My favourite photos

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At the end of the day, I still like peace and tranquility that I could not find during this whirlwind tour of Yunnan except for the time when I spotted this small hut under a maple tree that seemed to be existing in another dimension amidst the hordes of people at the Stone Forest.

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Kunming – Stone Forest

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The Stone Forest in Kunming is world-famous. We saw stone formations that were once-upon-a-time under the surface of the sea. It is a good thing that despite the large numbers of visitors, the place is very well-preserved and run in a way that ensures that it does not suffer from littering and inconsiderate behaviour. The area is beautiful and coupled with the blue sky, one can only imagine that this was paradise.

Kunming – Sani minority group

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For a change, I would like to feature people instead. During our visit to the famous Stone Forest, we saw many pretty young girls from the Sani minority group all dressed up in their colourful costumes with beautiful cross-stitched patterns on the sleeves and trousers. They were the tour guides and drivers of the buggies that brought us around the Stone Forest. I also saw men who were also dressed up and some of them could have rented the costumes for photo-taking. The head gear of the girls had two triangular-shaped attachments. A pair signifies that the girl is single, a missing one denotes that she is engaged and married women wear head gears without these attachments. I had a field day photographing these ladies!

Yiliang to Kunming – Jiuxiang Caves

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On our way back to Kunming, we visited the Jiuxiang caves. We went on a short boat ride before entering the caves that were brightly lit. We saw rushing waters, interesting formations inside the caves and climbed a thousand steps to the exit. We took a ride on a chair-lift and wished that we could have seen these wonderful creations of nature at a more leisurely pace.

Shangri-la – Largest Spinning Prayer Wheel

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From the local market we were taken to the Dukezong Ancient Town. Given just an hour to visit the ancient town, we decided to climb a small hill to take a closer look at the giant prayer wheel reputed to be the largest in the world standing at a height of 24 metres (80 ft). The view from the monastery was a refreshing change from what we saw from the bus. The prayer wheel was so huge and heavy that it took all four us to get it to move only after we heaved and pulled at the robe attached to the rail at the bottom of the wheel. We turned the wheel three times and after that took time to get blessings from the monk in the temple next to it and then to admire the view of the town from the top of the hill. When we got down to the carpark, there was very little time left to explore the ancient town. We went into the fringe of the town and found that most shops had closed. It was time for dinner and we were rewarded with a nice steaming hotpot dinner at the hotel so that we could have a good sleep to prepare for the long journey back to Kunming the next morning.

Shangri-la – Local market

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After our descent from Mt Shika, we were taken to a local market to experience a small segment of life in Shangri-la. Such markets are nothing new to us as we have similar ones back home. The difference was of course in the kinds of goods sold and the people in it. It was literally a walk-through the market as the guide said to us on the bus. We did not have time to stop or touch any of the market produce nor did we have time to chat up the local stall holder or to taste the food there. At the entrance to the market, a lady sat behind conical-shaped things that were really cheese. At the end of the march through the market we were herded up our tour bus to go to the Dukezong Ancient Town. It was almost five-thirty by the time we left and I could not imagine what was in store in the Ancient Town at the time except that doors would be closed or closing and people heading home for a warm meal.

Shangri-la – The high and the low

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Our cable car arrived at the station on Mt Shika it was very cold. At the cable car station the staff put firewood into a very old stove so that we could keep our hands warm. Outside there was a light snow and the temperature was freezing. People who were adequately dressed for such weather and had gloves and scarves were able to take a walk in the foggy atmosphere. I was ill-prepared for this trip and had no gloves, so what I saw on Mt Shika was restricted to the space outside the cable-car station. When we got back to the coach below later, the weather was more pleasant with the setting sun casting an evening glow on the spacious landscape.

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