Plants-Enthusiastic Couple Indulged in Natural Beauty of Yunnan

-- Elizabeth and Husband's 13-Day Yunnan Exploration in Both Popular and Hidden Attractions

I will begin with the guides, who we thought were all very helpful and also interesting people to talk to. Their English was excellent and they provided exceptionally tasty lunches. Michael and I agreed that the food in Yunnan was much better than we had on the first trip. Some of it was a bit spicy, but I loved all the fresh fruit and variety of vegetables. Both drivers were good, but the one in Kunming was really impressive and very friendly as well.

Cherry was a lovely woman, whose company we really enjoyed. We had many conversations on all sorts of topics. She was very informative with a great sense of humour. She was very conscientious and we always had great confidence in her. Her English was clear and easy to understand. We came to think of her more as a very friendly and pleasant travelling companion rather than a guide. The day we shared on Jiaozi Mountain was very special and one I will never forget. I didn't get her email, but would very much like to write to her direct.

Frank's interest and enthusiasm for plants was obvious. He had even named his two daughters, Camelia and Azalea. Frank made great efforts to ensure we saw as many plants as possible on our walk on Cangshan Mountain. He was also able to provide a perspective on the Bai Community. Again he was friendly and interesting company.

Evan was a very kind and thoughtful man and we really appreciated the efforts he made on our behalf. He was informative but also concerned to focus on our interests. I liked Evan and had considerable respect for what he had achieved.

Tenzen was another interesting character and he also was concerned to try and ensure we saw the azaleas and rhododendrons that were in flower. The highlight of our day with him was definitely the walk around Shudu Lake. The Tibetan lunch was a novel experience and I actually liked the Yak butter tea.

The hotels were all of a very high standard in terms of facilities and décor.

The Mengjiang in Kunming had a lovely courtyard just outside our room which was a comfortable place to sit in the evening. Michael very much liked the breakfasts (pre-ordered from a picture menu) but I found them rather too much and would have preferred a more conventional buffet style. None of the staff spoke English and given the potential for confusion over breakfast this was an issue. I think their menus needed to contain information in English as to what the different options actually included.

Mengjing Wangyue Boutique Hotel in Kunming, Tour Customized by Wonder

Mengjing Wangyue Boutique Hotel in Kunming

The Oness Resort in Yuanyang was set in a pleasant garden with modern but tasteful décor. The breakfast was very good although Cherry did have to help us choose the evening meal as the menu was only in Chinese.

The Jianshui Hanlinyuan Hotel was set in the most beautiful gardens. The room was gorgeous and it was quite the most perfect hotel in terms of accommodation. I will send you photos of the gardens later. They were exquisite. Strangely the breakfast was rather limited and disappointing, but I was less bothered about that than Michael.

Yuanyang Oness Resort (left) and Jianshui Hanlinyuan Hotel (right), Tour Customized by Wonder

Yuanyang Oness Resort (left) and Jianshui Hanlinyuan Hotel (right)

The Dali Yunxi Hotel was a much more modest establishment, but still very comfortable with all the facilities you needed. The roof-top terrace was just outside our room and was a restful place to retreat from all the bustle of Dali. The hotel was run by extremely friendly people who served the option of a Western style breakfast of muesli, fruit and yoghourt, a welcome treat as far as I was concerned.

Dali Yunxi Hotel and the Terrace on Second Floor, Tour Customized by Wonder

Dali Yunxi Hotel and the Terrace on Second Floor

The Jun Bo Xuan in Lijiang was probably our favourite place to stay. It did have a very tastefully furnished and comfortable room looking out on to a pretty courtyard garden. The staff could not have been more helpful and the breakfasts were tasty. The hotel itself was set in the old town of Lijiang which was incredibly picturesque. Lijiang reminded me very much of Suzhou.

Lijiang Junboxuan Hotel and the Little Courtyard Garden, Tour Customized by Wonder

Lijiang Junboxuan Hotel and the Little Courtyard Garden

The E-outfitting Hotel in Shangri-La was the strangest place we visited. The accommodation was of a high standard with attractive rooms and the bathroom was fine. The roof terrace was a lovely place to sit and enjoy the evening sun. However the organisation of the hotel was very peculiar. It is on three sites and they didn't know which building we were in when we arrived, and so we walked round the old streets for some minutes before they finally worked out where we were. We were then told breakfast would be on a different site but someone would show us in the morning, which they did. Breakfast itself was alright rather than good.

Shangri-La E-outfitting Hotel and the Lobby, Tour Customized by Wonder

Shangri-La E-outfitting Hotel and the Lobby

In terms of places visited. I will group them in terms of how much we liked them.

Jiaozi Mountain was my favourite place. It was exactly as I had hoped to see the flowers. I know they were rhododendrons and not azaleas but that did not matter. They are very similar and often get confused. I am still sorting the photos out from the day and a little disappointed that they do not do justice to the magical beauty of the place. I can't understand why the people from Kunming only visit it in the winter. Cherry was really surprised by how lovely it all was and said she would be recommending it to her tour company, as well as visiting it again herself with a friend in a few weeks. I think Westerners would love this place if it was promoted more.

Jiaozi Mountain in Kunming, Photo Shared by Elizabeth, Tour Customized by Wonder

Jiaozi Mountain in Kunming, Photo Shared by Elizabeth

The rice terraces in Yuanyang were Michael's favourite place. We both thought the day we spent walking with Cherry through the rice fields was delightful. Again I found it strange that the Chinese are more taken with the place in the winter, simply because of the reflections on the water. But I think the beauty of the place is in the abundant life and all the wonderful fresh green. We were less bothered about the sunset and sunrise, but just enjoyed being in such verdant countryside.

Duoyishu Rice Terraces in Yuanyang, Tour Customized by Wonder

Duoyishu Rice Terraces in Yuanyang

The next group of places are ones which we also really liked but didn't rank as favourites.

I have already said that walking around Cangshan Moutain with Frank, and Shudu Lake with Tenzen were memorable experiences. Michael is not very good with heights, but didn't mind the chair-lift to get us to the higher level of Cangshan, which then meant we could walk on the level. Again we were impressed with China's ability to process large numbers of people visiting rural beauty spots without spoiling the natural environment.

Cangshan Mountain in Dali, Tour Customized by Wonder

Cangshan Mountain in Dali

Shudu Lake in Pudacuo National Park, Shangri-La, Tour Customized by Wonder

Shudu Lake in Pudacuo National Park, Shangri-La

We were very pleased with the visit to Xiu Shan Park in Tonghai. Cherry said she had never been there before and the staff on the gate said they hadn't had Westerners before. Cherry was again surprised at how beautiful the place was and will be recommending it to her tour company. I do have some good photos which I will send you. The Temples are set in beautiful courtyard gardens, but it is all surrounded by wooded hillside so that it all feels very natural. Again I think more Western visitors could be encouraged to visit especially as it breaks the journey to the rice terraces.

Xiushan Park in Tonghai on the Way from Kunming to Yuanyang, Photo Shared by Elizabeth, Tour Customized by Wonder

Xiushan Park in Tonghai on the Way from Kunming to Yuanyang, Photo Shared by Elizabeth

The Joseph Rock Museum in Yuhu Village was a very evocative place. I loved looking up at Jade Dragon Mountain and longed to go up there, but realised that would have been difficult.

Former Residence of Joseph Rock in Yuhu Village under Jade Dragon Snow Mountain, Tour Customized by Wonder

Former Residence of Joseph Rock in Yuhu Village under Jade Dragon Snow Mountain

We also very much liked the Confucian Temple and the Zhu Family Garden, the temple was interesting as a contrast to the other religious temples we visited. We found Tuanshan Village fascinating and it was encouraging to see the old buildings being restored. The Botanical Gardens in Kunming and the first bend of the Yangtze provided wonderful sights. Lijiang was probably our favourite town with all its pretty rivers and streets with their profusion of flowers.

Confucian Temple in Jianshui, Tour Customized by Wonder

Confucian Temple in Jianshui

Zhu Family Garden in Jianshui, Tour Customized by Wonder

Zhu Family Garden in Jianshui

First Bend of Yangtze River in Lijiang, Tour Customized by Wonder

First Bend of Yangtze River in Lijiang

In the third group are the places that we were quite happy to visit, but didn't rate as highly as the others. Erhai Lake was beautiful but I could see Frank's point that it's real beauty was when you could see the mountains clearly behind the lake, which was more likely in winter. For us the mountains remained in a misty haze.

Erhai Lake in Dali, Tour Customized by Wonder

Erhai Lake in Dali

The Three Pagodas were impressive, but it was a little like Black Dragon Pool, in that it seemed more like a rather busy, but still very nice park. The Songzalin Monastery certainly did give a very good insight into Buddhism in China, but our interest in religious practices is limited.

Three Pagodas at Chongsheng Temple in Dali, Tour Customized by Wonder

Three Pagodas at Chongsheng Temple in Dali

Sumtseling Monastery in Shangri-La, Tour Customized by Wonder

Sumtseling Monastery in Shangri-La

The Dongba Cultural Museum was interesting, but what really caught our eye were the gorgeous orchids in one of the courtyards. I guess we are just really enthusiastic about plants. We didn't bother with the Ethnic Minorities Museum as it wasn't something that was a priority and we had already learned a lot about the minorities during our trip. It was preferable to have a more relaxed morning on our last day.

Dongba Cultural Museum in Lijiang, Tour Customized by Wonder

Dongba Cultural Museum in Lijiang

The disappointment for me was Tiger Leaping Gorge although Michael liked it more than me. There is so much construction going on in the whole area with the new road and rail link between Lijiang and Shangri La, not to mention all the new hotels going up, that it all feels like a large building site. Also Tenzen said that as they were putting a new elevator in to take people down to the gorge, it was not possible to walk very far along the gorge at the moment. It did feel like we walked a very long way down and then only a few metres along the gorge before walking all the way up again.

Tiger Leaping Gorge in Lijiang, Tour Customized by Wonder

Tiger Leaping Gorge in Lijiang

But apart from Tiger Leaping Gorge everything else was really amazing and we had a wonderful trip thanks to all your careful organisation. As before the connections and travel arrangements worked very efficiently. We only wish public transport in the UK worked as well.

Thanks again Wonder for a memorable trip and as I said in my previous email I am very keen on the idea of helping to develop an interest here in the UK in Chinese garden tours.

Wonder and Elizabeth are both plants enthusiasts and have their own gardens. After the trip, they become friends and still keep in touch. From time to time, they will e-mail each other to exchange ideas about gardening and share the pictures of their gardens.

Garden at Elizabeth's Home, Photo Shared by Elizabeth, Tour Customized by Wonder

Garden at Elizabeth's Home, Photo Shared by Elizabeth

Garden at Wonder's Home, Photo Shared by Wonder

Garden at Wonder's Home, Photo Shared by Wonder

Hi, I'm Wonder, Elizabeth's travel consultant. Elizabeth and her husband enjoyed a lot in Yunnan, especially for the natural beauty. Are you interested in her trip? Please feel free to contact me for more details of her travel such as the trip itinerary, accommodation or other arrangements. If you want to take a similar trip or customize your own China tour, just e-mail me and I will spare no efforts to meet your demands. It's my great pleasure to invite you to our country and join us in appreciating this charming land.

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