After a few days in Yanghuo, and enjoying one of China’s most picturesque spots, both on and around the Li River, we took an internal flight from Guilin to Kunming, Yunnan Province. Yunnan Province is in South West China and Kunming is just a thousand kilometers from Tibet – it’s also at an altitude of two thousand meters, so the climate is influenced by the altitude – it was cold at night. Our stay in Kunming was always intended as time to chill-out, after seeing so much of China, and we were not disappointed. Kunming is generally off the main tourist circuit, so we were a bit surprised to see a large group of French tourists staying at our hotel at breakfast.
By the time that we got to Kunming, we were fairly adventurous with food and getting into taxis, provided we had our destination and return address in Chinese script as taxi drivers do not speak English. Incidentally, taxis are really inexpensive in China, and we found the taxi drivers pretty honest. Coming back to eating out, we had, up until Kunming, relied on pictures on the menu of the dishes plus English descriptions. However, in Kunming, we had just the pictures, and managed by pointing to the picture and holding up our fingers for the quantity – the staff were often highly amused. There was one occasion where all the waitresses were giggling as to whom should serve us and then give us the bill – we were clearly entertainment value for them but everybody was very kind, helpful and welcoming, despite the obvious language difficulties.
We spent a day visiting the extraordinary Stone Forest, a hundred square miles of thin, jagged limestone towers (karst topography), like giant trees. The site is an UNESCO approved World heritage site. We took some wonderful photos but they still need editing and sorting – we shall publish them on the blog in due course.
Another day, we visited the Yunnan Nationalities Village, an area covering 133 hectares, opened in 1992, in the southwest of Kunming, near Dianchi Lake. The village offers an ethnographic display of the architecture and ways of life of Yunnan’s minority populations. We were surprised to learn that there are fifty-six ethnic groups in Yunnan Province, of which 26 ethnic groups have a population of more than five thousand. The largest ethnic group is the Yi people and the smallest is the Du long people. The minority village, offered us the opportunity to see and learn about many of the ethnic groups. We saw their cottage industries which included, embroidery, weaving, copper, wood carving etc. We saw a demonstration of cooking rice in bamboo tubes over water for a long time, causing the rice to have a fine texture and a lovely aroma. Most of the ethnic groups love to sing and dance, so we were entertained as well. By Western standards, some of the groups are very different indeed – for example one minority group, when the man was ready to marry, he had to prove his manhood by climbing a ladder where the steps were made of swords and he must do this bare-footed. Another group still believe in matriarchal and patriarchal leadership. Matriarchal heads of families are usually the grand mother or great-grandmother and only women live in the house. The young women of child-bearing age live together and will invite a male from an approved family to come to her room and mate with him. He is not allowed to stay with her and must return to his patriarchal home after he has completed his mission!
That seems a suitable point to finish this blog.
Tomorrow we leave for Hanoi, Vietnam.