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Kunming - Dali - Zhongdian (Shangri-la) - Lijiang - Kunming

don´t miss the Yunnan photos

note: prices and times will be added at a later date.

During the may-vacation of 2006, I travelled with my girlfriend to Yunnan province in South-West China. We had booked the tickets from Shenzhen to Kunming only two days in advance via Because of the May-vacation is traditionally very busy, we had to pay full price for our tickets, but for off-season tickets you should be able to get about halfprice. Although there is a lot of information online about Yunnan, we were still pleasently surprised by the beauty of this part of China. Below you will read our impressions.

We travelled in Yunnan for one week from Kunming to Dali and then to Zhongdian (Shangri-la). Then we returned back via Lijiang to Kunming. Dali is located at Erhai Lake to the West of Kunming. Zhongdian is close to the border with Tibet and from Dali is to the North.

Map of Yunnan

Yunnan is famous for it's scenic spots, natural beauty and the many ethnic 'minorities' that live there. The following map shows where the biggest groups traditionally live:

Map showing the various minorities in Yunnan


Yunnan staat 


Day 1 [sunday]. After working on sunday, we took the airplane in the evening to Kunming. The first thing we noticed in Kunming was the airquality, so much better than Shenzhen! We had booked two dormitory beds in the hostel 'The Hump' in advance. The hostel costs around '..' per night and attracts lots of foreigners and has a disco around the corner. Dormitory-rooms were quite big with bunkbeds and bathroom was only ok.


Day 2 [monday]. Dali Three PagodasWe got up early and went to the busstation in Kunming to book a bus to Dali. About an hour later the bus left and we were offered bottles of water and cookies in the bus. The bustickets cost '..' and the trip takes about '5..' hours. Upon arrival in Dali we went to the hostel '..' near the old citycentre of Dali. We shared our dormitoryroom with a young German couple and the room was very clean, spatious and didnt contain bunkbeds. After putting our luggage in a locker, we immediately went to the most important landmark of Dali; the Three Pagoda's. I had expected that was all there was to see, but it turned out that there is a whole park/monestery built behind them against the mountain. This provides for some beautiful scenery. As we arrived quite late (17h, closing time 19h), the park was getting more and more empty. In the soft sunlight, we the mountains before us and the lake behind us, we took lots of photos.

Dali Since we were one of the last people to leave the area, there was no bus back to the village anymore. Although it is in walkingdistance of for example Foreigners Street, we waited a little while. We wanted to take a horsecar back, but the drivers were too pushy. In the end we decided to walk back and this made another driver lower the fare from 10Yuan to only 3Y. After a few bumpy and interesting minutes we arrived back in Dali where we strolled along the streets to discover many foreigners and shops targeted at foreigners. Still, Dali left us with a good impression and the city has a nice atmosphere to it.


Day 3 [tuesday]. Sleeping monksAgain get up early to get a bus to Zhongdian (Shangri-la). This trip takes quite long. We booked a bus at a local travelagency, but we should not have done this. We ended up in a minibus and paying a little too much (..). What is worse (or at least more interesting), is that we end up with a bunch of drunken monks also heading to Zhongdian. They were wearing the traditional yellow/red costumed, but besided that they were drinking (liquor), smoking (cigarettes), whistling at women, singing (very loud) and so on. One guy in particular, seemed to be addicted to alcohol and later on in the trip he ofcourse had to throw up. Luckily the monks didnt turn out to be violent and the scenery got more and more beautiful as we approached Zhongdian. High mountains, some even with snow, deep valleys, little rivers and small villages passed us on our way to Zhongdian.

Road to Zhongdian Around .. we arrived at the hostel and initially we were told that the dormitories were seperated for men and women but we could still sleep in the same one. It was a normal-sized room, wooden interior and two bunkbeds and lockers. Zhongdian is situated at about 3300 meters and you can really notice that the air contains less oxygen. In and around the village you also see lots of Tibetan influences. We ate in the evening in a Muslim-restaurant and it tasted very good. Some sort of barbequed meat that was still burning when they served it. On the way back we saw lots of people performing a traditional dance in the city, not for tourists or something, but just because they love to dance.



Day 4 [wednesday]. Park ZhongdianWe met a Chinese couple in the morning and they had ordered a car to bring them to a local lake. We decided to go with them and share the costs but first we bought a busticket later that day to Lijiang. The park is called 'Sea of trees', but is not very interesting. You first drive a while with a bus in the park and then you can walk a little while along a lake. There are some horses along the lake and there is short tour across the lake by boat where you can see the pink/white flowers that the fish will eat. Because these flowers are intoxinating, the fish will appear drunk in the summer.

Tibetan houseOn the way back, I asked if we could visit one of those traditional Tibetan houses. This turned out to be very interesting and far better than the visit to the lake. We said goodbye to the Chinese couple and we visited the famous monestry of Zhongdian. Although it is very beautiful, it is not as 'real' as the one in Hangzhou that we visited the previous year. Perhaps our view was influenced by those Rock&Roll-monks, or the poor livingquarters of the monks. The top and main part of the monestry is very interesting nonetheless and certainly worth a visit.

Zhondian monestry After this visit, we took the bus back to the town and around 17:40 we tookt he bus back. We arrived around 22:30 in Lijiang and it was already dark. With a taxi we decided to find a hostel, but it turned out that all hostels were fully booked. The only option was one of 300 yuan, but after a few minutes when we decided to take that one, even that was booked. We got out of the taxi and walked around town very late in the evening. We were thinking about either sleeping in the street or getting one expensive hotel of 500 yuan. We asked various small hotels, but all were busy and finally we decided to go to the expensive one. On the way there we asked various others but all were full. One owner was willing to let us sleep in his own bed under the stairs though. It was about 1 by 1.80 meter, but much cheaper and we slept very good. We even got some clean bedclothes and in the morning found out that the owner slept on the chairs in the lobby.


Day 5 [thursday].Tiger Leaping Gorge In the morning we went out to find a hostel in the old city of Lijiang. We ended up in '', a very nice hostel where we once again took a dormitory room. The rooms were situated around a small innerplace where you could sit, talk and just relax. Bathrooms very good as well, we really enjoyed this place. We met another couple here that was going to the Tiger Leaping Gorge by taxi. We once again shared costs and went along with them. The Gorge was somewhat of a disappointment. Although you do get an impression of what it is about, you walk over a concrete footpath and at the end the path just stops. You can not go on walking into the Gorge to the other end from where we were. We did see the famous stone that is the reason why it is called the Tiger Leaping Gorge. According to folktales, a tiger used this big stone in the middle of the fastflowing river to jump accross the Gorge.

Lijiang musicOn the way back, our companions rode horse along a lake, but we just took some photos. In the evening we enjoyed the views of the old city, that is quite similar to Dali but bigger. At around .. we went to a famous concert of old Naxi-people. Headed by Xuan Ke, the storyteller, it is quite interesting. Because the group loses one of its old musicians every year, there are now quite a few younger members. Two girls also sang local music and inspired by the jokes from Xuan, the Chinese audience had to laugh quite a lot. Even though the English translation by him was shorter, he still made some remarks about the government. It is said that in the past his jokes used to be much harder though and in face Xuan has been in prison for a long time when he was a young boy.

Day 6 [friday]. We took a tourgroup to go to Chinese flag on Yulongxue Shan (Jade Dragon Snow-mountain). We had heard that because of the May-days, it would be very difficult to get a ticket to go up. The tourgroup was unfortunately what we feared, and not so interesting. The village '..' was quite nice to visit though and also interesting to see the Dongba-priests, but the highpoint was literally the snowmountain. We first had to transfer to a bus that brought us to the foot of the mountain. From there queue up and take a breathtaking cableride to the snow near the top. Apparently nobody has ever gone all the way to the top, because it is very steep and the weather changes so quickly. At the bottom people can rent warm clothes and oxygenmasks. We thought that oxygen would really not be needed, but when you arrive at 4506 meters, you really notice the lack of oxygen. In the beginning xiaoxiong didnt have any problems, but as we walked over the path to the highest point of 4680 we both began to feel it more and more. Even though we were already some days at over 3000 meters, this altituted was something totally new. We both really enjoyed the view and on the way back we could walk through the snow of the Southernmost glacier of the Northern hemisphere.

Day 7 [saturday]. Lijiang view from Lion HillWe bought a ticket from Lijiang to Kunming .. yuan, .. hours. On the way back, we took a taxi that dropped us off at Lion Hill where to visited the pagoda on top of the hill for a beautiful view of the city. I didnt realize when the bus to Kunming would leave and didnt understand why Xiaoxiong was in such a hurry all the way back, walking from Lion Hill down through the narrow streets to the hostel.

Lijiang with view of snowmountain

When we took a taxi to the busstation, I understood though, we were very very late. With 1 minute to spare, we arrived just in time at the busstation luckily and we took our final bustrip back to Kunming. At the entrance of Kunming (also the exit ofcourse) they are building a new road and this leads to some delay and a bumpy ride. We decided not to go to the Hump this time, but stay in ... Also in the centre, this room had better and smaller dormitory rooms and even a pooltable and computerrooms. We ate accross the street in a little restaurant.


Flight Kunming to Shenzhen
Day 8 [sunday]. Relaxing day, we walked a bit through the city, but it is not very interesting. Just like other modern Asian cities. In the midday we took the airplane back to Shenzhen and from the airport the bus back to our house. This ended our short, but very beautiful vacation that introduced me to a totally different part of China than Shenzhen and Shanghai.



We highly recommended to visit Yunnan! A beautiful part of China away from the crowded cities.

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3.26 Copyright (C) 2008 / Copyright (C) 2007 Alain Georgette / Copyright (C) 2006 Frantisek Hliva. All rights reserved."

Last Updated ( Friday, 23 June 2006 )
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