The final destination during my trip to China, Kunming was definitely one of the highlights. A rapidly modernizing city with many historical landmarks surrounding it, one can easily get lost in the amount of sights to see.
We had only two days to spend here, and tried to spend it as efficiently as possible seeing the various landmarks scattered about the region. I'll be writing about my top picks from the area, starting with the Naigu Stone Forest.
Although this isn't the most famous stone forest in the region, this lack of fame is the main reason our guide brought us here (besides its beauty, of course). While most people visit the Shilin Stone Forest when in Kunming, its fame means that it is extremely crowded from tourists.
Naigu on the other hand is eerily empty, especially so in the morning. We saw only two other families in the entire park, which you can tell is extremely vast. This is a rarity for any tourist destination in China, and was a much needed break from the denseness we became accustomed to over the weeks we spent there.
The park is essentially a vast area of naturally formed columns of rock. There will be times when you're ducking below a low-hanging rock or sliding through a narrow opening between them. Tall people beware, this place is a potential hazard for our heads.
Although I wasn't able to capture it properly, almost every park in Kunming is swarming with butterflies, it's truly magical in person.
Naigu was certainly one of my favorite parts of China, its unique landscapes, tranquility, and beauty were nearly unmatched by any other destination. While the following places didn't match up to Naigu's standards, they are still certainly beautiful in their own regards.
The next landmark on my list is Jiuxiang, a mountainous attraction featuring a short boat tour, even more wonderful rock formations underground, and a lift at the end. You essentially climb down and up a mountain through an underground cavern, lit by extremely saturated lights.
The path through the caverns is quite tough at times, the rock steps are damp and there are occasionally long upward flights of them. There are people who can carry you up at a price, however.
Although I found the coloured lights to be a bit much, it is an amazing sight seeing these formations in person. The lift back to the entrance from the top was also quite gorgeous. You can't see them in the picture, but there were hundreds of butterflies fluttering about below us.
The final landmark are the Western Hills, a particularly significant temple for Buddhists. It consists of a series of little pavilions on a mountainous area. From afar, it looks like a sleeping woman. My memory is fuzzy, but I've been told that some believe that the lake just below it originated from the "woman" crying until it filled the area.
The lift up here was rather rickety, luckily the view was quite calming. Like the other parks, there was also an abundance of butterflies fluttering about under us.
The paths at the top are quite narrow and were not built for the wide or tall. I did a lot of ducking throughout our journey here.
It's fascinating to wonder just how these temples were build almost a hundred years ago, I'd imagine even now we would have difficulty creating such wonders. Near the top is a little temple nicknamed "The Castle in the Air", for reasons you can see below:
Of course, Kunming's beauty doesn't end here. The center of the city has a unique vibe to it that I haven't felt from other Chinese cities. Perhaps it's in part of Yunnan's famously red soil, or its total integration between the old and new.
Regardless of reason, Kunming's beauty is something that I highly recommend you see through your own eyes. It's a truly special city that just begs to be explored. One landmark we unfortunately didn't have time to see were their famed terraces, a quick Google search will show you what those look like. Perhaps I'll be back another day to complete my checklist of beautiful places to take photos of.
For now, I hope you've enjoyed my photos from China. Only one part remains: the food. Expect to see a post detailing that in the coming few weeks.