We arrived in Kunming after the 40 hour ride on the sleeper train. Morale was not great, and there was the matter of where to stay that night. Tour organizers myself and Mr. Fantastic had neglected to book a hotel, since the place seemed to be backpacker-friendly, small, and we had several promising accommodations listed in our guidebook. We chose one and followed the directions from the 8-year-old thrift store guide book. You know where this is going, right? Yes, the Camila Hotel, along with its low prices and legendary breakfast buffet was no longer. At least, it was not where it was supposed to be. There was a chain hotel with $100/ night rooms, but a little more walking around by Mr. Fantastic (I stayed with the cranky troops and burdensome luggage) revealed a budget place for us, the Home Inn, a local chain. Off we went, and found a bakery along the way, and things were looking good!
Kunming is known as The City of Eternal Spring for its year-round pleasant weather, and this day was no exception. That evening, we took scooters instead of the bus, it was so much fun!
We ate some amazing food in Kunming. We often went walking and would just sample street food, eating our way through a few blocks. We tried to avoid meat, and we had some written characters we showed people to communicate that we are vegetarian, but it didn’t always work. Most dumplings had some kind of meat in them, though we had some bready, steamed ones with greens inside. Other than that, there was delicious seasoned tofu:
We liked these seasoned fried potatoes. We had them several times, and each vendor mixed a lot of seasonings with the potatoes. They had a BBQ flavor, and I think they use fish sauce too. That green vegetable that looks like chives? It tasted almost medicinal, and it made my tongue tingle, in a good way. Odd, but we liked it.There was a strange type of ice cream we tried: airy, light, kind of like shaved frozen whipped cream. It came with fruit. We saw several sweethearts sharing these at the ice cream cafe! It was pretty tall, about a foot I would guess.
My favorite noodle place was across the street. This lady makes a mean vegetarian noodle dish, I never learned the name but I ate it every day we were at the hostel! It was a mix of spicy, tangy, a little sweet, yum! It cost 6 yuan, a little under $1.
We think these wooden tiles are a menu describing the dishes for the day. I was confused about the larger numbers, though, since they are many times higher than the 6 yuan we paid for a dish of noodles.
We noticed many beautiful, hand-embroidered baby carriers in Kunming. We learned that it is a tradition from the mountain communities for young women to work on these even before they are married. There are even traditional dye recipes handed down in families. Each carrier was unique. There were many babies being worn in these beautiful cloth carriers.
After the first night, we found a lovely hostel called Cloudland. Their dorm rooms had six beds each (3 bunk beds), so we had a room to ourselves! We stayed a few nights here, enjoying the backpacker vibe which had been elusive thus far in China for us. As nice as it had been for us being the only foreigners, it was also a bit of a relief to speak English and get travel information.
The hostel itself was wonderful, and we also enjoyed the park next door. It was a lively park with a lake and people everywhere. There were the usual older folks doing tai chi and using exercise equipment we saw in many parks, but also there were couples dancing the waltz, groups dancing to Bollywood music, musicians playing traditional music, a separate group dancing in a circle to recorded traditional music, men spinning a top with a loud, snapping, whiplike rope( pic below), and people just taking a stroll. There was a crooked bridge (below). The spinning tops made a low humming sound punctuated by the whip cracks.