Quaint and charm­ing Kun­ming has a lot to of­fer to trav­ellers

The Sunday Guardian - - Artbeat -

Cov­ered with blos­som­ing flow­ers and lush veg­e­ta­tion and blessed with a salu­bri­ous cli­mate through­out the year, the city of Kun­ming, the cap­i­tal of the south­west­ern Chi­nese prov­ince of Yun­nan, is a tourist’s de­light.

Lo­cated at an el­e­va­tion of 6,200 feet above sea level, Kun­ming is known as the City of Eter­nal Spring be­cause of the pleas­ant cli­mate it en­joys through­out the year—not too hot dur­ing sum­mer and not too cold dur­ing win­ter. Av­er­age highs dur­ing the height of sum­mer hover around 24-25 de­grees Cel­sius while it is around 15-16 de­grees Cel­sius in deep win­ter.

As in any mod­ern city, Kun­ming has its share of high­rise build­ings, but it still re­tains a quaint­ness that is charm­ing.

From cul­tural and nat­u­ral tourist at­trac­tions to shop­ping for tra­di­tional Chi­nese goods and trin­kets, the city has a lot to of­fer to a trav­eller look­ing for va­ri­ety.

To the north of the city is the 1,200-year-old Yuan­tong Tem­ple, one of the grand­est and most im­por­tant Bud­dhist tem­ples in Yun­nan prov­ince. Built by King Yi­mouxun of the Nanzhao King­dom dur­ing the eighth cen­tury, the tem­ple is lo­cated on a de­pres­sion on the south­ern side of the Yuan­tong Park.

Built around the Yuan­tong Hall or the Ma­havira Hall, the tem­ple com­plex is sur­rounded by a pond where fish swim around. A stone bridge con­nects Ma­havira Hall with the Yuan­tong Tem­ple en­trance.

Epit­o­mis­ing all three branches of Bud­dhism, the tem­ple houses the stat­ues of Sakya­muni, Amitabha and the Medicine Bud­dha, all dat­ing to the Yuan dy­nasty (1271-1368) es­tab­lished by Kublai Khan, the grand­son of Chen­giz Khan.

There are a num­ber of halls sur­round­ing the tem­ple where you will find peo­ple, sit­ting, chat­ting and pray­ing, classes be­ing held on Bud­dhist scrip­tures, a res­tau­rant and a cal­lig­ra­phy stu­dio among oth­ers.

Above all, what will strike you most is the serene en­vi­ron­ment in which the tem­ple rests.

If you want to en­joy na­ture in all its glory, head to­wards the Dianchi Lake, a fresh­wa­ter lake spread across nearly 300 sq km. Lo­cated 6,189 feet above sea level, it is the eighth largest lake in China and the largest in Yun­nan prov­ince.

Over 20 rivers feed the cres­cent- shaped l ake which has a shore­line of over 163 km and which is recog­nised as an ecore­gion.

There are a num­ber of at­trac­tions along the lake, in­clud­ing the Yun­nan Na­tion­al­i­ties Vil­lage, Grand View Park, White Fish Park, Haigeng Bank, Kwanyin Hill, and the West­ern Hills For­est Re­serve.

In win­ter, one gets to see mi­gra­tory Siberian seag­ulls fly­ing around which can be a pho­tog­ra­pher’s de­light.

To get a bird’s eye view of Dianchi Lake and a pa­naromic view of Kun­ming, one needs to get to the top of the West­ern Hills.

Lo­cated 12km west of Kun­ming city, the West­ern Hills also have the “Sleep­ing Beauty” moniker as, when viewed to­gether from afar, the hills look like a young lady ly­ing be­side Dianchi Lake with her face look­ing up and hair fall­ing into the wa­ter.

A pro­tected area, bloom­ing flow­ers and lush green forests mark the West­ern Hills. Scenic spots in­clude a stone-carved ed­i­fice called Dragon Gate, Hu­at­ing Tem­ple, Tai­hua Tem­ple and the San­qing Pav­il­ion which is a tem­ple with Taoist in­flu­ence.

To get to the top of the West­ern Hills, one has to take a ca­ble car from the west­ern gate of the Haigeng Park af­ter get­ting off a bus ply­ing from the foothills or the West­ern Hills sub­way sta­tion.

From the top one can get down by a se­ries of steps run­ning through some of the largest Taoist grot­toes that were built dur­ing the Qing dy­nasty (1644-1912).

Time for shop­ping? Head for down­town Kun­ming, more specif­i­cally the Jinma Arch­way—around which the city was built. Near the arch­way is the Nan­ping Pedes­trian Street, the most pop­u­lar area of Kun­ming city. Around 700 me­tres long, the street is dot­ted with some pub­lic sculp­tures.

Around the street are a num­ber of shops and em­po­ri­ums selling tra­di­tional Chi­nese tex­tiles, ar­ti­facts, items you can buy as sou­venirs and quite a few restau­rants where you can try au­then­tic Chi­nese cui­sine.

And yes, when buy­ing any­thing, don’t for­get to bar­gain. You will be amazed at how low the price can come down if you bar­gain hard.

Kun­ming is a four-hour flight away from Delhi and twoand-a-half hours from Kolkata.

A bit of ad­vice. When trav­el­ling in China, lan­guage can be a ma­jor bar­rier, so it will be pru­dent to pre-book a trans­la­tor who can ac­com­pany you dur­ing your in­ter­ac­tions with lo­cal peo­ple. IANS

Built around the Yuan­tong Hall or the Ma­havira Hall, the tem­ple com­plex is sur­rounded by a pond where fish swim around. A stone bridge con­nects Ma­havira Hall with the Yuan­tong Tem­ple en­trance.

Mi­gra­tory Siberian seag­ulls near Dianchi Lake.

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