Friday, May 8, 2009

Traveling in Yunnan -what's good and what's not?

I can’t believe it’s already Friday?! Time flies. Today I have a quite busy day ahead, as well as a confrontation with the spitting boss, that as from today might be my ex boss. Let’s see how it goes.

Got some exciting news though! Since I’ve been living here for some years now and mom has already visited me twice we decided that during her visit this year we’re going to see some more than just the obvious (Shanghai, Suzhou, Beijing, Hangzhou). I suggested Tibet but mom thought it was ’too faraway’ so now we’ve decided to go to Yunnan. I’ve already been to Yunnan once, although that time it wasn’t really a sightseeing and leisure trip, but more like a visit to the poorest, most isolated mountain areas in the province to report in some ongoing development.

This time, however, I’ll travel for fun and I cannot wait to see the Tiger Leaping Gorge, Dali and Shangri-La. I’ve already done some reading online (I try to stay away from Lonely Planets when I travel, simply because I like to rely more on locals than on a book). I still have a lot of research to do but I’d like to ask you guys if you have any personal advices/recommendations for traveling in Yunnan? You don’t need to link to any site or anything, I can find those myself, and also, I don’t want everything mapped out for me… I just meant that if you have traveled there and visited those places that I mentioned… were they any nice? I’ve heard a lot of mixed comments about Dali. Some say that it can be a bit of a tourist trap, something I’d love to avoid, but then some say it’s a real beautiful place… so all advices are appreciated!

We’ll be heading to Yunnan in the very beginning of September, basically as soon as I get back to China after my Finnish summer, and as usual when it comes to traveling I can’t wait! China’s just so huge and there’s so much to see! I almost feel stressed when I think about it. The trip to Yunnan isn’t going to be any luxurious, five-star hotel kind… both me and my mom are sporty spices (mom has even done a half-marathon: go mom!!) so we like to move a lot by foot of possible.


Ricky Foo said...

hi, I've been following your blog for a while as I'm also greatly interest in China. Reading it from your eyes is very enlightening. =)

I've traveled to Yunnan back in 2004. Both places that you mentioned are worth going.

For the Tiger Leaping Gorge -- it's a giant river running through rocks. You get to listen to the roaring sound of water. Be prepared to get a little wet. So, dress / equip yourself appropriately.

For Shangri-La, aka Zhong Dian, it's even more interesting. It's a plateau at 5,000m. So you get to see a very different kind of fauna and flora. Try to eat at one of the Tibetan-like houses (the Zang4 People). Drink their wine, try their dance, experience the traditional culture. Go visit the Tibetan temple too -- but I don't feel too comfortable when I was 'too deep' inside - probably due to spiritual disturbance.

A caution when traveling: Don't show your money, and don't buy the gold, jade, ornaments, etc etc. If you really like them, check the prices, check with your tour guide (make friends first!) before buying.

enjoying your trip~ ^_^

Anonymous said...

Jonna, you can not wait to see Tiger Leaping Gorge ..., I can not wait to see you come back to China and post the stories and photoes of your Yunnan trip.

Although those places are a bit of a tourist trap, but I believe they also have something worth to see.

wawa said...

I think when you go to Yunnan you usually also visit Lijiang. Lijiang has this old town that is pretty cool at night. it has one long street with small creek in the middle of it, where in your left and right are all restaurants and bars (the kinds which are not too modern). the waitress from different bars/pubs/drinking places usually sings to each other and create a friendly atmosphere.
Lijiang also has this beautiful snowy mountain called Dragon Jade Mountain or something like that.

Have fun.

Hang said...

Jonna, I think Tiger Leaping Gorge (TLG), Dali and Shangri-La are good choices.

What I like Dali most is the countryside scenery outside the touristy old town. I didn't go on a ship tour on Erhai(洱海) which may cost approximately RMB 300/person and I didn't pay to see 大理三塔公园(The Chongsheng Temple And The Three-Pagoda Culture Tourist Area). I rented a bike and rode to Erhai to go fishing with a fisherman on his boat, which is 'illegal'. For safty concerns, local authorities forbid local fishermen to take any tourist on their boat. I don't recommend this to other travellers in case people get drowned in Erhai. Anyway, you may be interested in cycling around the old town of Dali.

TLG is a good place to do hiking, which may take 2 days, or even 1 day if you walk extremely fast like I did. Alternatively, you may take a bus/rented car and stop for about 2 hours to see the Middle TLG.

The old town of Shangri-La is worth a visit. Tibetans come out and dance at the square of the old town at twilight. They do this for fun and relaxation, not for attracting tourists. I find the dancing contagious and I'm sure you'll feel it's so spontaneous to join them.

Though the old town of Lijiang is a bit crowded, there is alwasy some nice and quiet place there. Apart from the old town, Shuhe (束河) is worth a visit.

I don't recommend star-grade hotels. A nice and comfortable guest house (客栈) should be a nice choice. There are many guest houses in Dali and Lijiang.

I hope you and your mom enjoy the trip to Yunnan.

胡崧 said...

Funny you asked cuz I was in Yunnan last summer, and let me tell you:"It was THE best part of my trip in China. The weather is INCREDIBLE! It is never humid and the temperature is usually around 20-something. I think you are going to LOVE it as summer in Suzhou is not nice to say the least.

You MUST try the locally-grown potatoes. They are AMAZING. I hate potato but boy I ate like a pig when I was there. Make sure you try the wild mushroom while you are there as well. It is one of the local specialty and its only available during the summer.

I would highly recommend you to spend at least a few days in Li'jiang 丽江. It is a lovely ancient city and it is soooo peaceful as well. The sky is SOOOO blue. Honestly, I had NEVER seen such blue sky before. I just love it, the night life is fantastic there as well. The bars are amazing and almost everyone of them has live bands at night. Make sure you go visit jade dragon snow mountain as well. It is just incredible. However, you need to be aware of the high altitude sickness though. While you are there, do yourself a favor and buy the ticket to "The Impression of Li'jiang", an amazing show directed by the big man Zhang Yimo 张艺谋 himself.

洱海 is great as well. Please go visit there. It is probably one of the biggest wetlands in China. I mean it is SOOO vast that it almost looks like a grassland with a huge lake attached to it.

God, there are so many places to go to. If you have any questions, feel free to write me an email.

Rachel said...

Travel options in NW Yunnan are almost infinite. Dali is a bit touristy but there are many interesting villages around it.

Few recommendations from a former resident of the area:
Sashi, on the old route between Dali and Lijiang: Not really sepctacualr scenery but there is an interesting eco-tourim project going on you might want to check out.

Lijiang - don't let the tourists scare you away. There is a reason why so many people go there.

From Tiger Leaping Gorge you can trek farther (or take a bus) to Baoshan Stone Town (宝山石头城)It's not actually a town but a small and positively stuning Naxi minority village. If you have time you can also trek from there all the way to Lugu Lake on the border with Sichuan.

Liming - between Lijiang and Shangrila (zhongdian) - red rock formations, very pretty.

Haba village and Haba shan, on the older, longer and spectacular road from TLG to Zhongdian

Bita Hai near ZD.

and many many more, basicaly just get to Dali or Lijiang and ask for advice from local hiking guides, there are plenty of them and they're happy to help.

Unknown said...

There's more info on traveling around Yunnan at including info on Lijiang, Dali, Kunming and other places off-the-beaten track

Jonna Wibelius said...

Awesome you guys rock!! Thank you so much for all of your personal tips and advices! This is so much better than a guide book...

胡崧 -I'll def try some of those potatoes.. I'm quite fond of potatoes in general so just reading about those locally-grown ones made my mouth water. Yunnan food is delicious in general so I'm sure I'm not going to be disappointed!

Reluctant and Recluse said...

Hi there; been reading your blog for the past few weeks and its really great. Still have to go back and read the rest of your posts.

I've been to China a few times in the past few years, though i hardly ever get to do the touristy stuff, and tend to stay in HK/Shenzhen more often.

Last year i had planned to go to Lijiang and Ringha... this is against your sporty spice trip plan, though Banyan tree has two resorts there and they offer a package that lets you spend a few nights in each location and transportation etc... Never wound up doing it, since i didn't have anybody to share it with, but the pictures on thier website look amazing...

Nefarli said...

Went to Yunnan in 2007 with a tour group. Most of it was on the road traveling to one place than another.

I would definitely recommend going to the stone forest something unique that you don't see everyday.

Lijiang for the awesome night atmosphere. Had so much fun singing and drinking with the locals.

The scenery is beautiful in Yunnan. It was so nice to get out of the city.

Mark's Blog said...

I have not been to YunNan, looking forward to see your trip!haha

anyway, as for accomodation, i think some 经济型旅馆 are good choice, they are cheap and clean, like Motel 168, the one you have been into, 如家 and 锦江之星

Unknown said...

Spitting boss ? haha.. do they realize that bad habit ? I thought no one notice it. While I was in China, twice, we ( me and my twin sons) were observing this bad habit of the Chinese. Another is the throwing of rubbish. I mean such as tissue papers as and where they like. They spit and cough out the flam in a loud noice and "puiii' as if trying to make a publicity act for everyone to know. Haha.. So if you are there, you might as well do what the Chinese do..
Anyway, China is now improving especially the younger generation. And I will be back to visit them again. I just love China too..

Kate said...

Richard and Li
Tele: 13578370587
Fax: 086-0888-5167697
Add: No.5 courtyard of Long Quan xi yuan.elephant Hill street (West),old town district ,Lijiang .Yunnan.China (Zip code:674100)

If you go to Lijiang, contact these people!! They are a husband and wife and speak fluent English. They approached me one day when I was wandering Lijiang alone and ended up guiding me up a mountain to visit farmers who lived up there, a small hidden monestary, and see a small village and eat Naxi food for lunch. It was not touristy at all and very exciting and reasonably priced :)

Rebekah said...

Hi Jonna,
I did a 10 day trip from Kunming, to Dali to Lijiang to TLG.

Here are some tips:

You are going to love it!

Jonna Wibelius said...

Thanks a lot Rebekah! I looked at it and it's a great little guide, now bookmark as my favorite... yey. Can't wait!!!