a mountain range with clouds

Introduction: I’m Kunming To Yunnan

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Trip Report: I'm Kunming To Yunnan:

While it’s gratifying that 2017 is finally ending, my backlog of work extends that of this travel blog. It’s mid-December, and I aim to write my flight reports no more than two months after I take the flight. I flew to Yunnan for hiking in mid-October, so I’ll try to review my flights in China Southern economy first, and I’ll provide details about the actual hiking experience to anyone particularly interested (the hike had spectacular views, so I’ll touch on that after I write about my flights).

To develop ourselves along the IB’s Creativity, Action, Service programme, a rather large selection of experiences are opened up to us by our school every year to further ourselves (I find this approach to travel self-aggrandising, though who am I, out of all people, to complain about selfishness during travel?). Two years ago I had the opportunity to teach in Myanmar, and last year I had the opportunity to spend some time in Fujian learning about local culture.

This year I elected to participate in a three-day hike in Yunnan, China.

a mountain range with clouds
View Out Of Naxi Family Guesthouse, Shangri-La

Booking The Flights

The school wanted to get us to Lijiang under the cheapest, most efficient one-stop routing on a reputed airline. This wasn’t my first time traveling to Yunnan under the planning of the school – I’ve reported my last quest to the province, where I flew China Eastern’s 737 to Lijiang through Kunming – though China Eastern had cut their direct flight from Hong Kong to Lijiang through Kunming in the meantime. The school still sought to book us on direct flights to Lijiang, so they decided to bus us to Shenzhen Airport and fly us into Lijiang on China Southern.

Not only was China Southern probably going to be better than China Eastern (purely based on what I’d heard), but Shenzhen Airport is stunning and I’ve always wanted to see the terminal in person, so I had no complaints.

China Southern Airbus A320 Lijiang Airport

The news was that the school wanted to make sure that all transfer processes ran smoothly, and the 9 AM nonstop flight into Lijiang was a little too early for that. So the school booked us into a 1 PM flight through Kunming, which wasn’t great for the rest of the group, but I was quietly happy – I’d get to experience China’s rather disorganized transit process, but wouldn’t have to relive the nightmare a second time.

The price on our boarding passes suggested a price of CNY 4400 (~HK$5,187), though that seems rather insane for such a short hop that didn’t even end up being nonstop – a quick search suggested a more reasonable price of CNY 2600 (~HK$3,065), though at the end of the day the flights were just one part of an all-inclusive rate of HK$15,800 that the school charged for our six-night stay.

a row of blue and white seats
China Southern Airbus A320 Economy Class

The full itinerary was as follows (in economy class):

21/10 China Southern 3451 Shenzhen to Kunming dep 13:45 arr 16:15
21/10 China Southern 3451 Kunming to Lijiang dep 17:20 arr 18:25
28/10 China Southern 8548 Lijiang to Shenzhen dep 12:25 arr 14:45

a map of the country

Booking The Lodging

As part of our hike we stayed at various homestays (if you’ve hiked in Lijiang before, you might know Tina’s Youth Hostel or Tea Horse Guesthouse, both of which we spent a night at – some of our friends also stayed at Halfway Guesthouse on Tiger Leaping Gorge, which we passed by and apparently is popular among hikers). Unfortunately I don’t know how to go about reviewing them so will only touch on them briefly in my last installment.

a room with wooden beds and brick walls
Tea Horse Guesthouse, Yunnan

Bottom Line

I still need to reflect on what I took away from this experience – I got a ton of good photos from the amazing weather we had (especially by the latter half of our stay) and tasted some amazing food, as well as meeting some great friends. If anything, I was fascinated by how much passion locals put into what they do and how much they care – I had the worst bubble tea I’ve ever had at a Gong Cha inside Shuhe Old Town, though I still felt honored that the tea was made just because I ordered it (in other words, nothing feels like a large assembly line). I particularly remember an interaction with a guy frying homemade tofu on a flat top, who had so much knowledge about local food and such a clear vision on what he wanted us to taste from his food. (The tofu itself, unlike the bubble tea, was great.)

However, being an airline writer I have a lot to talk about regarding our journey on China Southern and our experience at two key Chinese airports (as well as a rather large third airport, Lijiang Airport). That’s going to be the main purpose of this report, which I hope to finish quickly within the next few days. Stay tuned.

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