Kunming: City of Eternal Spring

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My Train Berth

Chengdu to Kunming. Getting to the station via taxi was wise and I still had to walk more than intended. I had managed to fit my Ugg bag/purse into my Tracker day bag but also had a full bag of food. I was prepared to eat my way through this trip with mainly healthy food – red dragon fruit, hammi melon, bananas, oranges (mandarin of course) and even an apple. I also had some cookies, one steamed mian bao with pickled veg in it, yogurt and some sort of flaky, slightly sweet and salty pastry, and plenty of water.

My berth was too high for me to gracefully climb into. I noticed much younger women also had some difficulty. There is very little head room and the wall slopes so sitting up is nearly impossible. I self-regulated myself to a side seat by the window with excursions up the ladder for supplies. At least there is a ladder!

Away from the city fields with were being cultivated and harvested with various vegetables – absolutely no time given for laying fallow. Perfect photo op, an old person walking down the red dirt, hilly road – too far away to determine gender. Incongruous patio swing at one sticks, stones and whitewashed house. Comfort and leisure slowly coming to the fields.

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Not even an hour passed and I lost count of the tunnels. God forbid I forget the closeness of the ceiling or have to get up anytime soon! I had to maneuver my stuff around and was well on my way to pretzel state.

Roadside shrine, two figurines, I wonder which deities and for what reason. After several hours I started to get bored and nodding off only to wake up at 4:00am. I was ready to jump off the train.

Kunming

Just as I get to the point of being saturated with the underbelly of China I am pulled into the inner walls of sanctity – Yuan Tong Si is one such place. (I should explain I had been on the train 22 hours, developed a nasty headache and found that stairs were once again causing me to pause – I will get my lung capacity checked out when home)

Even managed to have a delicious, simple lunch for 5 yuan, rice with eggplant, a little spicy, broad beans, cabbage, potato and a simple pumpkin broth. Yuan Tong is a working Buddhist Temple. To my knowledge all the food donated to the various deities is then made into meals for the monks, the poor and the faithful – or something along those lines.

This temple, first built in the Tang Dynasty (c. 800 AD), was rebuilt with funding from the Yunnan govt, Chinese and Thai governments. Dedicated in 1991 the addition of the white temple, was built in the Thai style, far less ornate than the Chinese temples yet beautiful in its simplicity.

I could tell the holiday is over, no school children with families and most of those at the temple were most likely retired except the few foreigners – then again, a few of them seemed a few years older, at least, than I. This meant an enjoyable couple of hours listening to chanting – never did find the chanters except one group led by a monk. Bird song, doves fluttering, a cat relaxing, butterfly sunning its wings on the tail of a stone lion. This is a place that invites prayer, incense, red waxen candles and quiet respect by all.

Rather than search for my bus I explored a bit, keeping an eye out for the one I would need. Stopped for a much needed coffee at a nearby KFC. From my position on the second floor I saw one person smoking from a massive hookah.

Back to my lovely hostel where I met a fellow Canadian, and a young woman from Israel. We made arrangements to see the Stone Forest together the next day. It was nice to just think in English for an evening.

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