We arrived in Kunming, the City of Eternal Spring, late in the evening and proceeded to the one hotel where foreigners were allowed to stay at that time. At the hotel reception, we were first told that no more rooms were available, but then they saw our two-year old daughter and immediately changed their minds. “Oh yes, we still have one room for you.” At that time, hotels usually reserved a few rooms in case any communist party members showed up.
Bicycles were still the main form of local transportation, and the streets 86 were lined with tea shops where the retired spent hours gossiping and joking. A young guy making noodles fascinated us with his art of pulling them apart various times until they were just the right size: delicious noodle soup, our breakfast every morning! Years later in Kunming, I searched in vain for such a restaurant. The meat pies (馅饼 xian bing) also tasted fantastic.
Blind people in China often practice the profession of masseuses, and Kunming was famous for them where they practice their trade on the street.
A profession the army was still considered one of the best ways to get ahead in society, and consequently many parents dressed their children in army uniforms.
Crimes were document on wall posters with a picture of the captured criminal and the sentence he received, designed as a deterrent to would-be gangsters.
Music in the park
It was still possible to see women whose feet had been bound where they were young girls: a very painful practice that fortunately was outlawed.
Yuantong Temple, construction of which began at the end of the 8th century.
Temple of Five Hundred Genii near Kunming has some really strange statues. After we had taken some pictures, a temple custodian started cursing us although there had been no signs not to take photos.
We took an overnight bus to Dali up in the mountains at 19,000 meters and surrounding peaks of 4,00 meters. It was once the capital of Yunnan and seat of the Nanzhao Kingdom. The trip took approx. 10 hours, and our daughter vomited soon after we got on the bus. Bad smell, but at least she slept then. It is a two-hour train ride today.
The Three Pagodas dating from the 9th and 10th centuries. Tang Dynasty big one, Song Dynasty smaller two
The Bai ethnic minority dominates in the area. Many had never seen a foreign child in person at that time, and consequently approx. 40 people followed her around. The fact that we bought her Bai clothing certainly contributed to the interest.
Torch Festival to celebrate victory against a jealous god who sent insects to destroy the crops. The people lit torches and drove the insects away.
Market day: farmers from the area gathered for quite a colorful market.
Facilities in town were still rather primitive, and we were not up to trekking into the mountains with our daughter and no information about trails, so it was back to Kunming to arrange a trip to the south of Yunnan.
Xishuangbanna in southern Yunnan on the border of Myanmar and Laos.
We wanted to fly the capital of Xishuangbanna, Jinhong, but were told that flights were completely booked for the next month. I held up my daughter in front of the counter and said that it would be torture for her to spend the 48 hours on the bus, the time it took to get there at that time. The woman behind the counter looked at her, smiled, crossed out the names of two foreigners, then said, “Okay, tomorrow.” Traveling with a small child in China (and the rest of Asia too) in those days certainly made a lot of things easier!
Xishuangbanna is home to many ethnic groups, including the Dai, Akha, Bulang, and Lahu. Many gathered for a colorful Sunday market in Menghai (at least I think it was there).
On the road
Glazed insect as hat ornament
Stone Forest, a labyrinth of limestone that look like petrified trees. It is easy to get lost in it, or at least it was back in those days when there were not many tourists.
Back to Kunming and an overnight train ride north, but that’s a different story.