Beware The Airport Taxi Scam, Even The Official Drivers When They Think They Can Get Away With It.
Outside of the airport exit we saw a sign marking an official taxi stand where a line of taxis were parked along the curb. We remembered being told not to take any unofficial taxis into town. As we made our way over to the line a man ran up to us saying he would take us into town. We pointed at the taxis and asked which one was his. He didn’t answer, he just kept repeating 40 yuan. We went to the first taxi in the line and the driver wouldn’t even interact with us. He made no gestures or showed any interest in taking us as a fare. We worked our way down the line of cabs but none of them seemed to want to take us into town.
Suddenly we had a group of taxi drivers surrounding us, they were chatting and pointing at our bags. The opened up one of the trunks and looked at it shaking their heads as if our bags wouldn’t fit. Which wasn’t the case, our two average size backpacks never had an issue before and our small day packs were always held in our laps. We stood in disbelief as we were at a major city airport and no taxi wanted to take us to town. It think the idea was they wanted to have us pay for two taxis. An official looking man in a uniform stepped up and said something in a stern tone and in an instant our bags were in one of the trunks. We asked the man in the uniform how much it would cost and he pointed to the meter. It ended up being 12 yuan, less than a third of what the original guy was trying to get out of us.
Feeling Some Effects Of The Higher Elevation
Kunming sits at an elevation of 1900 meters. As folks that live at sea level we were feeling some effects from it. We both felt slightly off, dizzy and a bit nauseated at times. If we did anything strenuous like climbing stairs we could feel our breath was more laboured than usual.
We’re Surprised At How Western Kunming Feels
Kunming is a large city with a population of 4 million. It’s a modern, youthful and lively city, probably due to the fact it’s a University town. Parts of it have wide boulevards and reminded us of Singapore, other parts reminded us of the city of Vancouver near home. It’s like any bit city full of shopping centers, skyscrapers, business people rushing about between offices and a lot of traffic.
A 70 Yuan Price Difference Takes You From Grungy Hostel To High Quality Hotel Room
We got dropped off at the Camelia Hotel. It has both a hotel and a hostel. The reception first pointed us to the hostel. Some of the hostels we have stayed at in China have been quite nice, but the rooms in this one were oild and dilapidated. The carpets had stains all over them and it smelled horrible. A double room in the hostel was going to be 130 yuan.
We asked to see a room in the hotel section. It looked clean and comfortable and was going to cost 200 yuan. I know a 70 yuan difference can be a lot for someone on a very tight budget, but for what was going to be $10 Canadian it hardly seemed worth staying in the grungy hostel room and the hotel room included a breakfast of eggs, fruit, toast, coffee and tea!
Top Quality Laundry Service
We needed to do laundry and our hotel room was not very conducive to doing it ourselves. We decided to try out the hotel laundry service. It was a bit pricey as far as prices go in China. For a couple grocery bags full it was just under $10 Canadian. When house cleaning picked them up we explained to the lady that one bag was okay to put in the washer and dryer, but the other one was not to be put in the dryer, hang dry only. She seemed to understand, but we were nervous. This would be the first time we had let someone do our laundry in China. We have always been afraid that communicating hang dry would be too difficult. We have a hard enough time trying to get clothes big enough to fit us in Asia, we can’t afford to have them shrunk!
When we picked up our clothes and laid them out on our bed we were stunned. Each t-shirt had been immaculately pressed and folded around a piece of cardboard and then placed in a cello package. They looked like we had just purchased brand new clothes. The pants were also pressed and folded onto hangers and placed in bags. A pair of Jack’s grubby cargo pants were hardly recognizable they were so clean and pressed to perfection. Money well spent!
Western Food Was Welcomed After Lengthy Traveling In China
Part of what we love about traveling is trying new foods, but after traveling for an extended amount of time in China we we welcomed the western food options available in Kunming. What makes it more challenging is that were were traveling in China as vegetarians. We found a place called City Cafe not too far from our hotel. The food was delicious. I had a curried rice and vegetable dish with chapati bread and Jack had a vegetable and tofu hotpot with a side or rice.
There are a lot of great restaurants in the University area of Kunming. We enjoyed the French Cafe and a place called Paul’s that specializes in western style food. He has a small shop selling items like Campbell’s soup, organic cereals, crackers, peanut butter, maple syrup and pancake batter. He also has a lot of hard to find western toiletry items. We loaded up a big bag of items with such excitement we hardly cared about the price. It was certainly expensive for grocery items in China but when we analyzed the costs it ended up being not much more than what we would have paid for the items at home.
Shop Until You Drop In Kunming
Kuming has plenty of high end modern shopping malls, but it also has more older sections of town with shops selling more traditional goods and plenty of counterfit items. We had to laugh when we saw a DVD shop which was obviously selling illegal copies, but it was right next to a police station. There’s an upscale shopping area with enough shopping to keep you busy for days if you wish. Once you enter through a large set of arches it’s a pedestrian only zone. It makes for a nice break from the buzz of the city traffic.
The older sections of town are an interesting place to walk around. There’s some unique shops to look at and it’s a great place to watch the everyday activity of the locals.
An Unrelaxing Massage With A Side Of Foot Surgery
We have enjoyed many wonderful massages in parts of southeast Asia, but had never tried on in China. We decided to give try a herbal foot massage in the parlour within our hotel. Jack would catch up with me after taking some belongings to our room.
After soaking my feet in a bowl of soapy water a gentleman entered the room and crouched at my feet. I thought he was about to start the massage until he pulled out a small instrument chest. He motioned toward my foot with something that looked like an operating razor. After pulling my foot away several times and saying no he picked up another item that looked like a mini cheese grater and tried to start at my big toe with it. I again pulled away and this time he got angry and started yelling at me in Chinese. This caught the attention of staff in the next room. A gentleman who spoke English came in and asked me what was wrong. I explained I only wanted a massage and he questioned why I wouldn’t want to pay 20 yuan for the manicure. I said no thanks and he had words with the man and left the room. Again he tried to come at my feet. There was no way I was letting this guy at them. We have witnessed street side foot procedures being done with instruments like this and sorry to be graphic but there’s we’ve seen a lot of blood. Who knows what kind of cleaning procedures or if any sterilization at all is done to the tools.
Eventually he got the hint and left. Jack joined me and we both soaked until two young girls came to give the foot massages. Before they started they spent several minutes trying to convince us to pay a bit more for a full body massage. So far it this experience was anything but relaxing with all the extra pressure to have the extras, not to mention the blarring television in the room. The girls we wearing very short tight skirts and a ton of makeup. We couldn’t help but think you could get more than a basic massage here if you wanted to. Which I’m sure they would have offered had we gone into the private massage rooms for the full body massage.
One of the girls motioned at the remote for us to change the channel if we wanted. We pressed the mute button, I’m sure to their surprise. It seems there are very few situations in China where quiet is appreciated. The massage was not very good and to add to the atmohsphere the girls were chatting to each other the entire time.
We Witness More Weird Sights In China
We saw some interesting stuff while exploring around the city. We noticed that some people like to walk around with a wad of kleenex hanging out of their nose. We’re not sure why. The one good thing was so far we didn’t have as many people staring at us as we had in some of the other places we visited in China. We did however have a guy in a truck hold back an entire lane of traffic when the light had turned green at the intersection. He just sat there gawking at us as we waited to cross the street. The cars behind him started honking, but he took a few more seconds to stare before he drove away.
This group of ladies was sitting outside of a shopping mall. They each have a clip in their nose that is attached to small device that’s sitting in their lap. We assume it’s some kind of test. It’s interesting how many things are done out in open public here. Perhaps we’re just very uptight in North America or used to have a lot of privacy.
At a major road intersection we saw a girl sitting in a lane of traffic and her boyfriend standing beside her. Cars were swerving around her and honking, we could barely look as we thought she was going to get killed. It seemed her and the boyfriend had a fight and she plunked herself down and was refusing to move. He kept grabbing her arms and trying to pull her up, but she stayed firm. The most bizarre part of all this is only about 10 meters away two police officers were sitting and watching the whole incident along with everyone else. You would think they would get out of the car and make her move for her own safety and everyone else driving down the road.
A giant backpack places as an attraction to draw customers into a store. Maybe this will be a big enough to hold everything after we finish shopping.
Our Overall Thoughts Of Kuming
It seems we used Kunming as many travelers in China do, as a passing through point enroute to the next destination. We didn’t do a lot here other than wander around the city, catch up on laundry and purchase some items were getting low on. The major attraction in the area is the Stone Forest. We chose not to go because it was over 100km’s outside of Kunming and from what we could tell it was going to be ove run with tour bus groups. Perhaps we missed out on the unique rock formations, but we didn’t to skip it. Overall we enjoyed a short stay here, it’s a pleasant, safe and clean city with good very good air quality in comparison to many other large cities in China. I don’t know that we would recommend anyone go out of there way to visit Kunming, but it makes for a nice stopover.