Yunnan was already on my bucket list since years ago, and it was about time for me to finally set my feet in this beautiful province of China. MAS too, convinced me to go by offering nice fare for correct timing, on the Lebaran holiday! Jakarta-Kunming (return) for only Idr 3,6mio! I wasn’t afraid of picking MAS after the MH17 tragedy, I was sure nothing bad was going to happen 😉
The schedule was a bit tight actually, because I got the tickets issued just 2 weeks before the departure date. I was a bit nervous due to it might take longer to get the visa since it was a peak season. But Bayubuana Tour helped me to get it in less than 5 days.
Kunming: The Gate of Yunnan
After several hours flying from Jakarta with a connecting flight thru Kuala Lumpur, I arrived at Kunming airport at 13:00 and immediately headed to West Bus Station by taking shuttle bus no 5. It took about 5 hours from West Bus Station to Dali by bus with fare RMB 11. I came back to Kunming from Lijiang on the 6th day of this solo trip.
I reached Kunming Railway Station at 8:30 am from Lijiang. Monica of the Hump Youth Hostel picked me up at the station’s entrance. The hostel is located at the heart of Kunming, at Jinma Fang. At night it was so noisy because they played local songs until morning. But the hostel is clean and well-maintained with a nice cafe on the rooftop. I stayed at a cozy mixed dorm room with room rate RMB 35/night. I could easily go anywhere I wanted because the bus stop is just in front of the hostel.
I couldn’t make it to explore Shilin and Dragon Gate because of tight schedule, so I went to Golden Temple and Green Lake that are too ordinary. To close the day, I went to Yuantong temple that’s on walking distance from Green Lake. All bus fare inside Kunming is only RMB 2.
In the morning of my 2nd day in Kunming, at 6:30 am I already left the hostel for Stone Forest. The front door was still locked so I had to find the hostel’s guard to help me open it. I guess, I was the only early riser that day 😉
As informed by Monica, I took bus no 107 to Yong Ping Lu, then bus no 60 to East Bus Station. I bought the bus ticket to Stone Garden at East Bus Station for RMB 27.
Once reaching the Stone Forest gate, I had to line up for the entrance ticket which costs RMB 175 + RMB 25 for electric car.
I got terrible cough that night, and I blamed the dried chilli to cause that. Almost all meals in Yunnan are with fried dried chilli and I was so much in love with them. I was glad it was my last day in Yunnan that later I could take rest at home for recovery.
From Jinma Fang to Kunming airport, I took bus no 98 to Bai Hui Shang Chang, then taking airport bus from the park of West Inn.
Dali And Shangri-la
Dali is a combination of ancient heritage and natural scenery. So many beautiful things that can be explored, but I only had 1 day before hopping to Shangri-la.
Once I arrived in Dali, I straightly went to the Neverland Youth Hostel by taxi with fare RMB 60 after some negotiation, the hostel told me about the standard fare.
I reserved Neverland Youth Hostel via booking.com with room rate of RMB 35 per night for female dorm. It needs only 3 minutes by foot to reach the famous Erhai Lake.
On my second day in Yunnan, I tried to explore Dali. But it seemed too naive to go all around the town in half day! I could only go to Three Pagodas and Pudacuo National Park.
Taking electric car is the easiest way to explore the whole area of Three Pagodas.
In the afternoon, I got 6-hour bus trip from Dali to Shangri-la. I chose to stay at Dragoncloud Guesthouse in the old town (gucheng) area. The weather was cold enough that I was glad I didn’t reserve a room with aircon.
Shangri-la or 香格里拉; Xiānggélǐlā was formerly known as Zhongdian 中甸. I had a long list to do in this old city, but I was too naive with my schedule when I made the itinerary.
After discussing with the guy from the guesthouse, I asked for his help in finding a rented car or taxi. But he suggested a jeep, so I visited Pudacuo National Park and Songzanlin/Sumtsaling Monastery (miniature of Potala in Tibet) with the rented jeep.
Hostel – Three Pagoda: By taxi with fare of RMB 20 (one way)
Bus from Dali to Shangri-la: RMB 140
Half-day jeep rent in Dali: RMB 200
In the afternoon I took long distance bus which sent me to Lijiang after 4-hour ride. The bus fare was RMB 71. After such effort to find a taxi at the bus station, because they refused to take me after I showed the address to them, finally after the 4th or 5th there was one that would take me to the hostel. I later found out that Jinan Lu had just been renamed that made it unfamiliar, no wonder they refused to take me.
Actually the taxi driver dropped me at the wrong old town gate so I had to stroll around for 2 hours. I was glad I got local number that enabled me to call the hostel to give direction to a local guy that helped me to reach the Lijiang Peach hostel. Me, with the limited Mandarin, finally found the hostel after asking here and there, carrying a 55-litre carrier on my back. I know, I was superb back then.
I reserved a dorm room on booking.com with rate RMB 40 for 2 nights. Not really enjoyed my stay because the room wasn’t cleaned everyday and the owner wasn’t warm to the guests. But his English is good so he could help me to find a trip organiser to Yulong Jade Dragon Snow Mountain.
The next morning at 7 am, I already got my self standby at nearby bus stop to be picked up by the trip organiser. The tour guide asked whether I could speak Chinese, I said I could understand & speak a bit but she was still concerned and asking me to stay close with the group. No one in the group could speak English but a honeymoon couple from Hong Kong. I felt bad to be a third wheel, so yeah I offered assistance to take their pictures etc since they allowed me to go around with them.
The package RMB 580 already included the tour to Yulong Mountain, Blue Moon Valley, cable car around the mountain area, Shuhe Old Town, 1 can of oxygen, snacks, and red winter coat. Actually I already brought my own oxygen that I bought from the hostel, so I tried to refund to the hostel when I got back but they wouldn’t refund it so I gave it as charity.
It rained almost the whole day but it didn’t reduce my excitement to enjoy the tour. I didn’t really explore Shuhe Old Town because of the rain.
In the afternoon we were dropped at the bus stop just accross the Black Dragon Pond Park, that I found it nice I could safe time because I planned to go there on the next day. The entrance fee was included in the Mountain package that made it double nice. If not, I had to pay RMB 80.
With 3 other hostel guests, I went back to Shuhe Old Town on the 3rd day in Lijiang. We thought of taking a rented car but then we decided to take the public bus because they said they knew the route and it was cheap as well. But I had to return to the hostel alone because they stayed overnight at Shuhe. They helped me to find a taxi so it became cheaper, only RMB 20 otherwise I had to pay more.
The taxi took me to Mufu Palace that’s also known as Palazzo Della Famiglia Mu, the place of politics activity of Lijiang in the past. I made it to visit the palace alone,
I intentionally took the different gate when I left the palace because I wanted to stroll around the old town before resting. And my decision was correct, I found the nice route with cute alleys and souvenir shops. It was like finding a hidden gem!
After feeling satisfied with Lijiang, at night I left the old town for Kunming. I planned to take a night bus but people on Tripadvisor said it wasn’t really safe so I took a night train with ticket that I reserved online on China Travel Guide. I had to pay extra charge RMB 60 for administration fee and credit card usage for USD 2. Buying train tickets on the spot is risky because I had bad experience, it was always sold out.
Overall, I’m satisfied with this trip that I arranged by myself. I met some Indonesian touriests that came to Yunnan with their tour agent said they were amazed that I went there solo because Yunnan is large and not so many foreigners were found in the 4 main cities that I visited.
I still missed 2 desired spots which are Tiger Leaping Gorge in Lijiang and Dragon Gate in Kunming. I hope Yunnan will invite me again one day. That will be a great trekking trips if I could really come back.