Journey to the Stone Forest

Trip Start Sep 01, 2010
Trip End Jul 31, 2011

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Flag of China  , Yunnan,
Monday, July 4, 2011

We woke up extra early to ensure would be able to purchase our tickets from either the bus or train station. We were able to leave the hostel around 8AM and arrived at the train station in an attempt to purchase train tickets to the Stone Forest. However, for some reason we received instructions for the bus station and headed from there. Once we had walked over to the bus station, an attendant informed us we were at the wrong bus station, however there was a bus that could shuttle us to the proper station. We jumped on and paid 5 RMB each to head towards the Kunming East Bus Station.

After our 30 minute bumpy ride, we were informed that we needed to purchase the tickets then just hop on a bus. We decided to have breakfast instead. Viktor elected to have a street egg sandwich, while Jeff, David and I headed over to a Muslim restaurant that served jiaozi and noodles. The breakfast was quite delicious as it did not have the usual Beijing flavor but rather a more clean and spicy taste along with the charming environment. The restaurant itself was inside a shipping container and the kitchen and preparation area were an attachment to the container. 

Once breakfast was finished, we headed back over to the Kunming East Bus Station and got back in line to purchase our tickets. With our tickets in hand, we quickly boarded the bus for the Stone Forest Scenic Area. Our tour coach provided a movie that featured Donnie Yen in an action flick with I disregarded and took advantage of the one hour journey by sleeping instead. Our bus was pretty full, primarily with Chinese tourists and a couple westerners. Along the way, while not sleeping, I was able to catch several glimpses of the Yunnan countryside. Very scenic with its rolling hills and red soil, once in a while we would also see a stone feature here and there next to the highway.

Around 11AM we had arrived to the entrance of Stone Forest. We were dropped off by the bus and walked a distance of 500 meters to the front gates. Along the way, we witnessed many traditionally worn clothing of the minorities of China. The attire was colorful with strong highlights that contrasted against the black cloth. Along with the clothing, many women also carried the traditional husk backpack to hold their belongings. It did not look very comfortable on ones shoulders, but it was able to hold a lot of items and it was very convenient

We gained a friend along the bus ride, a French national by the name of Maria. She was of Iranian descent but still looked very western in the eyes of the local Chinese. She joined us for our exploration of the Stone Forest park. We were able to use our student IDs for the student discount rate for admission. We shaved off 50 RMB from the standard entrance rate of 170 RMB to 120 RMB. It's good to be a student in China, especially when you can take advantage of the student discount rate. However, the discount is sometimes not applied for foreign students carrying a Chinese student ID.

Upon entering the park, we were immediately presented with several stone formations. Some of the stones were within a small lake while others were landscaped with vast fields of green grass. The stone formations were unreal, most of them seem to take a shape of a familiar creature or object. We avoided the large crowds and decided to take our own route and explore as we pleased. Most of the decisions we made led us to areas that were not populated with people at all. It was quite nice to see no one around and to take in the natural beauty of the place. 

After getting lost within the Large Stone Forest, we were able to regroup with the rest of the Chinese tourists at a center point pavilion where everyone had seemed the gathered. This pavilion provided a nice 360 degree of the Large Stone Forest and of the entire park itself. From this pavilion we spotted another tower and we decided to make it our next destination. Most of the tourists were following their guides so we quickly lost them and made a beeline towards the next pavilion. 

Once we made it to the next destination, and Jeff had just happened to rip his pants. However, it was only a rip vertically across the thigh and not in an more embarrassing location. A couple of the Chinese tourists who decided to follow us to the pavilion also got a laugh from Jeff's misfortune. We continued to explore the park and ended up in a section named Small Stone Forest. It was relatively smaller than the larger stone formations in the another area of the park. There was more green space and ponds for many picturesque moments. A lot of the tourists have seemed to flock over here and were herded around in big groups. 

We eventually broke away from the tourists and once again strayed off the path and climbed a trail. The trail was clearly marked on the map however it seemed as if we were the only ones utilizing the trail. By the end we were presented with a nice scenic view of the park at its highest peak. We hung around the summit of the stone formations for a good half hour while marveling at the vastness of the Stone Forest. We descended back down into the main area of the park and continued to get lost by not following any of the signs. We ended up no where near the entrance but rather on the opposite end of the park. So we made the slow walk back towards the exit, this time by following the main road with the rest of the park guests.

We caught the next bus headed back into Kunming, which ended up dropping us off at the East Kunming Bus Station once again. From here we followed Maria's advice and took the public bus from the station all the way to her hostel, Cloudland Youth Hostel. We freeloaded on the internet and utilized their restrooms to wash up for dinner. We ended up at a restaurant near Maria's hostel that served real decent Kunming food. We also began to sample the different types of beers offered here in the south. 

Afterwards, we caught a cab back home to hour hostel at Jin Bi Ma Square. We wandered around the area once again at night when all the shops were closing. The next day we had scheduled to spend the day at the Western Hills on the outskirts of town.

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