We planned our trip months before we leave for China. Our plan starts in Kunming, one of the major cities in China and the largest in Yunnan Province. After Yunnan, we took a night train to Dali until we reached Shangri La, a snowy town up in the Tibet Area.
Foreign tourist thinks Kunming may not be as big like what we see in larger cities. Kunming itself is a small city compared to Shanghai or Beijing. Although it’s a capital of the province of Yunnan, the city does not have offer five stars services making the city not expensive for foreign travelers.
If you’re coming from a place where there is no direct flight to Kunming, you can always transit Beijing or Hong Kong Airports. But this time, we will be coming from Ho Chi Minh City in the south of Vietnam.
Ho Chi Minh City to Kunming
First of all, we wanted this trip cheap but comfortable. So we decided to take a cheap flight to Hanoi and take a night train to Kunming. Upon checking the flight and train cost plus the travel time and schedule, we finally decided that booking a direct flight with China Southern Airlines is the best choice for us. We’re lucky because we were able to book and advance promo fare.
Currently, only China Southern Airlines offers a direct flight between Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon) to Kunming, China. This route of China Southern offers snacks only so make sure to consume your dinner before flying as this is a 2-hour evening flight.
Getting around Kunming
We arrived in Kunming at night and a sweet cold weather welcome us. We know that there is a metro line that connects Kunming International Airport to the city. We did not find any signage in the airport so four of us optioned to take a private car or a taxi.
People from outside will offer you a ride to the city. Unfortunately, we don’t know much about the pricing but we tried to bargain the driver. We need to walk for more than 5 minutes with our luggage just to reach his car in the parking building of the airport. We gave him CNY 200 for driving us to our hotel.
Later on, we found out that taxis are way cheaper than taking private cars plus we don’t have to walk that far with our heavy luggage.
China’s Tuk Tuk
You can find plenty of them roaming around the city. You can easily hop into another place for just 2 to 5 CNY. Though I’m not sure what do they call this three-wheeled vehicle?
We arrived at our hotel around 10 o’clock in the evening. Glad our driver knows that small hotel so it only took 30 minutes travel time from the airport.
Generally, you can find affordable hotels in China. We always try to find a small newly built hotel so we can have a clean, pleasant stay without paying too much. Since we are traveling to the north for the next days, we planned to stay nearby Kunming Central Railway Station.
Where we eat
The night we arrived at our hotel, we just went to a small internet cafe that sells cup noodles.
Unfortunately, our room does not have free breakfast. Glad there are plenty of good restaurants around. You can have your bowl of hot noodles from 5 to 10 CNY. There were also fast food chains around such us KFC, McDonalds, Subway and Burger King.
Places we visit
The next morning, we went right away to the railway station to reserve our beds otherwise we will run out of slots. One of us forgot to bring his passport with him, so make sure bring your passport with you if you will going to get train tickets anywhere in China.
Now we have free time to walk around the city. Unlike in Vietnam, Kunming has electric bikes which are more environmentally friendly and it’s not noisy compared to motorcycles.
We visited one of the many temples in Kunming. Walk around and feed some turtles and fish. I’m not into temples but I find it interesting.
Visit Cui Hu or Green Lake
We spend our half day in this peaceful place in the middle of the city. Anyone can go in the park free of charge. Inside you can find older people playing instruments, dancing and singing. It’s like we found a stress free happy place. You can also join people doing a traditional folk dance. That’s the best thing I enjoyed in this park. Steps are easy to learn. Once you got the step combination, you’re good enough to join them in the circle.
We ended up eating our dinner in one of the restaurants inside the park. There you can order western cuisine such as Italian pasta, home made burger and beef steak with wine for just 15 to 20 CNY each meal.
Flowers and Bird Market
Where you can find many pet stores, porcelain and handmade Chinese products. I’m an animal lover and wish to bring them home with me. For me, this is not just a market for shopping, it also gives you entertainment.
If you’re an aquarium lover, you will really enjoy this place as they have plenty of aqua garden designs and different types of plants and fish. Note that if you order those directly from your country, you might not be able to have them ship to your home address unless you have a certificate or authorization. So better yet get them while you are there. I regret of not buying aqua seeds for my aquarium. Sigh.
Chinese Antique Porcelains
The first time I saw different kinds of birds, pet fish, dogs and cats here. It’s like going to the zoo for free.
Kunming Stone Forest
This is the main tourist spot of Kunming. It is located 87 kilometers from the railway station. The truth is, we did not go there. Reasons are:
- Too far from the city.
- Expensive entrance fee.
- Hiring a cab is from 200 to 300 CNY.
- Taking the city bus will take 3 hours travel time.
- It’s just a stone.
But if you are into nature, I think you should not miss it. There is no place like that except in Kunming.
We spend the rest of our time in going around the city. Before we leave for Dali, we tried some local food and ride the bus without knowing where to go.
Recommended Apps and Websites
Google Maps is helpful. Make sure to download the map and connect to VPN in your home country before arriving.
For train tickets and more detailed information about Kunming, you can always go to Travel China Guide website. It is also recommended to book train tickets 3 days in advance.