Adventures in Yunnan: The Beginning

A couple weeks ago my program and I went on a trip to Yunnan providence. Yunnan is a providence in southwestern China famous for it’s rice terraces, geological formations and ethnic minorities. Yunnan recognizes 28 different Chinese ethnic minorities- the most of any providence in China. The most notable ethnic minority groups in Yunnan are the Bai and the Naxi, which I’ll talk about a little more later.

Itinerary: Kunming -> Dali -> Tiger Leaping Gorge -> Lijiang -> Shaxi -> Kunming


Our first stop was Kunming. When we got out of the airport we were amazed. All I could think was “IT’S SO SHUFU!!!” (comfortable in Chinese). Kunming is nicknamed the “spring city” because it is spring all year round. Kunming was actually suffering from a drought until… the day we arrived (we’re magical) so it was a little rainy but still beautiful! I could breath the air and it didn’t feel like all of the water was being sucked out of my skin AND I didn’t need my coat! If you haven’t noticed I literally wear the same outfit (brown puffy coat, jeans, brown boots, pink scarf) in all of my photos because that is all I can wear in Beijing- start looking forward to me wearing other outfits in pictures. It’s a big deal.

After freaking out about the weather we all boarded the bus to the hotel. The bus, which we fondly refer to as the “grandma bus”, was detailed in pea green and white lace with little dangly colorful balls hanging from the ceiling. When I got in the bus I didn’t realize that it would be our home for the next 10 days. Finally we arrived at our hotel which was surprisingly very nice. I guess I’m used to having to share a bed from rowing in high school, ice skating when I was younger and ballroom in college but it was very nice not to have to share a bed! Alexis and I were put in a very nice room- not that we would spend much time in it. Our room also came with not-so-complimentary condoms that showed a picture of a woman’s legs coming out of a banana with little white fish swimming around- I feel like it would be best explained with a photo. Apparently Yunnan has an AIDS problem so most hotels have condoms, and the cheap hotels provide them for free.

Sam on the Grandma bus!

Our beautiful room!

weirdest condom box in the world

After a few minutes to freshen up we all went to get hot pot. I was really excited for hot pot because I love all things spicy. Marketus ordered us a TON of food, which was pilled up around us on the table. We ordered a hot pot with a divider in the middle so we could have two different types of broth. For the spicy broth, the fuwuyuan literally squeezed a huge bag of spices into the pot. I was expecting him to put About 1/4 or maybe half in… nope, all of it. We put a bunch of meat in anyway hoping for the best but it was INEDIBLY spicy. Don’t get me wrong, I love spicy food: Mexican, Indian, Thai- love it, but Chinese spicy is different. China has spices that look like little round balls- about 2/3 the size of a pea, and they are rough. They make your lips numb and they have a weird taste to them- not really my thing. I attempted to eat some spicy meat and basically ruined my rice and drank my entire water bottle in 2 seconds. The non-spicy side was actually really good but the problem was that the food took a while to cook in the hot pot and we were all starving so we couldn’t get enough food (probably because Seijin stole all of it). Probably the most entertaining part was that Nate literally sweat through his shirt from eating the spicy hot pot. Let’s hope he doesn’t read this.

the wet streets of Kunming

Tiffany, Anthony and Courtney at hotpot

Fun fact: Seijin loves food

After lunch we met in the lobby of the hotel (because they wanted to charge us a ridiculous price to use any other meeting room) to hear a talk from an urban planner in Kunming. Kunming is the only large city in Yunnan and it is developing incredibly fast. Instead of calling Kunming “spring city” they should consider changing the name to “crane city”. I had a lot of negative expectations for Kunming after reading “Lost on Planet China” because the author described Kunming as dirty, so full of cranes you can’t see anything and very uninteresting an uneventful. Also, Marketus had told us all to get dust masks because Kunming is very dusty and dirty. Thank god the rain came when it did because Kunming was very nice. Although I didn’t get to see much of it the first day (spoiler alert: we returned to Kunming on the last day when it was sunny and beautiful), Kunming is a beautiful city and I really enjoyed the time I spent there.

For dinner we all decided to go to a restaurant famous for Chicken stew in little clay pots. The restaurant was very nice! Aside from the restaurant that Zhang de Biao and I went to on our “date”, it was the only other really nice restaurant I have been to thus far. There were women playing traditional Chinese instruments and actual napkins on the table. Apparently Yunnan is famous for their rare mushrooms, which are really expensive everywhere else in the world. Even though I am not a fan of mushrooms at all my table decided to get a plate of the weirdest looking ones. I decided to try one just to see if I would like it and it was surprisingly very good! We also got little sliders with lotus roots inside as well as the clay pot chicken (of course). Overall it was an extremely good meal!

surprisingly awesome mushrooms

this one's for you dad

clay pot chicken

After dinner we went to a little bakery and bought mini cakes. There were too many to choose from! We brought them back to me and Alexis’ room and had a bonding sessions over cake and a quiet night in- apparently a first for Alliance Beijing.





About Richelle

Expat, traveler, and spicy food lover, I've spent the last few years living in China and traveling around Asia. In my spare time I enjoy salsa dancing, exploring night markets and stuffing my face with street food.

4 comments on “Adventures in Yunnan: The Beginning

  1. Those little round spices sound like schewan(sp.) peppers-my very, very favorite Chinese spice! It is hard to get good ones here, plus they are expensive! I love it when i put them on a good steak and can afford enough to make my lips numb. Btw, don’t drink water to cool an overspice situation. It doesn’t help. Eat plain white rice. Then you’ll live to write some more.

  2. Pingback: Yunnan | Richelle Gamlam Photography

  3. Pingback: 10 Best "Off the Beaten Path" Places to Visit in China - Adventures Around Asia

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