Wednesday 11 May Kunming – Stone Forest

This morning after breakfast, we boarded our bus and headed off to visit the amazing Shilin Stone Forest, an enormous collection of karst rock pillars. A World Heritage-listed site of 350 hectares, the stone karsts have the appearance of petrified trees.

We had a pleasant 2 hour journey, during which we travelled along a really good highway – in some parts it was ten lanes wide and cut through the mountains as well as high above some towns on viaduct-type structures. We passed lots of commercial green-houses as this area is well-known for its production of flowers and herbs. Selina, our local guide also told us that the number one industry is tourism, then tobacco growing, followed by tea & coffee growing – this area is one of the major suppliers of coffee beans to Nescafe.

The bus dropped us off at the parking area and we walked past the Stone Forest Lake and boarded small electric buses, which looked like overgrown golf carts. We had a short journey into the Stone Forest, where we walked through some of the winding trails and learnt about the legends behind these strange limestone formations. The earth movement and thousands of years of rainwater and wind refinement, created these enormous karst rock pillars that were towering high above. Because of our time limitations we only got to see about 12 hectares.

Both us were quite impressed with the Stone Forest because it had bitumen roads for the carts and paved areas for pedestrian traffic in amongst the green grassy areas and there were several small lakes. There were hundreds of Asian tourists, with each group being led by someone dressed in traditional Chinese costume. Once again we were feeling very lucky as it was a beautiful day with clear skies, about 28° and most of the time, there was a soft breeze blowing.

Our late lunch stop was at at Yiliang for a delicious lunch at Chef Pan’s restaurant. Yiliang, which is half-way between the Stone Forest and Kunming, is a small town famous for its roast duck, and is believed by many to be the most succulent in China. We were welcomed to this huge restaurant and seated upstairs at round tables of 10. We enjoyed a traditional Chinese meal starting with Roast Duck and then had several other dishes, which were delicious. We had the opportunity to use chopsticks or knives and forks – most of the people at our table attempted to master the skill of using chopsticks, with varying degrees of success. Richard managed to eat his whole lunch with chopsticks and didn’t come away hungry! This friendly and relaxed atmosphere gave us a good opportunity to meet more of our fellow travellers while we discussed and compared our thoughts on the various dishes that were presented to us.

We returned to Kunming at about 3.00pm so that we could have some free time before meeting again at 6.00pm to be taken to our restaurant for dinner.

Tonight we were picked up from our hotel and the bus fought its way through peak hour traffic, with scooters, bikes, cars, buses and pedestrians all trying to get across intersections at the same time. It took us about 30 minutes to get to a Chinese Restaurant, where we had a unique ‘Across the Bridge Noodles’ dinner, an authentic dish in the Yunnan Province. We once again enjoyed the company of some of our fellow travellers before heading back to the hotel to get organised for our flight to Lijiang tomorrow morning.

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