Today I officially started my tour with China International Tourist Service (CITS) in Kunming. I want to write a little bit about CITS in case someone is looking into a a package tour in China. Before I came to Kunming, I got very nervous once I realized that I would be going there alone. It would be my first time traveling alone and since I don’t speak Chinese, my friend whose has been there and speaks fluently Chinese recommend I should check into a package tour. I checked on the Internet and found the website. After comparing several tours, it seemed cheapest and I liked the fact that they replied my emails promptly. The tour operator asked if I was willing to join a Chinese speaking tour and it would be ¥4,050. It sounds reasonable and I agreed into it. And I was also quite happy with the program. Of course I didn’t know what to expect and to be honest I had a very low expectation about hotels.The whole trip was with all Chinese and the tour guide didn’t speak English at all. To be fair, I agreed to be on Chinese speaking tour. But by God’s grace, I got to experience 100% Chinese cultural experience and got to meet really nice and friendly Chinese people. So if you are totally naive and didn’t know what you are doing you might end up with a Chinese speaking tour and there is a big chance that you might not enjoy it. You need to be totally flexible or clueless like me to be able to enjoy it. Sometimes I live by this “ignorance is a bliss.”
So there were 6 of us together on the van so it is a much smaller group compared to the rest of the tour. We went to Stone Forest, one of the must see lists in Kunming. It indeed was impressive. The only thing was that it was way too crowded. I wish I could explore quietly and be amazed of what was in front of me. But the reality was that I was among tens of thousands of Chinese tourists who also wanted to capture the pictures of their loved ones with this amazingly breathtaking backdrops.
Having said that I did enjoy my time in Stone Forest. It was fascinating to see all the rock formations, formed over millions of years with stone paths leading all around and and up to a higher vista point where you can look at the view. But to get that view up there, you will have to squeeze through a crowd of Chinese tourists but the view up there was totally worth it. I even managed to get myself a selfie up there and truth be told that was the only way to go. There was a chaos up there and I could never ask someone to take a picture for me.
Around noon it was time for lunch and I got to know the people in my group a little bit. They were surprised that I was traveling alone and spoke 0.3% Chinese like how are you. Fine, thank you. May be they felt so sorry for me that they started translating for me when the translator said something in Chinese.
After lunch, we went back to Kunming and we stopped at a shopping place called Colorful Yunnan for 2 hours. I didn’t need two hours and most tourists would only spend maximum 1 hour to shop. There was a small garden to kill your time with funny Chinese signs that got lost in translation. I wanted to take pictures but at the same time I didn’t want to look like a rude tourist who made fun of their country. So I controlled myself from taking pictures of their signs. But I got one. “Please do not under the water.”
After shopping, the tour guide told us to meet at McDonald’s by 4 but I decided to head out by 3:30 and everyone was ready to leave. While waiting for our tour guide, I made several assumptions about Chinese in general. 1) They love to eat. They were so many people waiting in front of McDonalds while eating their snacks. 2) Many Chinese men smoke. I had never experienced a lot of people smoking at public places at the same time. May be with Chinese population so big, it was just unavoidable but I was exposed to secondhand smoke through out the day.
Around 5, we had our dinner. I thought it was so early but we had to go to the train station to go to Dali with night train. It was only 6 by the time we got to the train station and the train wouldn’t leave until 11:50 p.m. It was so crowded inside and I was told there was a tight security after a terrorist attack on 1 March 2014. The incident left 29 civilians and several attackers were shot dead with more than 140 others injured. I was glad to be people on my tour and they helped me to watch my bags while I needed to use restrooms. The train left exactly at 11:50 to my surprise.
To be continued.