Friday 2 December 2011

What to see in Kunming, China

After living in Kunming for over a year, I felt it was about time to get out of the city and see some of the less hectic surrounding area. A friend and I met in Prague café on Wenlin Jie (40-5 Wenlin Jie, Kunming (昆明文林街40号附5号附6) to discuss where we wanted to go – so many possibilities – the Bamboo Temple, the Golden Temple…Eventually we tore ourselves away from the beautiful breakfast and cheap coffee, determined that we were going to get out of the Wenlin Jie bubble for a change. We decided on the Black Dragon Pool (黑龙), a park 12 kilometres out of the city centre, precisely because we knew absolutely nothing about it. After spending hours getting off and on a variety of incorrect buses (please see the bottom of this article for directions of how you should actually get there) we arrived at the entrance.
In essence, Black Dragon Pool feels much like many other Chinese parks with its bright colours, goldfish and turtles, and temples populated by ornate plump Buddhas. In the middle there’s a big tranquil pond – the Black Dragon Pool which gives the park its name. The goldfish cluster to one side, and parents hold kids over the edge to drop bread into their mouths.
We wandered off the beaten track – there’s no point getting out of the city if you’re surrounded by as many people as you would be if you were in it, and, trying to escape every party of schoolchildren we came across, ended up in a hilly area with what seemed enormous trees and rocks. The quiet and calm seemed eerie to our ears, by now accustomed to Kunming’s steady backdrop of car horns beeping, people yelling, builders drilling and knocking down, endless promotions of the newest products accompanied by enthusiastic young men shouting into loudspeakers. And here there was nothing, just the wind in the trees.
We found a tree we both liked and settled under it for a chat as the sun went down. A few hours later we made our way to the Pool, and watched the fish and two small hummingbirds. Most of the people had gone by then (most probably for a prompt 5.30 dinner) and we had the pool pretty much to ourselves. Other than a bit of a scare when we couldn’t find the exit and had visions of being locked for the night and having to somehow snare fish for our dinner, this was one of the more relaxing days I ever had in Kunming.

Getting there:
By taxi: Take a taxi to Black Dragon Pool黑龙. From the city centre this should cost roughly 50RMB.
By bus: Take bus number 9, 79 or 128 for 1 or 2 RMB, depending on if it has air conditioning.
China Holidays can tailor made any tours to China, especially to the Yunnan Province. For more information please call Elizabeth on 020 7487 2999


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