this is the start of a photo-heavy series. I went on a trip in the yunnan province of china in july (how is it september now?!) – kunming, dali, lijiang and shangri-la – all picturesque cities indicative of the various stages of development happening in china now: all the way from rural to bustling city.
it was a trip full of colour, full of beautiful sights – but it turned out also to be pretty remiss in the gastronic department (not in variety, but in food I actually wanted to eat).
let’s begin the journey – I have no idea how many series are going to come out – but it’s going to be an adventure!
my family is having a love affair with china right now – it’s just so full of surprises, and there’s this amazing mix of capitalist cosmopolitan city and rural untouchedness to its various cities.
we started in kunming – and that’s where you’re at now. the city is pretty modern, with departmental stores and all manner of stores on its bustling high street – but as with most chinese cities, you still get your street-side peddlers with their choice of wares.
some of it’s pretty exotic, like those sticks of squid perpetually fried in a potent mix of chilli oil and chilli powder (these people like their spice); or traditional, like bamboo sections stuffed with glutinous rice and sold alongside steamed peanuts and maize.
and it’s a mix of alright and not-so-alright – like those deceptively delicious-looking blocks of steamed cakes that had a very-dry weird texture and a faint whiff of something that reminded me of plastic. I have NO idea what they were meant to taste of.
and these rectangles of black stinky tofu – well. we knew what they were supposed to taste like (sort of like sourish fermentedy tasty) – but the chilli they whacked on it rather turned that taste a little strange for us.
the best thing we had were these taiwanese-style beef noodles at the top of a shopping mall. heavy on the hand-made noodles and flavorful stock but skimpy on the meat – not usually a good thing, but boy, those noodles were delicious. elastic and thick in the best way, those noodles were pretty amazing.
the best part of the city – certainly the most memorable – was the cultural show we watched on the second night there. it’s touristy, and the hall is packed out with huge heads blocking the view – but the costumes are beautiful, the dancers are smiling and enthusiastic, and there’s a majesty and colour to these indigenous dances that I can’t find in modern, abstract choreography.
completely unashamed to be a tourist and awed at their magnificence.
just in case:
- the beef noodles: 顶牛面馆一正义店 at 五华区 小银柜巷7号正义坊购物中心内(近正义路)
- the cultural show: Impressions Lijiang, or 昆明(云南映像), shown at 8pm every night
more in this series of series-es:
- kunming city, china (you’re here!)
- kunming outskirts, china
- kunming to dali, china
- lijiang sights, china
- lijiang eats, china
- lijiang to shangri-la, china
- shangri-la, china
- kunming eats, china
p.s. I’ll be adding details to the trip posts as I remember them – so check back if you’re planning your own!