the “BIG SHOW” at 3pm, so I made my way to the amphitheater – which likely easily could have sat 2000 people and found a seat towards the center.

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The show was a spectacular. There were likely over 150 performers throughout, dancing, singing and re-enacting different cultural dances and traditions. It was a snapshot of the cultures that are fast disappearing throughout China and also an affirmation that despite the single face of China – the Han people who are the overwhelming majority – China has a lot of cultural diversity, if they choose to celebrate it. I fear that most of the performers really don’t know the traditions they are celebrating – the skeptical side of me wonders if these dances occur anymore, but the optimist in me hopes that they are now preserved for future generations to view and remember and morph into new traditions.

After the show, I was ready to head back and put my feet up. I hailed a “black cab” with a very nice driver who skillfully battled rush hour traffic and got me back to the hotel in no time. A good, yet slightly strange day which finished my trip to Yunnan.

Exploring – Kunming, Yunnan part 1

8 Dec

The last day we were in Yunnan I was on my own to explore Kunming, the capital city.  Li had a series of meetings that he had to attend (hence the reason we were in Yunnan at all), but I had taken the day off from work and decided to head out and see what the town had to offer.  My original plan (to go to a place called the Bamboo Temple) was derailed when I got into the taxi cab in the morning and the driver said that it was too far and very difficult to get back from.  My secondary plan, was then to go to a place called Xi Shan (West Mountain), that was closer and also had a transportation link to the Yunnan Cultural Ethnic Minority Town, which seemed like as good as way as any to spend the day.

After just having come from Cang Shan, Xi Shan was not quite up to the same standard in terms of beautiful mountain views, but it did have some interesting temples scattered in the caves built into the cliffs.  I bought my gondola ticket and headed up the mountain with two very nice businessmen who I think were playing hooky from a day of meetings in the city.  We parted ways when I decided to get an electronic guide (in Chinese, but it had a small map on it) and I spent the rest of the day exploring alone.

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Chinese tourists do not do solo travel.  The site of a single woman traveler got me lots of strange looks, questions if I was lost and even some catcalls – Pretty woman, pretty woman, do you understand me? (said in Chinese, over and over).  In Shanghai, seeing foreigners isn’t a big deal, but here, I was special.  The entire day I saw one other foreigner and that was later at the town.

I’ll put the town as its own post as I have hit the limit of the slideshow for this one.

What would cause you to trek to the top of a mountain?  What needs to be at the other side for the experience to be “worth it?”  Is natural beauty its own reward?  Should other explorers have made their mark?  Is it sports (skiing)?  Would love to hear.

Exploring – Dali, Cangshan

4 Dec

The second day in Dali we spent climbing Cangshan mountain, spending the better part of 6 hours exploring the hills before we headed back to Kunming for the evening.  Prior to getting there we had to take a cable car for what seemed like close to 30 minutes which heightened the suspense.  It was remarkably uncrowded as we climbed up and down, snacking on pine nuts which are the area’s specialty.  The blue sky and white clouds provided a backdrop that is pretty rare in Shanghai.  Good for the soul.

Enjoy the photos!

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Exploring – Dali, Yunnan by Day

24 Nov

After such a crazy October, a few days of exploring outside of Shanghai made for a welcome change of pace.  In the middle of November we spent a long weekend in Yunnan province.  Yunnan (云南) translates to “South of the clouds” and is located in the southwest part of China, close to Thailand.  The first part of our trip went to the ancient city of Dali.  Dali is a tourist mecca, known for comfortable summers and comfortable winters.  Mountains are to the west of the town and Erhai Lake is to the east, so the feng-shui is excellent.  These photos are from our first afternoon when we wandered around the city and to the shore of the lake.

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The thing that I appreciated most was the brilliant blue sky as we strolled through town.

More photos from our Yunnan trip will be coming shortly.  Between the two of us, we took over 700 shots, so it will take me some time to sort through them and decide which are post-worthy.  Please let me know which ones you enjoy the most!

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