Ten Days Travel in Yunnan (including Dali, Lijiang, Lugu Lake, Shangri-La and Kunming) - I 

Written by Ms. LIQIONG Oct 8, 2012 21:53
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It was the first time that I had encountered this phrase “Gap Year” when I read a book written by a Chinese guy called Sun Dongchun. He worked in Guangzhou after graduating from college. At the end of 2006, he decided to travel abroad alone. His original was to travel outside for three months. However, he realized that three months were not enough when he was on his journey. Thus, he extended his world trip to 13 months. His footprints were left in 6 countries. Well, the trip wasn’t as smooth as he thought. When he ran out of his all 21000 RMB, he started to do part-time jobs to finish his trip. During his traveling, he encountered his true love and learnt to take care of his families. Currently, he becomes a freelancer and settles down in Japan with his wife.

Sun named his book “Late Come of Gap Year”. I searched this word on the internet. Generally, it means ‘taking time out to travel between life stages’. Western young people usually start their gap year traveling when they graduate from middle school or university. I guess Sun named his book because he started his gap year traveling a bit late.

Influenced by Sun and his legendary experiences, I am dreaming of my own gap year traveling. This summer, I finished my college study and dreamt of starting my gap year traveling abroad. Unfortunately, my parents strongly oppose my plan. I understand they are worried of me. In their opinion, it is too dangerous for a girl to rove abroad. Eventually, I compromise because I do not want them to worry about me.

Instead, me and my three other roommates decide to travel in Yunnan. This time, my parents don’t oppose my plan but sponsor my trip.

We just graduate from college and don’t have savings. Thus, we decide to have a budget trip. It takes about 40 hours by train from Suzhou to Kunming.

August 5 Train T7785 Suzhou to Shanghai South (16:07-17:33) CNY 24 for second class seat
Train K739 Shanghai South to Kunming (19:43-09:26) CNY 491 for hard berth

August 15 K9608 Lijiang to Kunming (21:43-06:50) CNY 148 for hard berth
August 16 K740 Kunming to Shanghai South (22:00-15:33) CNY 505 for hard berth
August 18 Shanghai South to Shanghai Railway Station by subway and then took G train back to Suzhou

Ticket fare: 24+491+148+505+40=1208

Tip: better buy rail tickets in advance. Personally, I prefer the lower hard berth. The middle hard berth is to narrow and the light at the top of the carriage makes me uncomfortable when I sleep on the upper berth.

Day 1 Kunming to Dali Ancient Town accommodated at Dali Ancient Town
Day 2 Er Lake to Cang Mountain accommodated at Dali
Day 3 Dali to Shuhe Ancient Town in Lijiang accommodated at Shuhe
Day 4 Jade Dragon Mountain accommodated at Shuhe
Day 5 Lijiang to Lugu Lake accommodated at Lugu Lake
Day 6 Lugu Lake
Day 7 Lugu Lake to Lijiang accommodated in Lijiang Ancient Town
Day 8 and 9 Two-day group tour from Lijiang to Shangri-La and then back to Kunming accommodated in Kunming

Day 1

We bought our return rail tickets when we arrived at Kunming Railway Station and then took a taxi to the West Bus Station. The taxi driver refused to turn on the meter and we finally paid CNY 60. Then we bought bus tickets from Kunming to Dali. We still had one hour before the bus departed so that we had lunch at a small restaurant. I ate a bowl of beef noodles. It tasted good.

Tip: There are two kinds of bus tickets. The first costs CNY 107 and the second one, CNY 146. We bought the second kind tickets. We also saw Passat cars. The drivers told us they could bring us to Lijiang. But they charged CNY 170 per person. Don’t worry! They are not unlicensed cars. If you want to take Passat, you also need to buy tickets at the bus station. Each car accommodates four passengers.

We reached Xiaguan Bus Station in Dali at 16:30. We contacted our hostel in advance and required them to pick us up when we arrived. The hostel kept its promise and picked us up. On our way to the hostel, the driver was very talkative and introduced the local customs to us.

The hostel is very clean. We booked a quadruple room and found it was big enough to accommodate all of us. The wife of the boss of the hostel was very warm-hearted. She helped us book bus tickets to Lijiang.

Tip: In Dali and Lijiang, most hostels can help their customers to book bus tickets. If you have no idea about the location of the bus stations, ask them for help.

It was nearly 18:00 when we got our luggage ready in the room. Time to have dinner! There is a famous restaurant that is located on the Renmin Road. It’s name is Cang Er Chun (苍洱春). It took some time for us to find it. Four of us ordered four dishes (Fried Seaweed, Fried Snails, Chicken with Papaya and a fish soup) and ate them up. It cost us CNY 132 in all.

Before coming to Dali, we just thought it was similar to Zhouzhuang and Xitang Water Town. But we were totally wrong. We were amazed by Dali. Four of us wandered on the streets and visited the shops. My friend couldn’t help buying a dress and a blouse although she knew that they were all made in Yiwu, Zhejiang and had no chance to wear them. A dress and a blouse cost CNY 30. Very cheap!

Then we walked into the bar street. The bars in Dali were much better than what we saw in Lijiang. After a short discussion, we decided to experience Shui Yun Jian. It was a pleasure to sip a glass of wine and watch the tourists when sitting on the wooden bench outside of the bar.

One hour had passed and we felt a bit bored in the bar. Thus, we went out and bought four cups of Ding Ding’s yogurt. It was as good as other people said. On the way out of the town, I bought a piece of “milk fan”, which is a kind of dry cheese made from milk and looks like a fan.

At the gate of Dali Ancient town, we saw many fruit shops. Mouthwatering! Then we spent CNY 10 buying four mangos. Very delicious!

First day’s expense: CNY 224.5 in all.

Day 2

In the morning, we had Er Si (饵丝) as our breakfast. It was a kind of rice noodles in fact and tasted nice. Then we headed for Erhai Lake. The landlord booked the tickets for us. Originally, it cost CNY 140 per person. She just charged us CNY 120 per person. I heard that some local agencies could get cheaper tickets if you bargain with them. CNY 80 per person. Very cheap, isn’t it?

We didn’t bargain with the landlord. Around 09:30, a driver came and took us to the ferry terminal. 30 minutes later, we got our tickets and boarded the ship. My friend Zhang heard that all passengers could get a gift on the fifth deck. So we rushed to the fifth deck and found that there was a photographer. He took photos for the passengers for free. Then someone copied your photo on a key chain and gave it to you. It was free.

When you received the key chain, he showed you the photo. If you wanted to take back your photo, you needed to pay CNY 10. Now you know why the photographer took photos for the passengers for free. The key chain didn’t cost too much. Their purpose was to force you to pay CNY 10 for your big photo.

It was too late when we knew their scheme. The photographer shoot best photos and we had no reason to give up the photos. Thus, we paid CNY 40 to get back our photos. The ship stopped at two small islands, Little Putuo Isle and Nanzhao Isle.

The Little Putuo Isle isn’t recommended. It is very small and full of locals who sell roast fish and shrimps. Nanzhao Isle is worth a visit. There you can have a chance to understand the local customs.

There is a tea performance on the ship. It is called Bai Minority’s Three-Course Tea Performance. I wasn’t interested in the show but their tea was good. I preferred the second course Tea. It tasted sweet.

The ship eventually anchored at a port close to Butterfly Spring at 14:00. We didn’t where to go after getting off the ship. The other two backpackers we knew on the ship suggested visiting Shangguan Tramway. We agreed and hired a car to bring us there.

There is a cave called Dragon Cave. It is said that Eight Guardians of Buddhism (a TV series) was once shot in the cave. When entering the cave, I found it was no attractive. Then we used the tram to get down.

When we got the on the car, the driver told us that he could bring us to Xizhou Ancient Town for a visit. We felt a bit tired so that we declined his suggestion and asked him to take us back to Dali Ancient Town. He wasn’t happy and was reluctant to bring us back. We understood that he wanted us to pay him more. Thus, we paid CNY 100 and the driver promised to bring us to Dali Ancient Town.

We made a big mistake. The cruise on the Erhai Lake lasted for 4 hours and we didn’t bring any snack or food. The first thing we did when we arrived at Dali Ancient Town was to find a restaurant. This time, we found a restaurant on the other side of the Cang Er Chun and ordered four dishes (a vegetable soup, Yunnan Style Steamed Chicken, Double Cooked Pork Slices and Five Golden Flowers). The flavor was too bad compared with Cang Er Chun.

Then we decided to seek for Chicken Rice Noodles, a famous snack here. Its taste was complicated, spicy and sweet. It was difficult to describe the sweet flavor. During the time we had our meal, an old woman walked to us and persuaded us to buy her scented sachets. Considering of her age, I spent CNY 12 buying a scented sachet from her. After that, we decided to visit the shops and buy some presents for our friends and then went back to the hostel. It was a tiring day!

The second day’s expense: CNY 436.5 in all.

Tip: The weather forecast is inaccurate. Before going to Yunnan, we did a lot of work on the weather in Yunnan. According to the weather forecast, it is raining everyday. When we got there, the weather was good.

Anyway, I still suggest you bring a raincoat or an umbrella in case it really rains.

Day 3

Today, we decided to visit Lijiang. The landlord again booked the bus tickets for us (CNY 70 per person). At 09:00, the driver came to pick us up. Before getting on the car, we told the driver that we wanted to buy some fruit. He agreed and then we spent 10 yuan buying four mangos from a local and then bought four peaches and two mangos from another guy. On the way to Lijiang, we ate the mangos and found that two mangos weren’t ripe. We were cheated by the second man. The mango he gave us to taste was good but he sold us were not yet ripe.

We got to Lijiang Bus Station around 14:00. Dayan Ancient Town is close to the bus station. But we wanted to visit Shuhe Ancient Town. So we transferred two times and finally arrived at Shuhe. The hostel we booked in advance was a bit far from the town center. It wasn’t as good as the one we booked in Dali.

1. I do not suggest you book the hostel in Shuhe in advance. There are many hostels in the town. You can choose when you get there.
2. You needn’t enter Shuhe Ancient from the main gate. If so, you need to buy the entrance ticket. In fact, there are many side gates where you can get in. It’s free to enter from the side gates.

After putting our luggage at the hostel, we started to explore the Shuhe Ancient Town. It was 16:00 and the temperature was a bit high. Honestly, Shuhe didn’t impress me. The Ancient Tea Horse Road is not far from here. There were many visitors who were riding horses in the town and the roads were full of horse waste. New hostels were being built outside of the town. It’s too noisy.

Obviously, we were not in the mood now. Thus, we picked up a restaurant to have dinner. Accidentally, it was a well-known restaurant here. We ordered five dishes and paid CNY 200 at last. The dishes were ok and the environment was comfortable. And we could appreciate the Shuhe River scenery through the window.

We stayed at the restaurant till the sun went down. Then we went to the Aladdin (a local travel agency) to book bus tickets to Lugu Lake. We spent too much money in previous two days. Thus, we decided to explore Jade Dragon Mountain on our own.

Tip: You can rent a car to Jade Dragon Mountain. It costs around CNY 200. The car can accommodate seven people.

Originally, we planned to rent a car to the Jade Dragon Mountain. So we stood on the street and asked if anyone could join us. Unfortunately, no one was interested. They were afraid that we were local guys who might scam them. Suddenly, I came up with a new idea. Why not ride a bike to the Jade Dragon Mountain?

The other three agreed and then we started to find the bike rental shop. Guiding by the map, we found the bike rental shop near the North Gate but it was already closed. Suddenly, four young men passed by us. I stopped one of them and asked whether they rode bike to Jade Dragon Mountain. They said ‘Yes’ and gave us instructions on how to travel to the mountain by bike.

Today’s expenditure: CNY 254

 More Yunnan Travel Reviews
1. my Yunnan Tourism HAOTEAM from CN Jan 22, 2010 21:38
2. Lugu Lake ANNACHAN from CN Jul 9, 2009 06:19
3. Travelling by bicycle throughout Yunnan MARKVANDELAER from BE Jun 2, 2009 00:54
Comments (1)


Feb 18, 2013 10:00 Reply

Ms.JUNE from Malaysia said:

Hi Liqing,
Can you provide me the hotel name that you stayed?
I am visiting Yunnan province this March. Thank you.

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