While winters are too cold and summers just burn, it’s the graceful spring that soothes. Talking of summers and springs, what better time than peak summer for a quick escape to the ‘Spring City’ Kunming? Kunming, the capital of Yunnan Province, was also a gateway to the much-celebrated trade route — the Silk Road. The 2,400-years-old history makes Kunming the most famous tourist destination in Southwest China and a hub of cultural gems that are reminiscent of the yesteryears. By Shubhanjana Das
Bamboo Temple or the Qiongzhu Temple on the western part of Kunming is one of its much revered Buddhist temples. Unlike many other Buddhist temples in and around the region, this temple (wherein no pictures are allowed inside) was rebuilt in the 19th century by the master Sichuanese sculptor Li Guangxiu. The 500 luóhàn (arhats or noble ones) are fashioned in a way that if you keep on counting them from left to right until you reach your age, the one that you stop at is said to represent your soul the best. The sculptor is said to have vanished into thin air after eight years of excruciating struggle to give this temple its present face. Be sure to sit in one of the sitting rooms and sip a cup of tea with the monks while you take in the calm and the artistic brilliance of the Bamboo Forest.
2. Dian Chi
Dian Chi offers a glimpse at what Kunming must’ve looked like back in the day. Its shoreline is, however, now dotted with fishing and farming enterprises as well as settlements. The Dian Chi waters are punctuated by fānchuán (huge pirate-sized junks typical to China, made out of bamboo-battened canvas sails) and every side of the lake has a different kind of topography. While the west is hilly (wish Xishan) and the east flat, the southern end is taken up by industries. The best thing to do at Dian Chi is to hike up Xishan or to the Dragon Gate during the day and take in the stillness of the lake from a bird’s eye view. During the evening, get yourself a drink at one of the open air bars along the promenade and get entertained by the street performers.
Bird’s eye views are always the best, aren’t they? Hike up Xishan on the western part of Kunming to see what this majestic city looks from up top. There are multiple hiking trails which might get a little confusing, so make sure you are careful. Choose the evening time for a hike if you want to see the city all lit up. If you are a sucker for sunrises, there’s nothing better than an early morning hike. The trail is a sensory overload with greenery that your eyes must have missed amidst all the city chaos and pollution.
4. Dragon Gate
Once at the top of the mountain, you will be greeted by grottoes, sculptures, corridors and pavilions in the form of the Dragon Gate. Albeit it’s not the easiest journey to the Western Hills up to the Dragon Gate, but that very difficulty makes this venture all the more exciting. The Dragon Gate looms over Dian Chi lake and overlooks the whole of Kunming. Perfect to draw an end to your trip to Kunming by taking this beautiful place in one last time, from the best view point there is.