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Our First stop was Kunming, which although there wasn't much to do, was a nice with a friendly atmosphere, and a good place to get our first taste of Chinese life and the delicious Chinese dumplings! A couple of days spent visiting the Stone Forest, Western Hill and Daguan Park. The Stone Forest is about 1.5 hours by road which is a significant traffic due to both Golden Week(the 7-day Chinese public holiday) and extensive roadworks. Interest en-route was the Kunming/Hanoi railway line a narrow gauge railway built in 1912 at a loss of life of 60,000. Now only used for freight. The forest itself is very impressive and covers a significant area's mostly flat and serviced by good paths for walkers and people mover trains for the less mobile. Some walking and climbing is required at some of the features and for scenic views. Lunch at the forest is good with a nice outlook over the lake.
The main attraction in the Western Hill is Dragon Gate on the cliff face which is reached by cablecar or by several hours walk through the wooded hillside. Currently the area is very dry but could be beautiful under better conditions. Impressive views of the city and lake from the Gate but would need good weather conditions.
Daguan Park is attractive city park leading to the lake - a great place to see a microcosm of local life ie kite-flying, bicycling, pedal boating, card and mahjong playing and even pitching a tent or a hammock and just relaxing.
We arrived at Dali early am by air from Kunming. Dali is a very nice and pretty tiny town with good Chinese architecture. Local markets are always interesting with an array of food, vegetables and meats as well as locally made craft items. Our guide Susan was excellent and gave us very interesting information on the Bai minority people and their customs. We then went to the Yulong Snow Mountain. We had a fabulous day trip with a cable car ride (delays of up to 1 hour if you arrive with the tourist coaches!!) The cable cars only take 2 people and there is an obvious need for gondolas with a greater capacity. The meadow is a grassy area interspersed with boardwalks and at the early stages surrounded by the stalls of the Tibetan community largely selling local crafts and foods including yak meat on skewers. Further up the board walk is a small Tibetan temple with prayer wheels and flags and resident monks. There are many photo opportunities of the mountain peaks, of decorated yaks, girls in ethnic minority dress and pony rides are also available. A truly worthwhile experience but customers should be warned it could be quite cold. (Coats were for hire at RMB 25).
Been here in Dali for two days, We were taken to Lijiang. Deservedly recognized as a world heritage cultural site even though every house is a shop! The old Chinese buildings and narrow streets with their stone bases worn shiny by the many visitors are full of character and the squares are centres of ongoing cultural shows. The many streams running between the buildings give it even more charm and the lanterns at night add complete this idyllic picture.There are numerous eating places along the streams and whilst crowded the atmosphere was jovial and friendly. The whole area is a photographers dream and having all of this at the doorstep of our hotel was an added bonus.
Our next destination was the very cool Tiger Leaping Gorge, the world's deepest gorge, where we trekked for two days amongst the very lovely scenery.
We also had a few days in Shangri-la which to Westerners means "paradise on earth".
Our travelers were not disappointed.