So we were finally going to leave Kunming today. We've been here long enough! Except…
We took a Didi to the train station and goddamn, I had forgotten what a real train station looked like. Kunming station was huge. You had to go through security before even setting foot into it (maybe because of the attack in 2014?). There were lots of ticket booths and long lines queuing at them. Not every line was the same. For example, there was a military priority line. I initially picked a ticket booth that had only a couple of people lining up at but she brushed me off and told me (via her colleague) to line up at number 5. It was probably a priority line and not for plebs such as us.
At number 5, there was a pretty long line. We weren't going to make the next train to Xingyi. So we decided to buy tickets for the train in the evening… so much for arriving during the day. Took about 20 minutes of queuing before I was served. And yes, I was successful in obtaining tickets for the 4:52 PM train (arriving at 10:40 PM). Argh.
Thankfully, the station had a left luggage facility. We dropped our 4 bags and handed over 32 yuan. They looked like they put some care in putting away our bags on their shelves. I was given a token.
The station had three eating establishments - one serving Chinese food, a Dicos and a KFC. We sat inside the Dicos (Chinese KFC) to look up where to have lunch as I was starving. I found some place nearby but we didn't like the look of it (it had a C food cleanliness rating, lol). Found another place that appeared to be a Dai restaurant, so we went there. Why not? I said I would try Dai food again.
Menghai Dai Wei Yuan 勐海傣味園
My translation of the restaurant name is “Menghai Dai Flavour Garden”. I think Menghai refers to a county within one of the Dai Autonomous regions.
The restaurant only had 2 customers when we walked in but that was ok. We sat down at one of their low tables, on stool. Both were made of bamboo, not plastic! We were given a menu, which was two A4 pages completely filled with Chinese characters and prices next to them, no pictures. This was going to take a while.
The waiter kept trying to say stuff to us so I handed him Baidu translate and he told us they had a set menu for 98 yuan. Sounded like a good deal but we asked him what was included and woah, there were at least 6 dishes. Ok, that's a bit too much. So then he showed us pictures of the food from I think other people's reviews online (maybe from dianping?). In the end we picked 3 things from the set menu -
Beef stir fry - absolutely had a little sour undertones and was a little spicy. The chopped up herbs gave it a fresh feel. Best dish of the lot.
Fern stir fry - not bad, a little different to what I was used to. The Midin fern in Borneo was a little tastier though. This too was sour and spicy but there were bits of tomato to give the dish sweetness.
Pineapple rice - This was sticky rice cooked in a pineapple with some pineapple bits. It was rather sweet and I didn't really like it. I was not really in the mood for sweet things as the food we ordered most definitely would not be sweet. A didn't mind it, and was able to eat it all. I had to order a small bowl of regular steamed rice!
Wasn't a bad place and I appreciated the bloke trying to help us. 7/10 #ipinions
Yunnan Provincial Museum
After lunch, we had some time to kill so we went to the Yunnan Provincial Museum. We walked to the bus stop to catch the C85 bus, a double decker bus which turns out went all the way to Guandu Ancient Town. The museum was actually only a few hundred meters from ancient town -_- We could've planned this better… (i.e. gone to to the museum and ancient town on the same day).
The museum was housed in a shiny new building. It used to be located closer to the Wuhua, Kunming but I think it outgrew it so they built a new building for it.
The museum building was huge and monolithic but the museum itself seemed kind of small. The building was hollow inside, so it was really an illusion. Looks imposing from the outside, but full of hot air inside.
The exhibits spanned from prehistoric times to current day Yunnan but it didn't seem very detailed at all. They focused a few major important points in time and unfortunately practically all the signage was in Chinese only. We particularly enjoyed the Dinosaur age section and the bronze age section. Pics of the most interesting things:
The Lufengosaurus was apparently the first dinosaur ever found in China. It was found in Lufeng in Yunnan province.
We left after 1 hour 40 min, which required us to speed run the place a little bit and focus on levels 2 and 3. We didn't see anything on level 1 unfortunately, but I don't think I missed out on much (a Napoleon exhibit, yes THAT Napoleon).
Back on the 85C bus all the way to the end of the line (Kunming station) and I decided I wanted an ice cream from KFC. The KFC inside Kunming station looked quite modern but strangely, it only had one register. To order, I had to do the good old “take a photo of the menu with phone, open photo and point to the item I wanted” technique. This is because the fancy name they gave the soft serve was 7 characters long and aint nobody got time to try and pronounce all 7 characters. I hadn't even been bothered to translate the name myself but they do have an English translation for it and it says “flower shaped ice cream cone”, not that anyone knew English, let alone the name of the ice cream. I should probably learn the phrase for “ice cream”.
I wasn't going to hold an ice cream cone through security, so I stuttered and quickly spat out what little Mandarin I knew - wo xiang bei, wo qu huo che (this literally translates to “I want cup, I go train” lol) - no doubt this was poor sentence structure and I prob messed up the tones but amazingly the front of house attendant knew exactly what I wanted whilst her manager stared at me blankly. I thanked her twice.
We picked up our bags and headed to the platform. This involved going up an esculator, walking through a rather large concourse, lining up to get our tickets hole punched manually, going down an esculator and walking all the way to carriage #2 (out of at least 12). We had bought hard seats and were assigned seating but found people in our seats. They tried to talk to us but A showed them his ticket and I said the usual wo bu hui shuo putonghua (I can't speak Mandarin). They still tried but I repeated myself. They moved.
The carriage seemed quite wide - the seat configuration was 2x3. Luckily we were seated in the 2 seater and did not have to sit next to anyone.
The train left 30 min late. We spent most of the time on the train watching shows on Netflix (yep Netflix works in China).
Amazingly, we arrived on time at Xingyi. A train conductor came around announcing the next stop just before arriving at it but we were watching Maps.Me, so we were prepared. I was also prepared to face Xingyi, which I anticipated would be some Tier 44 shit hole, so we had better pay attention and have our wits with us.
We got off the train but this time the platform was not level with the train door as it was an older station so I had to trudge down the steps carrying 15kg or so. Ugh.
It was dark and cold but there were plenty of people who had gotten off the train with us. We walked out of the very small station and straight into the car park, where loads of men were shouting, “XINGYI, XINGYI”. We walked past them (which was definitely a mistake) and had a look at Didi, which seemed like it had some drivers available but ultimately we were not able to book one. In the end we took a taxi but had trouble speaking with him. I wanted him to use the meter but he wouldn't turn it on. I think he was telling us why but I wasn't able to translate this. I think he wanted 80 yuan but in the end we gave him 50 cash (which was probably too much). He got really confused in the end, telling us to pay him using Wechat but of course we couldn't do that.
Initially, we thought he dumped us at the wrong place but it turns out Maps.Me was wrong! Shock horror!! We checked in without much issue. I asked the guy how to get to Malinghe gorge and he said we could take the public bus. It wasn't far after all.
It was quite late and we decided to skip dinner. I wasn't that hungry anyhow.
Final thoughts on Kunming
- I liked Lijiang more. Kunming was more “typical Chinese city” than Lijiang, I think because of the population and because it is a city with a lot of industry. The air just felt cleaner, nicer in Lijiang (the mountains would do that to ya!)
- We honestly could've done Kunming in two days tops, instead of four.
- The busses sucked. Low frequency.
- There isn't a whole lot to see in Kunming. Not really sure it is worth stopping for the average holidaymaker with limited time.
- There wasn't a lot of options in terms of accommodation on Booking.com. You must use Trip instead (but this is more of a China-wide tip).
- Trying Dai food was probably the most interesting part of our stay.