Yunnan in Spring 2024

Yunnan in Spring 2024

This year spring break coincides with Eid holiday so kids school was off for 3 weeks instead of the usual 2. After much consideration and since we enjoyed our Shanghai, Suzhou, Hangzhou and Nanjing trip in December last year and its still visa free for Malaysian until November 2024, we decided to spend our spring break in Yunnan this year. There is direct flight from Dubai to Kunming Changshui International Airport and the flight time is only 6.5 hours which is great.

Our journey to Kunming took a speed bump when we received an sms from the airline right before we leave home, the flight has been delayed for 2 hours (we later found out that the delay was due to poor weather condition in Shanghai, which causes the plane from Shanghai to Kunming to depart late, hence affecting the flight from Kunming to Dubai and hence our flight from Dubai to Kunming).

We still decided to head to the airport despite the delay to check in, had KFC for dinner and waited for our flight. The flight was furthered delayed another hour and we only left Dubai at 11.30pm. Luckily the flight time was shortened to 5 hours instead of 6.5 hours so we landed at 9.15am in Kunming. 

Day 1: 3rd April 

We pre-booked our high speed train from Kunming to Dali at 12.18pm so we still had some time to spare. After clearing customs, we took a cab for RMB 88 to train station, reach at 11am and had lunch while waiting for our train. 

Note: If it is your first time taking train to China, their train ticketing system does need some time to get used to. Best to create an account and add in your passport details to facilitate booking, also getting a local SIM card is highly recommended even if you have international roaming on your phone. The local would much prefer to contact a local number.

After 2 hours train ride, we arrived in Dali. 

As we booked 3 nights accommodation with SheLoves hotel, the hotel has arranged for a driver to pick us from Dali train station.

Note: SheLoves hotel is newly opened in 2024 so it’s really new. All the equipment used are pretty modern, with warm toilet seat, heat indicator in shower and AI in controlling curtain and light in the room. Location is great, just outside the ancient city and can walk there in under 5 minutes. It’s literally just across the street.

SheLoves Dali Hotel: 云南省大理白族自治州大理市大理镇大纸房村喜爱度假酒店

We arrived and checked in, it was seamless. Everyone is tired so we showered and rested. Justin falls asleep as he has little bit of runny nose. So Steven, Jaclyn and me head to the old town just across the road from the hotel to explore. So many things to see and buy, and we chance across very pretty McD and Starbucks.

For dinner, we went for 过桥米线, at 银米. It’s really very very nice. The soup is flavorful and the ingredients are really yummy mixed up together. The trick is the put the meat in first followed by vegetable and mushrooms, lastly add in the noodle. And let them cook in the soup. Do not stir the soup much otherwise the heat will escape and ingredients wont be cooked thoroughly.

I manage to buy the Yunnan insta-grammable sweater for RMB 19, there are many choices in the ancient town and around the same price.

Day 2, 3 and 4 : 4th, 5th and 6th April 

We spend the next 3 days exploring Dali, enjoying the sights, biking along the coast, enjoy local cuisine and did some local activities such as tie dye in Zhou Chen (周成).

We love going to Dali ancient town, it’s a very charming town. Every turn feels like we are a character in an ancient drama. Although now the houses had turn into shops, but the building itself is still very nice to see, the road is wide enough so we don’t feel crowded. It has a different vibes to the town whether you decide to visit in the daytime or at night, I would suggest you do both. I love going to the ancient town be it daytime or when night falls. In the night, the town came alive with live music, pop up store with taro card reading, open air bar, and even palm reading. Even the stores selling local delights, clothes, leather goods open till midnight, you definitely have plenty of time to explore.

Biking along the coastal road is highly recommended. The whole of the west side of Erhai is closed to cars so the only way to enjoy them is to bike. If you are adventurous enough, you can bike from Dali to Xizhou. One can choose to go to S turn ( S湾) which is really popular or opt for Sansheng Island (三圣岛) which is also very pretty and much less crowded.

Tie dye at Zhou Chen is amazing, I did a skirt at the tie dye museum, it is an amazing experience. From choosing the material, design, and needle by needle I work hard, with the help of a granny, and I even go ahead and dye my own skirt in the dye-ing pot, washing the dye off and air dry them. End product is amazing. We paid RMB 220 for a skirt and RMB 78 for a square scarf. Do allocate at least 2 hours to get it properly done. There are many tie dye store but best to do it at the museum, although its at a higher price but the dye-ing material is natural and of good quality.

WHAT TO EAT IN DALI:

We highly recommend their 鲜花饼 (flower pastry), flaky outside and fragrant inside made with fresh rose petal, the taste is out of the world. There are many different store, I would recommend the freshly baked one at RMB 4-6 per piece versus the RMB 2 per piece factory made one. Definitely try their mushroom dishes as their mushroom is very fresh and tasty. For 过桥米线 , I would go for the one at 银米, portion is huge, good enough for 2 pax.

Day 5: 7th April

Today we left Dali for Lijiang. There is a new bus route that takes us to Lijiang for just RMB 29.50 per person. The bus has several timing per day, and we took the one at 10.45am. The bus then went to a couple of town to pick up some other people and left for Lijiang on highway. We reach Lijiang at 2.30pm. It’s pretty comfortable and definitely value for money. A taxi ride from Dali to Lijiang will set us back RMB 450.

For tonight, we stayed at Charming Heart Inn for a night before taking 2 days 1 night tour (We paid RMB 490 per person, booked through 高哥 from Shelove Hotel) tomorrow morning to Shangrila. It is a local Naxi feel inn. We spend our afternoon exploring the old town and rest for our Shangrila tour. We also pre-book our accommodation when we return from Shangrila to Lijiang and left our luggage bag there, bringing with us just clothes enough for our 2 days 1 night tour.

Day 6 and 7: 8th and 9th April

The next two days will be our tour to Shangri-la, dubbed the city nearest to heaven. We were picked up early in the morning and headed to Tiger Leaping Gorge, named after an area in the valley where the water current is really strong. A stone has fallen off from Haba mountain many years back and was not washed away despite the current. The stone has been a leaping stone for tigers to cross between Yulong Snow Mountain and Haba Snow Mountain, hence the name.

TIPS: the stairs leading down to the gorge is pretty manageable so there is no need to opt for the lift ticket, unless you have baby or elderly with you or have difficulty climbing stairs.

On the way, there is a few stops for photo and toilet break. After lunch, we were dropped at Potatso National Park, the first National Park in China and a UNESCO site. We were allocated 3 hours here to explore the area. Our tour guide provided us with oxygen tank and thick jacket. Do use the oxygen tank even if you feel fine, prevention is better than cure as the altitude really high.

First, we took a bus from main entrance to Shudu lake. There is wooden walkway leading to the lake with sights to take in from every corner. There are ducks etc. The weather was not great on that day, it even rain hails. We walked for a bit and then took the bus back to main entrance. Then we hopped on another bus to Bita Lake, the highest lake in Yunnan. The squirrels here are very friendly, jumped and played around with us. The walkway has yak, cow and goat grazing on grass.

Next we tried local steamboat dinner with performance. We tried local tea (very unique taste, salty tea) and yak meat. Do note that the water boiling point at Shangrila is only 70-80 degree C hence it takes much longer for meat to cook. Do make sure the meat is cook for a prolonged period to avoid stomachache. Our tour guide make us something that taste a little bit like sesame ball , its made using 青稞分, make using a barley-like plant, this is their staple food in Shangrila, like how we eat rice everyday, the people here eat this everyday. The powder is mixed with their 酥油茶, a salty tea make with yak’s fat, and they eat it. Check out the video to see how it is made, I have to say it tasted really good.

We then checked in to our hotel and rest for the night. There are some hotels in Shangrila which has rooms that can have oxygen supply in the room, our hotel has a machine but its at extra charges of RMB 60 per day. As we have our own oxygen tank, and only staying for a night, we did not opt for that.

The next morning I did not feel well as I have vomitted in the night. It might be due to altitude sickness or food poisoning as I suspect I might not have cooked the yak meat too well last night. I hardly had any breakfast. Our tour guide brought us to his house and we get to experience how a local house looks like, they stayed on the second floor cause in the older days, their cattle will stay on the ground floor but since covid time, the government no longer allows the animal to stay with human to prevent spread of diseases. Most of the locals survived on their own produce, one yak is enough for a family to eat for 3 months, and they plant potatoes, and maize (dry and blend into powder) for their staple. Due to the high altitude, fruits tree doesn’t grow well and there is limited vegetables that can grow.

In the Tibetan culture, the firstborn will be the one who stayed at home after marriage, regardless of gender. Also, the locals does not eat fish because when they passed away, its is custom to return their body to the nature, they cut the corpse into tiny parts and feed the fishes in the ocean. In the summer, when school breaks for holiday, the children will follow their parents into the mountain to collect herbs, saffron etc.

Our tour guide has some local herbs in their house which they had been collecting and not able to sell after covid, we bought some saffron from them at RMB 60/g. Also we got some of their home made dried yak meat as well.

After breakfast, we headed to Lake Napa for horse riding. The price is not included in the tour. The weather was drizzling and cold, not the best time horse riding but the kids had fun playing with little lamb in the grassland and riding white yak.

After lunch, we went to the Dukezong Old Town to walk around before headed back to Lijiang.

Day 8 and 9: 10th and 11th April

The trip to Shangrila is really tiring as we had to cover many places in two days plus travelling time and altitude sickness. Therefore, we allocated the next two days to rest in Lijiang. We explored their old town, checking out the stores, taking in the olden days feel of the town. The food in the Old Town is pretty good as well, we tried their local Nazi Tribe fish, the famous Over the Bridge Noodle, and their local salted dried pork rib. The clothes in Lijiang town are really pretty with lots of local design dress and crotchet jacket, dress etc.

We also spend a day at Baisha Old Town, a very quaint and quiet town about 1/2 an hour away from Lijiang. The Yulong Snow Mountain can be viewed clearly from most part of this town, making it very scenic. We had lunch at one of the restaurant facing the mountain , strolled around and spend our afternoon listening to live music, having a cuppa fresh rose coffee in one of the cafe in the town.

Where we stayed in Lijiang: https://mm.ctrip.com/html5/hotel/hoteldetail/6793023.html

Day 10: 12th April

Today is our travel day. We took the high speed train back to Kunming and checked into Crown Plaza Kunming. https://www.booking.com/hotel/cn/crowne-plaza-kunming-city-centre.html

The location is good with many shopping mall nearby, staff were helpful and room is comfortable. There is a small balcony in the room and room service is great as well. By the way, their room service includes a selection of Malaysian cuisine such as satay, chicken rice, nasi lemak etc.

Day 11, 12, 13: 13th, 14th, 15th April

We spend the next three days in Kunming. The first day was spend exploring West Mountain. After lunch at a restaurant near our hotel, we took the taxi to the entrance of West Mountain. One could also reach by Metro Line 3.

From there, there is an option to walk uphill or take the bus. We opted for the bus which cost us RMB 12.5 per person and it’s really worth it as it is going uphill and the bus ride is almost 15 mins long. From there, can opt to enter the Longmen scenic area for RMB 30 (that goes further up) or enjoy the mountain by walking down slowly. We decide to skip Longmen and slowly walk down West Mountain, enjoying the view of Dian Chi (largest lake in Yunnan). I really wanted to check out ancient town in Kunming as I enjoyed them in Dali and Lijiang but turns out there is no ancient town in Kunming. The closet one would be a mini ancient town lookalike near the Yunnan Minorities Museum but it pales in comparison to the one in Lijiang. As we have our fair share of exploring the minority village in Lijiang and Dali, we skip the Yunnan Minorities Museum. It’s an open air museum over a large area with many cultural display if anyone is interested, I would recommend it. For dinner, we tried 太二酸菜鱼 and it’s really yummy. By 9pm, they close for order and their dishes are mostly sold out.

Second day, we took a tour to Stone Forest, nestled in a nearby town. We starts the morning visiting DianChi again, followed by lunch. Then head to Stone Forest, it’s huge inside with many areas to visit. The main stone forest is very crowded, we took some photos and then headed to other areas as well. It’s really scenic in there and we were back to our hotel by evening time. Rested and went for a massage in a nearby spa. The massage is good and they even includes a meal where we had our dinner. It’s the first time we were told that we can rest in the room, with TV after the massage for as long as we want before heading out. Apparently, some guests even stayed for the night. It’s that comfortable.

Final day in Yunnan was spend at Yunnan Safari Park, we enjoyed walking in the park as the animals stay in their natural habitat and there is lots of tress around. Do opt for the electric car as there is a few sections of the park and they are quite far from one another. It’s well designed where you enjoyed a selection of animal, take the electric car to the next section, visit , so on and forth and at the end you will be back to main entrance. The red panda is really cute and active, we also were fortunate to see the panda during their lunch time, they ate the bamboo in style. Giraffe cafe is my favourite as we get up close to the giraffe which enjoying our lunch. In the evening, we checked out another massage parlour with the kids, and we all enjoyed the food massage. JC even did an ear cleaning. For dinner, we enjoyed Haidilao.

Day 14: 16th April

We headed back to Dubai on MU 755 and our journey home was a long story indeed. On 16th April, Dubai was hit by the biggest rain in 75 years. We had more than a year’s worth of rain just in one day and the whole city was flooded, flights were diverted and even upon landing at a different airport, there is no taxi available to send us home. We had to take bus to a nearby metro station, hitch a ride, walk home and it was not easy. We were lucky our home was in good condition when we arrives, with no leak as some residents’ house were flooded and all their belongings were destroyed in the flood. We stayed home for the next few days as most major roads were closed. Luckily we managed to collect our checked in baggages 3 days later and ended our 2 weeks unforgettable and memorable trip.

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