I first travelled to China in September 2002, entering the country at the Lào Cai – Hekou border crossing with Vietnam. Very heavy rain in the previous week had washed out the railway tracks so it meant a 20 hour, 400 km road journey to Kunming, the capital of Yunnan Province where it continued to rain. We stopped for lunch a couple of hours from Hekou where the restaurant owner’s two children played a game of “hat and ball” – stand 1o metres from the hat on the chair and with one bounce get the solid rubber ball into the hat. The girl was highly proficient much to her younger brother’s annoyance. This was the first photograph I took in China. Since then there have been 25,000 more.
In the background – the New Era Hotel, at the time one of the most modern buildings in Kunming. By contrast the city still had, and to some extent still has some of the old one and two storey buildings.
It rained all day so I trudged the streets on my own before finding the temple, located nowhere near the sketch map supplied by the hotel reception.
I’m sure there must be temple aficionados who can spot the differences of style and design, but after you’ve seen a few with the same colour scheme, they do tend to get a little wearing.
At an altitude of 1900 metres and a latitude of 25 degrees north, the place is known as Spring City for it’s pleasantly agreeable year long climate. It has snowed just twice in the past 11 years.
Only two days in Kunming, the second one in fine weather, before catching the night train west to Dali. But I’ve returned to the city many times since and you could easily spend a week or more there, without wondering what to do or where to go next. Well I could and have.