Trip Log: Yunnan Province, China

4/2 Kunming, largest city in Yunnan province

4/3 A day in Kunming

4/4 Zhongdian

  • Saw what can only be described as “megahousing” developments outside of Kunming.
  • Factories everywhere, in suburbs outside the city. Saw a red cloud over a valley of factories. Red.
  • Oh look, that is a road. On a cliff along the river. How. The. Hell.
  • Himalayan mountains in the distance? Easily twice as tall as the giant mountains we’re flying over.
  • Land in Zhongdian. Small airport, but clearly new. Full of Tibetan items, and cold-weather gear. It’s COLD.
  • One hour flight, landing at 12,000ft above sea-level. Yeah, we all ended up with mild altitude sickness for the first day. That kinda sucked.
  • Zhongdian was renamed Shangri-La 10 years ago to increase tourism.
  • Yak fields on the way to town.
  • More Jetta cabs. Must be state-mandated.
  • Populace is Tibetan mostly, but many other ethnic minorities present.
  • Pink hat ladies! Scarf tied around hats.
  • Old town. Cobblestone streets. Carved wood structures.
  • Fashion for guys is like 80s bad boy. Or black blazer and slacks… for doing manual labor.
  • Women wearing slave-to-fashion wear, or traditional garb. Not much in between.
  • Lunch spots advertise with bao steamers. Ate at East City North Cooked Wheaten Food King. Had three noodle soups. With yak meat. And dumplings.
  • Land of no salad. Seriously, there’s almost no fresh vegetables in any food we had the whole trip. Always cooked.
  • Last day of Cleaning the Grave holiday. Half the town was in the graveyard as we checked in, lighting off firecrackers by the grave.
  • Checked into the guesthouse. No inside heat in the guesthouses.
  • Meet Alek’s friend Meow Meow (sp?)
  • No running water for 4 months during winter because pipes are frozen.
  • Nightly dancing in both the old-town center, and new-town center. They like to dance.
  • New hotels in new town. I bet they have heat and running water and power all year round.
  • Little Potala palace. Megatemple of Tibetan Buddhism.
  • Shiloh rode a wizardly yak.
  • Yak butter tea. Yak snacks (aka jerky).
  • Tibetan dinner. Creaky wooden restaurant. Cold, only space-heaters. Yak SASHIMI, square noodle soup, meat pie (ground yak).

4/5 Zhongdian

4/6 Zhongdian, Tiger Leaping Gorge

  • Hey, the blankets were quite effective, probably yak wool.
  • Bus to Tiger Leaping Gorge.
  • The hike starts with a nice meandering valley stroll, and nice views.
  • Followed by “24 bends”, a long series of switchbacks.
  • “I smell weed. Or poop.” – Shiloh. It was an old man with grandson in lap, smoking weed out of a long skinny pipe.
  • Ladies along the trail selling bags of weed, saffron and snickers.
  • 7 hours of hiking. Beautiful, amazing views every 5 minutes.
  • Got to Halfway House guesthouse. Sat on the deck, had a beer and checked out the view.
  • Alek has a Chinese name: “Overcoming the power of mugwort”. He’s looking for a new one.
  • Dinner: two mushroom dishes, eggplant, gung pao. Damn.
  • Alek went into the kitchen and found their house-infused baijiao. One was mushroom. Yes, mushroom liquor. The other was olive, papaya, goji berry… and other stuff. Both were surprisingly good.
  • Closed it out with biajiao, beer, tea, cards and Snickers.

4/7 Tiger Leaping Gorge to Lijiang

4/8 Lijiang, Dali

4/9 – Dali

  • Breakfast of bao, black boiled eggs, baba stuffed with carmel sauce.
  • Alec’s out, back to Thailand. All three words of Chinese we know will now be put to the test.
  • Somehow it’s lunch already. Asparagus, tofu, emperor oyster mushrooms with dry-cured ham.
  • Taxi to the cable car. Hike from cable car to chairlift is too long, canceling that. Saw a giant chess set, and a mirror pond.
  • Taxi to the chairlift that we didn’t hike to. Beautiful ride. Look down, oh a grave. Oh look, some more. OHHHHH, thousands of them. Chairlift mountain forest graveyard.
  • At the top, we hike to the Higherland Inn, only thousands of steep steps up the mountain. Zero view. WTF. Head back down the trail to the restaurant with a great view. The place has turtles in a tub… adjacent to all the food that’s on the menu. Hmmm.
  • I got some wild mushrooms. Instructions: soak 3 hours, scramble with egg.
  • Did some shopping in the old city, got some pasta, and headed back to the hotel to chill.
  • Watched a kung fu movie with lots of flying. Saw a commercial for cleavage pills.

4/10 Dali

  • Banana pancakes and fresh melon for breakfast. Off to Xishuang for cormorant fishing.
  • Local market. Saw an awesome computer store. Had noodles that were cut off a giant slab that looked like butter. Found the spice they put on the skewers.
  • Cormorant fishing! Rowed. Sang songs.
  • On the way back, taxi driver took us to the obligatory kickback stop, a marble shop. The Chinese word for marble is “stone from Dali”.
  • Shiloh chilled at the hotel while we rode bikes to the lake. Stopped at a bakery where they had a “selection of mini sandwiches” on the menu. Turns out the mini sandwiches meant “all sandwiches on the menu, put into one”. Fail.
  • Before dinner, got a foot massage, where they had us put our feet in BOILING water.
  • Shiloh got a foot steam bath. Shauna: “OK I can smell foot. It smells like a funk dumpling.”
  • Saw some locals smokin’ tough.
  • Hunted down the wild grilled eggplant for dinner again.

4/11 Back to Kunming

  • Bus to Kunming. Buses here are cheap, and constantly running. Gotta keep your valuables with you. And there’s no bus stops, just people waiting on the side of the highway.
  • Another 5 hours on the road. We passed through Mushroom Town. And went through multi-mile long tunnels.
  • Waited a couple of uneventful hours at the airport, spent our last yuan on tea, and flew home.


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