For us, Kunming served as a transit point to reach the ancient cities of Dali and Lijiang but we spent a few days there just the same. We made our way to Kunming by train from Guilin. For this train ride though, we secured ourselves soft sleeper berths. In truth, they’re not much different than hard sleeper except there are only four people to a compartment rather than six. But, this makes for a much more enjoyable and comfortable journey. Convincing Chris we could afford the small price increase for the added luxury and better night’s sleep was not too difficult. After a full 18 hours in the soft sleeper, he was sold. To see the difference for yourself, just look at the pictures below. The crowded one is hard sleeper….

While in Kunming, we wandered the streets. In China there’s an entrance fee for everything, so more often than not we wander to fill our time.  On one of our outings, we visited the East and West Pagodas. Somehow we got around paying any entrance fees, which delighted us. We enjoyed watching the elders playing games in the West Pagoda courtyard. A serious Zhenlong (Chinese chess) game was ongoing when we approached. Several people gathered around the board and contemplated the players next move. In other corners of the courtyard folks played what looked like mahjong, a solitaire type game played with tiles.

We  headed to the Yunnan Provincial Museum another day. As it turned out, the museum was free during the time we showed up; we love free!! We found the museum really interesting. It detailed the period of the Dian dynasty. Masters of bronze, the craftsmen designed weapons, musical instruments, sculptures, and every day artifacts with bronze. Tigers and oxen decorated nearly every bronze piece. Impressed with their skill, we spent many hours roaming the museum. .

For our last day in Kunming, we visited the Yuangtong Temple and Green Lake Park. Vibrant reds, blues, and yellows decorated the temple. Bursting with color, we found the temple complex quite pretty with its stone bridges linking the small pavilion to the larger, more elaborately decorated temple. Inside the temple itself, two high dragon pillars from the Ming dynasty overlook worshippers. Over 1,000 years old, this temple is different than most Buddhist temples in that you descend to it rather than ascend.

After visiting the temple complex, we made our way to linger in Green Lake Park. Musicians played along pathways, seemingly to be competing against others just a few feet away. People exercised away at different impromptu park aerobics sights. At first glance it looked like line dancing going on all over the park, but upon closer viewing we realized it was aerobics. One person led the group while everyone else mimicked her moves. Some folks must be regulars though because quite a few knew the routines.

This community interaction is something that I’ll miss upon our return to the States. People don’t use parks in the same way. Here and elsewhere on our travels, parks are used for communal rather than solo pursuits like running or walking. Total strangers interact with each other on all sorts of levels. The feeling reminds me of our little neighborhood parks where, for the most part, everyone knows each other and interacts. But the parks I write about are on a grander scale; they’re large city parks where everyone acts like the person next to them is their neighbor.

A trip to Kunming wouldn’t be complete without trying the local dish, across the bridge noodles. The dish apparently came about after a husband complained of receiving lukewarm noodles for lunch; his wife improvised by bringing noodles and thinly sliced pork and vegetables to her husband (working across the bridge) and tossing it all into a piping hot broth once she reached him. Today, across the bridge noodles are served in much the same way. Our guidebook said a place near us was good for the local dish, so we decided to give them a try.

Walking up to the restaurant, we quickly learned our usual method of pointing was not going to work; ordering took place outside the restaurant. Hmmmmm. With the help of one English-speaking staff member though, we managed to order something. Not being totally sure of what we ordered, we entered the restaurant with a sense of adventure. All eyes turned to us; clearly, foreigners didn’t usually enter this place. Everyone watched us as we anxiously watched the kitchen to see what came out to our table. After a few minutes, the waiter brought out two of the largest soup bowls imaginable along with all sorts of smaller plates. For the most part, we still have no idea the contents of all the plates but we could easily discern that there was thinly sliced pork/chicken, green onions, bird’s egg, and mushrooms. Oh yes, and noodles. Unceremoniously, the waiter dumped everything into the piping hot broth. We allowed the meat and noodles to cook a bit in the broth and then, just like the locals, slurped away at our noodle soup.

More pictures from our visit to Kunming can be seen on Chris’ and Jodi’s respective flickr pages.

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