Malaysian traveller shares tips on getting around Yunnan for first-time visitors

The Lijiang Black Dragon Pool with the Jade Snow Mountain in the background. -- Photos: TAN HOCK CHUAN

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As a non-Mandarin speaker, and someone who is not tech savvy, it was quite a challenge for me to travel to Yunnan, China for a holiday with my family.

Google map was not accurate there, so I had to depend on China’s Baidu map, which, of course, was only available in Chinese. I had learnt a few words and phrases in Mandarin prior to the trip to help me get by, but it wasn’t enough. Plus, some of the most basic words are actually phrased differently in Yunnan, something I discovered while trying to order at a fast food restaurant at the Kunming Railway Station.

Apart from that, I also had to download the Alipay app to pay for items while in China.

Luckily, I could also use my Touch N’ Go ewallet, as it has a partnership with Alipay. But then again, Alipay is not as widely accepted as WeChatpay.

There are very few shops that accept cash in China now; those that do may not be able to return your change. Because of that, we carried a few small Chinese Yuan notes along with us just in case.

Train tickets in China can usually be booked up to 15 days in advance. However, trying to log in to the China Railway website was easier said than done. I had to resort to using a third party website (in my case, to get my tickets in the end.

The fare for high-speed train services is really affordable. For example, a second-class seat return tickets for the Kunming-Lijiang-Shangri La-Dali route cost me under RM420.

At the Kunming airport metro station, we bought the 72-hour “unlimited metro travel card” for RM23, and it was so worth it.

The three pagodas of Chongsheng Temple in Dali was built in 840 AD.The three pagodas of Chongsheng Temple in Dali was built in 840 AD.

We took the metro to the Nanping Pedestrian Street, Guandu Ancient Town, Green Lake, Yuantong Temple, Kunming Railway Station and Jingxing Flower and Pet Market.

For those taking the metro to the flower and pet market, avoid exiting at the F gate (Jingxing) at Wuyi Metro Station unless you enjoy walking up 60-plus flights of stairs!

Instead, take Exit E (Dongfeng West) which has escalators.

In Yunnan, the city bus fare is a flat rate of 2 yuan (RM1.30). If using cash, drop the exact fare into the box beside the driver because the driver does not provide change.

The highlight of our trip to Yunnan was supposed to be the Jade Dragon Snow Mountain. But when we arrived at Lijiang in early January, our hearts sank. There was no more snow on the mountain except for some patches here and there on the tallest peak. January and February are said to be the driest months, and snow starts melting in November.

So, we decided to skip the Jade Dragon Snow Mountain because there is no fun visiting a snow mountain without snow.

Meanwhile, we didn’t have to pay to enter Lijiang Old Town or the Black Dragon Pool.

The Upper Tiger Leaping Gorge in Shangri-La, Yunnan.The Upper Tiger Leaping Gorge in Shangri-La, Yunnan.

And for Tiger Leaping Gorge and Songzanlin Monastery in Shangri-La, and the Three Pagodas of Chongsheng Temple in Dali, visitors aged 60 and above enjoy a 50% discount on the entrance fee.

In Lijiang, Shangri-La and Dali, we stayed in hotels within walking distance to the ancient towns. Whenever we were too tired to walk back to our hotel, we would take a taxi. Our taxi fare never exceeded 12 yuan (RM8) per trip.

Now that I am getting the hang of things, I am looking forward to my next trip to China before the visa-free period for Malaysians ends on Nov 30.

The views expressed are entirely the reader’s own.

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