BEAUTY OF KUNMINGBy
After a gruelling 16 hour flight from Toronto to Hong Kong, the short hop from Shenzhen to Kunming, the capitol of Yunnan province in southern China is but a blink of the eye. And what a treat for the eye! On approach to the Kunming airport, you are treated to one of this province’s artistic displays, the colourful, patchwork landscape. The canvas is red earth and the painting is a vast display of multi-coloured crops that flow over the soft, undulating landscape.
Like many Chinese cities, Kunming has its own water feature, this one in the form of a lake. Actually, a group of 4 small lakes, liked by picturesque bridges. Green Lake Park, or Cui Hu Park, hosts views for some high-end hotels and restaurants, small shops and playgrounds. At night as you stroll around the lakes, music can be heard from street musicians, dazzling lights defining classical architecture shine over the still water and lovers hold hands and enjoy the ideal warm temperature.
If you wish to stay near the lake, there are many reasonably priced hotels. Mine was one of a chain, called the Home Inn (www.homeinns.com). Choose the one near the rear entrance of Yunnan University. They accept foreigners. Not all of them do which was off-putting especially considering I have been in very rural family-run hotels where police come to your room!
The university campus is well worth a stroll just to see the grounds. Many species of trees are identified and small reading shelters seek quiet under the canopies of the trees. The buildings are a mix of traditional Chinese style, and European-influenced colonial. You cannot help but smile as students pass by with excited chatter and also very eager to give you directions as you navigate the complex filigree’d paths.
Your reward for finding the front entrance of Yunnan University is a beautiful walk, and also, if you are hungry, the Cuihu 1923 restaurant across the street. 1923 is a quiet retreat from the busy streets and noise. Split between two buildings, you can dine as a group in one of the ornate rooms in the old courtyard building or you can relax by the pond in the seclusion of the garden. I chose the garden and felt as though I were in an old cottage surrounded by wood beams and floor-to-ceiling glass. Very nice! The food is beautifully presented and tasty, but the service needs some polish. You can call for a reservation or just drop in for lunch: (0871) 5101923.
Any visit to China is never complete without a massage. Either a foot massage or a body massage, you cannot go wrong with the small massage studio with their blind attendants called, Sunnyside Massage Centre (0871) 5325313. The studio can handle eight clients and is just a short walk north west of the ring road around Green Lake Park.
Kunming, capital city of Yunnan is the starting point from which I will travel south about 8 hours by bus to reach the area of Yuanyang. It is here that magnificent rice terraces cling delicately to almost every mountains side and available slope. Planted, ploughed and harvested for 1,200 years, this area is said to be on a list for designation by UNESCO as a World Heritage site. Yuanyang has been a Mecca for photographers for years, though relatively few regular tourist tours go there due to it’s distance from Kunming, and pretty much anything else!
Yuanyang, here I come. Kunming, I’ll be back!