Tim and Lindsey
Dave’s Mini-Maxi Tour
From a morning of frustration to an afternoon of joy on Dave's Mini-Maxi Tour in Kunming. Dancing in the Park, Birds, Kites, dodgy looking balconies and Dave's wonderful guidance and company.
The day started frustratingly. My Microsoft Tablet ran out of battery, and the charger stopped working. The connection has been somewhat intermittent. It often needs fiddling for it to work; not good as I only bought a replacement in July, the first charger lasting a year.
Dave returned from a meeting, and on the way to his Mini-Maxi Tour, he was taking us on, took us to a Computer shop. Dave approached a desk, and between his excellent Chinese and us showing the assistant my Tablet, a new charger was found. After some bargaining, it cost a third of the UK price - Result!
Onto Dave’s Mini- Maxi Tour. Why is it called this? It’s a “mini-tour with maximum impact”.
Our first stop was Yunnan University Donglu Campus, where Dave used to learn Chinese when he arrived in Kunming. Part of the Campus is ancient; a Hall of Supreme Justice was built here in 1499 to hold the Imperial Examinations. When the University was founded, the hall was turned into an auditorium. We read that in 1946, Professor Wen Yiduo made his last speech here before he was assassinated by KMT agents.
We sneaked into the hall and sat down to listen to a mixed choir of students singing a very patriotic song about China and waving the Chinese flag. Very pleasant.
Around the corner, Dave pointed out some wooden buildings, the East Dorms for Examinees. This is where the examinees lived and wrote their papers back in the 1500s onwards. This area consisted of 900 rooms, but this is the only section still standing within Yunnan University.
Next stop, Green Lake Park, a “Jade Gem in Kunming”. The lake covers 37 acres in 52 acres of land, and I read that it used to be part of that vast Dianchi Lake we saw yesterday. That’s incredible as the massive lake is over 5 km away. To describe it correctly, the park consists of four small sub-lakes linked by traditional Chinese bridges. At some time in the past, it was a water reservoir for the city.
Dave treated us to two yummy flatbreads, one stuffed with sesame paste and the other peanut butter. Divine! While munching away and admiring some herons on the lake, an elderly lady sweeping the paths, came up to inform me that the illustrious seagulls had arrived at the South Gate. (More about them later). Dave chatted with her, and it transpired that she used to be a teacher and since retiring, she enjoys sweeping here. How admirable, the lady still working and Dave talking in Chinese.
We reached a large gate with a crowd of mature people holding music and singing their hearts out to a catchy tune. As we squeezed past, we were greeted with a sight of groups of people dancing with a cacophony of music blaring out of many large speakers. My foot started to tap, and I had to join in. I chose a straightforward line dance, similar to what we saw in Lijiang. Finding a gap, I followed the person in front – kick-step-kick, step-kick behind-step. Later I spied Tim and Dave joining the dance.
It is so wonderful to see people enjoying themselves together, smiling and laughing as well as moving their bodies. What a great way of keeping young in mind, body and spirit. Mind you, the park isn’t great as a place for meditative contemplation! It is so noisy.
We carried along, passed temples and then could see the gulls that the lady mentioned to us. Every year from mid-November, the Siberian Sea Gulls arrive to stay for winter until March. These gulls have several names: Black-headed, Red Beaked, Red-Pecked Gulls – take your pick.
Small colourful wooden stalls were selling bread, not for human consumption, but feeding these hungry birds. After a few months here, I think they will be known more as Siberian Podgy-Gut Gulls.
Next on the Mini-Maxi Tour was Wuhua Square, but before we got there, we saw three people sitting on stalls holding metal wheels. One of them had just wheeled in his large kite. If it wasn’t for him, we might have missed the other two flying high, specks in the clear blue sky by the top of the newly built mayor’s office, resembling the shape of a Pagoda.
As we entered Wuhua Square, some men were cleaning a monument. I wonder how toxic that blue liquid is? Several ageing men were sitting around, relaxing, listening to the beautiful melodies of their songbirds, and playing cards. Dave informed us that this has been a daily custom for hundreds of years. At least it gets people out of their homes to enjoy some air and company.
Onto the old Muslim Quarter where wealthy Muslim Merchants once lived in beautiful wooden houses and sold their wares. Dave took us down an alleyway, and we opened a big metal door to what would have been the courtyard of a merchant’s house. After communism took over, the merchants either left or worse, and many families were given rooms to make them their homes. We calculated that there were probably about 100 people at one time living in this house, split into 24 apartments.
It is such a shame that these old historic buildings are not maintained, despite a plaque stating that this was a Preserved Historic Building. Now what is left is balustrades collapsing, eaved roofs with grass growing between the tiles, rubbish left from people escaping the squalor, yet someone is looking after some plants here. The people still living in this old, dilapidated place are endangering their lives here each day. Many of these historical buildings have been pulled down; replaced with new. Undoubtedly it’s cheaper to replace than preserve.
After a delicious bowl of noodles, we wandered down the Bird and Flower Market where there were loads of succulent plants and more worryingly, some plants on a great chuck of stalagmites. Where on earth had that come from?
Our marvellous Mini-Maxi Tour had come to an end; far from mini, it certainly maxed with impact. Thank you, Dave.
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