Monday 9 May Kunming Western Hill

After a good night’s sleep we made our way down to breakfast – all through the hotel public areas there was gentle piped music and beautiful morning bird songs.

Our tour guide and driver picked us up from the hotel at 9.00am and we headed off through heavy traffic in Kunming towards Western Hills on the shore of Dianchi Lake for our private day tour. As we drove along the highways, our lovely female guide, Murphy, explained to us about the climate, topography and some of the history of the Kunming and the Yunnan Provence. The car was very comfortable and our driver was very capable and we arrived at the bottom of the mountain at about 10.00am. We then boarded a green bus to the base of the Chair Lift – we had to catch the bus as private vehicles are not allowed into this area. As the bus climbed the steep, winding road, we passed lots of people making the trek on foot. We enjoyed our 30 minute ride on the chair lift to the top of West Hill, enjoying the beautiful views of Dianchi Lake and Kunming District on the way. It was quiet and peaceful, with a gentle breeze blowing and we had clear blue skies.

From the natural cliff-top platform, we had a spectacular panoramic view of Dianchi Lake and Kunming City spread out below us. We walked down about 500 steps that were cut into the rock/cliff face, stopping along the way to take photos. The steps were of varying widths and depth and were shiny and well-worn from the millions of people who have used them. The stone path/steps along the outer cliff edge was so narrow that only one or two people could squeeze past at a time The steps led us down the narrow cliff face and into the area known as The Dragon Gate (Longmen) Grottoes. The Grottoes are the most amazing part of Western Hills – they were carved out of the steep cliffs and the construction took 72 years during the Qing Dynasty, more than 200 years ago. Part of the steps through the grottoes took us inside the mountain and they had a few “windows” carved out of the cliff face to allow light and ventilation and of course, stunning views. The narrow steps/grottoes/corridors eventually brought us out to the cliff face at a point called the Dragon Gate. Cut out of the side of a precipitous cliff, the Dragon Gate is the highest temple of the Western Hills and sits at 2,500 meters above sea level. A Taoist monk along with his co-workers completed the job proving that “impossible is nothing”. A stone archway was built at the entrance with the inscription Longmen (Dragon Gate) at the top. We also visited the San Qing Ge Pavilion, which was perched on the cliff and was a Taoist temple with unique architecture, but became a Tea House that Queen Elizabeth II had tea in when she visited.

We were amazed at what we saw and learnt from Murphy about the Taoist, Buddhist and Confucianism religions and the various temples and pavilions that were also hewn out of the cliff face. In one section on the way down there were 72 steps that represented the 72 demons. People were stopping at the various temples and pavilions to light incense and to pray and ask for the blessings of their gods. Others were taking photos of themselves and family members with the temples in the background.

We made our way down to the area that we had caught the chairlift from and caught the green bus part of the way down to visit the Huatingsi Monastery, which is one of the oldest and largest Buddhist complexes in Kunming. Huatingsi Temple is 900-year-old and has 572 colorful statues and 260 stone animals and birds that combine styles of both Buddhism and Taoism. In the temple we saw 500 unique gilded figures. We also saw the Free Captive Pond where captured fish, snakes and tortoises were set free.

From there, we caught the bus back down to the bottom where our driver picked us up and took us the short to our restaurant for lunch. The restaurant was a very interesting building as it had a number of small rooms with one round table and chairs each. We had a lovely Chinese lunch of roast duck, noodles, rice, long beans and a chicken & vegetable dish.

After a relaxing lunch, our driver took us to the Grand View Park, which was about 40 minutes drive. On the way Murphy gave us some interesting information about Grand View Park, the Yunnan Provence and more information about the Chinese culture & religions.

At Grand View Park, we visited the Grand View Tower, which was built in 1890. From the third floor of the Tower, we had a picturesque view across the Lake, with the charming Sleeping Beauty Hill in the far distance. We spent a very pleasant time wandering through the gardens, including a bonsai (Penjing) garden and along the pathways and across arched bridges and listened to groups of people once again spontaneously singing and enjoying the afternoon out in the fresh air.

We said our goodbyes to Murphy and our driver after having a very special day in Kunming. It was really good to have had the opportunity to spend the day with Murphy as she was able to provide a wealth of information about the area and the things that we were doing as well as being able to organize our tickets etc, translate signs and provide us with so much information about the history and culture of the Chinese people.

We had showers and headed downstairs to the restaurant to have our dinner. One of the things that we didn’t mention last night was that the restaurant uses iPads as Menus, where we could select from categories that provided a photo and an English and Chinese description of what was in it. So, we were able to easily select what we wanted and the waitress could easily understand our orders. Richard decided to have a Thai Green Curry but Sandy wasn’t adventurous.

One Response to “Monday 9 May Kunming Western Hill”

  1. Maria Hughes says:

    Thai Green Curry is my favourite 🙂

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