Met up with the two other guests rom the night before, flagged down a taxi, the other Canadian paid for that as he was quite happy to be going with someone and declared he would have surely become lost otherwise. The East Bus Station is quite far from anywhere central, one tends to think the driver is taking the long way around.
There is also a lot of construction, I say is because it appears it will be ongoing for several months. Look for signs in English but also ask where to buy tickets. Knowing how to ask was helpful but not really necessary – Shi Lin is a very popular tourist destination.
When I asked when we would leave I was told, in Mandarin, now! We rushed for the bus only to wait another ten minutes. Then we were off, for about 30 minutes before being stopped in our tracks, along with everyone else heading in the same direction, by what we assume was an accident. That delayed us by 1 1/2 hours and we knew that the last bus returning would be 5:30.
Generally it takes about three hours, one way, from Kunming to drive the 90km. Buying an entry ticket is confusing, as with other places it seems the park ticket has to be purchased separately from the shuttle ticket despite the fact there is no other way to actually get to the real gate.
Drivers of the electric, open sided vehicles are dressed in traditional Yi costume, most of the drivers were women, a little gimmicky perhaps but still a nice touch. It was also nice to still be in the open air and be able to view the area while riding. According to travelchinaguide.com an old, local saying says that ‘If you have visited Kunming without seeing the Stone Forest, you have wasted your time.’ I cannot emphasize this sentiment enough!
Formed out of limestone roughly 270 million years ago, these stone ‘trees’ really are a geological wonder. Who would have guessed natural formations of rock could provide such beauty. PART park has been on the UNESCO world Heritage Sites since 2007. Of course, in order to encourage visitors, pathways, stairways and various places for refuse have been installed. This is not your simple pleasure trip for the day though. I did not see one pair of ridiculous footwear, everyone was dressed for possible rain, carried water and food in packs (except for silly me with my extra bag – but we soon dealt with that after about an hour and I could then put everything into my day pack).
We were prepared to explore for about four hours, taking into consideration the final bus departure. Tours could remain longer. I lost count of how many stairs we went up an down; how many times we stopped to ooh and ah or take photos. I believe we were all entranced. My little iPhone 4 certainly did not do the formations justice – I do hope something of the wonder has been captured.
We returned, – took city transit from the bus station, the whole trip about 12 hours – tired, happy and hungry. Street food was on the menu. The next day I headed to Thailand, the Israeli woman (she is 25 – so young) to Yangshou and my Canadian neighbour to Myanmar the following day. We all said our goodbyes in the morning. Travelling solo is great, but sometimes it is rather nice to visit some places with others. The Stone Forest was such a place.