Monday, February 25, 2008

Looking around Kunming

For years, I've kept an eye on airline prices. Even if I didn't have any real intention to travel, I like the idea that I'll see some insane deal and just snap it up! The opportunity finally presented itself several months ago, when I was looking around on Chinese travel site elong, and saw 80% off tickets to Kunming, a city in Southern China. Not bad at all, and I made a quick trip of it.

Kunming wasn't actually the final destination - the idea was to arrive in the afternoon and take an overnight train to Dali, I'll have more to say about Dali soon. Still, what I did see impressed me a lot, I wish I had more time to look around.

When I first arrived at the airport, I took a taxi to the train station, it was only fifteen minutes or so. I got my overnight ticket without a problem, and then went to walk around the city, with a heavy backpack in tow. The area around the station was fun - a little scruffy, with a lot of small shops and stalls aimed at the train and bus passengers.

Kunming was a fun city to wander around - the weather was great with blue skies, there wasn't much pollution, the sidewalks were generally wide, and there were interesting sites scattered here and there. I also liked how the Qingnian River flowed through the downtown:

In that picture the buildings are stacked up right against the water, but overall the city didn't give me the impression of being so packed. Here's another picture of kids playing alongside the river:

Against expectations, there were some very old, shoddy buildings to be seen, even just walking around the downtown. I just took some quick snapshots, I wish I had gotten some better pictures, as I haven't really seen anything like them in Shanghai:

Jinmabiji Square, downtown, had a lot of people and a lot of shops. There was also a Best Buy, a Carrefour, and other Western chains. Here's a picture facing West - if I had taken a picture to the East, there would have been a lot more buildings. In Shanghai a shot like this would be impossible - there's no blue skies going up against buildings!

And North of the Square, was a long road filled with vendors selling snacks, or tea, or fruit:

There was street food all around Kunming, just the way it should be. Most of it was stuff I'd be able to get around Shanghai, but what I had was top-notch, and generally cheaper than Shanghai as well. These lamb kebabs were just awesome, with a great hot sauce brushed on!

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