20 December 2017

2016: A Very Yunnan Christmas!

Christmas 2017 is only round the corner, this year I'm shelving any holiday plans so I wanted to cast my mind back to 2016. Taking just over ten days off from work enabled me to see three outstanding places within South China's Yunnan Province. Getting that contract straight up felt great but taking to the skies from Wuhan Tianhe International Airport felt amazing! Fly!

Yunnan Province wasn't my first choice for my hotly anticipated 2016 Christmas holiday, I had originally wanted to visit Hainan island, eyeing up Sanya for a few days. The flights further south of Kunming were out of my price range as the next Spring Festival would be an expensive in far Northeast China. Kunming, Dali and Lijiang fell into place of that Hainanese tropical getaway without any fuss, well almost because my flights got changed three times! Touching down into Changshui International Airport in Kunming City kick started my Christmas adventure in Yunnan Province. The accomodation booked ended up being in a grotty high-rise building but for less than thirty pound for three nights I wasn't going to stress over that happening. The Stone Forest, Yuantong Temple and other Kunming sites were in my plan! To be honest, in that moment I could tell quickly that Yunnan was the right choice! Go!

Knocked out from December's busy schedule at my then kindergarten in Wuhan I dragged myself out of bed before lunch time on my first day, Yuantong Temple and a flower market seemed like the thing to do for that first afternoon. Taking it slow I took in the calm of Yuantong Temple, I want to drop-kick people who say China's temples are all the same, I looked deep into the spirit of that Kunming  place of worship to find something that I adored. Walking for what felt like an age I found the Flower and Birds Market of Kunming along Bailong Road. Being the 'Spring City' I appreciated the colourful blooms that were for sale, I didn't feel the need to buy any souvenirs because I was there for a mooch around and nothing else. Returning back to the city I found my friend who was waiting for me, we had met in a nightclub during 2015's National Day holiday in Chengdu. My first twenty-four hours in Kunming were amazing, I was ready for one more day in that 'Spring City' before Dali!

Kunming's chilled vibe had me sleeping in again the next day, grabbing a taxi to the city's east coach station had to be done. Again, I wasn't in any rush during that Christmas holiday. The express bus to the Stone Forest was easy enough to get right, arriving with just enough time to see what all the fuss was about it. Getting to the scene captured to the right took some going but it was all worth it. The Stone Forest looked like nothing I had ever seen before that moment, my alternative Christmas trip was turning out to be something else! Making my way through that jagged forest gave me certain illusions of the prehistoric ages, I loved that 'Glamasuarus' moment! I didn't want any random selfies! Chinese tourists know no boundaries! Successfully getting back to Kunming's city centre showed me the complexity to its main railway station but I was going to be fine the next day bound for Dali. How I loved Kunming so very much!

Returning to my hotel I decided to have a little rest, jetting off on holiday straight from my classes had tired me out, I didn't want to be a bore though and stay in my room anymore than I needed to. Checking out a random night street on my laptop, I ran with that last-minute research and hopped into a taxi bound for Wenhua Street because clubbing wasn't on the menu that evening. Dining at a curry house provided me with a lovely dinner, discovering the night lights impressed me much along that cute Kunming street. The shop windows painted the perfect picture and the atmosphere was nice and chilled, another reoccurring sight in Yunnan's booming big city. Calling it a night pretty early I wanted to get a good night sleep before my first slow train the next day, Dali wasn't served by a high-speed link so I saved a bunch with those 'hard seat' tickets. My time in Kunming was blessed, the accommodation was definitely basic but the bright and inviting nature of Kunming made it shine on!

Departing from Kunming Railway Station I made the six hour train journey to Dali on a slow 'K Class' train, I had only ever taken the high speed trains but on that route I had no choice but to experience the unrefined nature of that standard carriage. I don't mean 'unrefined' in a negative way because it was an experience worth having compared to the comfort of a 'G or D Class' train. Without any announcement I arrived at Dali Railway Station, flagging a cab I had to call the hostel to tell the driver where to go, it was a chore but another character building moment. Dali had attracted me for many reasons, one being its natural beauty and its protected old town. Settling into my hostel I hadn't chose the dormitory room, paying a little bit more I bagged a private room with its own shower for less than twenty pounds per night. Wasting no time I had a mooch down into the old town, it had been such a long day, I was sleepy.

Bright and early on the first real day in Dali I had got a ticket for a boat trip along the Erhai Lake, unddoubtedly one of the best natural views in China I had seen along with the rice terraces in Guilin, I was blown away by that Yunnan water! The tourists had no chill, feeding the seagulls didn't impress me much but we all make poor choices sometimes, I appreciated the view without paying them no mind, well I tried! Back on dry land Dali's Old Town was prettier than a picture, noticing somethings I didn't expect to see I found a roadside cafe that served a cold beer, taking some time out it got boozy! During my final day in Dali I took a chance to see the tranquil Chongsheng Temple and the three pagodas, seeking solace in that moment it was lovely to discover the three pagodas without any crowds. I felt a million miles away from Wuhan, that chaotic place had no place during my Christmas holiday in Yunnan, China. Dali was such a darling, I felt so contented boarding my Lijiang train.

Lijiang was my final Yunnan destination of my Christmas holiday during the final throws of 2016. Staying within Lijiang's Old Town felt like I was cocooned in a safe haven, that gorgeously restored UNESCO World Heritage Site impressed me much! Getting to my hotel was an adventure, tucked away down a narrow alley within the heart of the old town it was a relief to take my first steps discovering the shopfronts and seeing the general feel of the action. Flower cakes seemed to me the thing to buy, well for a good gift anyway? Taking it easy during the first day I found a little bar down one of the winding alleys, needless to say it was a good night. Christmas Day came, I dragged myself out of bed in my hungover state to Lijiang's Black Dragon Pool to catch Christmas from a different perspective. That Lijiang beauty spot was really quiet, I only saw a few people go about their sightseeing business. Lijiang was definitely lovely!

Back on the drink because it was Christmas Day I went back to that bar for more, calling family back in England on Skype was a juggling act because the signal was really bad! Waking up on Boxing Day, my head felt like hell but I found my way to Baisha to see the murals in that ancient village that played a significance to the Naxi people. Talking of Naxi people, I noticed the local minority within Yunnan province. From arriving to finally departing from Kunming Changshui International Airport I had an absolute blast during my Christmas holiday that I missed out on the previous year. Kunming was cool, a busy city with a chilled sense of chill. Dali was truly a darling, winding streets and the dreamest lake I ever did and oh lovely Lijiang gave me three horrendous Christmas time hangovers! The holiday was over after I immediately arrived back to Wuhan as New Year's got things turned up with Fiona and Elli, it got scandalous! It was ace but I definitely have more to see in Yunnan! Shangri-La next?

Last Christmas...

Joseph Harrison 

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