My wife Ivy and I wanted to tour Yunnan, Ivy had visited her Auntie there as a child and said how beautiful it was. Ivy had not visited Shangri la which is in Yunnan next to T; there are lots of places of interest and we decided to take a train journey through the mountains to enjoy the beautiful views. Ivy’s father decided to join us on the journey there and stay with his sister in Kunming.
We started our journey from Suzhou train station, we booked tickets to Shanghai to depart at 5:19.pm the train was ten minutes late, and Ivy’s father started to panic, as we had to get to Shanghai South Railway station in time to board the 7:10pm train to Kunming.
We arrived in Shanghai at 6:10pm and caught the Metro line 1 to the South station which arrived at 7:pm leaving us 10mins to get onboard the train.
We opted for the Hard Sleepers as they were 250rmb cheaper than the soft sleepers.
The difference between the hard and soft sleepers, besides the firmness of the beds are: 6 people to a room instead of 4, no doors, no control over the volume of music or lighting.
The journey takes 36 hours, 2 nights and 1 day. During the night there was not much to see but lots to hear as we didn’t have a door.
However I did manage to get to sleep once I managed to ignore the snoring. I was woken in the morning by lots of early risers. People are getting off and on the train all the way to Kunming. My back was quite stiff from the hard bed.
The view that greeted me from the window was amazing and made up for my discomfort. We were surrounded by mountains and farmland, every bit of flat land is cultivated for food, rice paddy fields, wheat, corn etc. I said to Ivy, it would be impossible to pitch a tent as there is no grass in sight. Farmhouses are dotted around the landscape. We saw buffalo's pulling ploughs in the fields. Most of the houses are built on the mountains along with the grave yards. The building are traditional no high rise skyscrapers in sight, wonderful traditional experience to be treasured.
I spent the day looking out the window and snacking on food. We took lots of food with us. You can buy meals on the train for 15rmb, also at every stop there are people selling food and drinks outside the train. I would advise taking some books, mp3 or a laptop to keep you occupied on the train in between enjoying the sights.
I was really impressed with the railway, the engineering of the tunnels through the mountains. There were lots of tunnels
I had previously been on a tour in China and had told Ivy I would rather do things ourselves as I like to control our time. However we were approached by one of the train crew; she asked us if we wanted to buy a trip. Ivy spoke to the lady and the trip they were offering included all the places Ivy wanted to take me.
it included transport, hotels, food and trips all for 770rmb. We decided that it would save a lot of hassle booking transport and hotels and it was a very good deal. We had to go to the travel agents office on our arrival to confirm the details.
The weather had changed, it was raining heavily and the train was running two hours late, we were due to arrive at Kunming at 8am. We had booked a trip to the Stone Forest by bus at 8.30am. We arrived at 10am and missed that bus. We were very sad to learn later that day the earlier bus had been hit by a land slide killing a mother and child.
On our arrival in Kunming we met Ivy’s auntie for lunch. After lunch we went to the office of the tour company. The lady at the desk advised us that the offer on the train expired in May and that the new tour was 1000rmb. I asked why they were selling the other offer on the train and she advised that the woman on the train was a trainee and didn’t know. I told Ivy that I don’t trust this company so decided to leave.
We were advised to use another tour guide. We met him at his office. He said that the 770rmb deal has lots of hidden extras and that the food and hotels are very bad. He said that if we booked with him it would include all the tickets for the day trips and the hotels would be three star rated with great food.
We made sure that we got all the trips included in the contract and booked it with him.
A six day tour to Dali, Li Jiang and Shangri La cost us 1350rmb. This was cheaper than booking the transport, trips and hotels ourselves. The downside of doing a tour is that the cost is kept down for the customers by including lots of shopping trips. The tour guides make commission from items purchased by their tourist/clients in these shopping places.
We discovered that people on the tour had paid differnt prices, some had paid for tickets to include site trips and some did'nt. Some people were not aware that their contracts had not included the site trips. One woman we met said she paid 1900rmb for the trip and it was only when she was on the trip realised that it didnt include entry into any of the sites. She was crying because she had paid so much. Some decided to stay on the bus and wait for 3 hours rather than pay the extra money.
If you decide to book a trip make sure that it includes everything, there are no hidden charges and EVERYTHING is written on the contract.