Running the gauntlet - this was the scene almost every time we left or got on the bus. The locals trying to sell their wares, near the Stone Forest.
Before flying over to Kunming
this afternoon, we made the quite strenuous climb up Mount Deicai for a fantastic view over Guiling. It's quite a steep climb with lots of steps, but found a lovely breeze at the top. Also lots of great Chinglish signs such as "no striding" (ie: don't run) and "no leaping" (ie: don't jump off the side of the mountain) but the best one was "no smonking" (no smoking)! We used this phrase many times over the rest of the trip. Once you arrive at the top of the hill, you find thousands of locks attached to a chain around the parapet. Apparently lovers or families buy a lock, engrave their names on it, attach it to the chain then toss the key over into the river below (although you'd need to have a pretty strong arm to do this) which then signifies eternal happiness and being together forever.
A garden in the Stone Forest.
This custom popped up several times during the trip, at places which were high up above the surrounding area. There was a butterfly enclosure at the bottom of the bottom of the hill, but no butterflies in sight (apart from the glorious wild ones outside the centre). Also interesting to note that at many of these tourist sites, families of the Revolutionary Martyrs can enter for free, and there is a separate entrance for Chinese and tourists. If you didn't fancy the trek up the hill, you could hire a sedan chair at the bottom, although the carriers did not look too excited about carrying hefty Aussies up the hill! After our flight to Kunming, we went to a local restaurant for the local speciality "Across the Bridge Noodles", created by a very devoted wife for her hungry husband working on the other side of the bridge (apparently). You get a very hot bowl of soup to which you then add various vegies, meats and noodles, so you can be quite creative. The soup was accompanied by a show of local music and dance, including a terrific Chinese Johnny Cash complete with cowboy hat and black clothes. We though he showed real talent but no-one else seemed to take him seriously (!). Kunming has a much more apparent Burmese influence in the people and buildings. Also interesting to see a Muslim school next to a Catholic one - although religion can now be practised, our guide said that only about 1% of the population actually does so.
The next day in Kunming was spent mostly on the bus! We went to the Stone Forest about 120kms away to see the incredible narrow, shaped pillars of rock. The park covers about 80 hectares so the best way to see as much as possible is to jump in a golf buggy, which we all did. The tallest formation is over 30m high and must admit that it was often quite difficult to see the shape that various formations were meant to have - you need a good imagination! We did get the Baby Elephant, though, but the Moon Grazing Buffalo was a bit tougher. On the way to the park, we stopped at a local silk factory to see the production of silk thread embroidery and carpets. The embroideries were probably not quite as skilled as the ones in Shanghai
, but the carpets were incredible. One small carpet of a Silk Road scene (probably about 50cm by 30cm) took the maker 18 months to complete so you could see the justification of the A$4000 price tag. We went for a walk around the local area once we arrived back at the hotel and had our only experience of a shopkeeper trying to diddle us - tried to short change us and showed absolutely no embarrassment when we caught him out, just shrugged his shoulders and laughed! Luckily this was not a common experience, although a few members of our group apparently received counterfeit money in change from time to time. The street behind our hotel appeared to be a wholesale hairdressing street, complete with reclining chairs and barber poles, most fascinating!