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Monday, May 05, 2008

Volcano Country

Tengchong in Yunnan Province

To escape the "same-same but different" feeling we were getting in Kunming we decided to go to Tengchong for a long weekend. Tengchong is known for all the volcanoes and geothermal activity. On Thursday morning we boarded the bus for an eleven hour drive to the west of Yunnan province. Thanks to a tip from a friend we knew where to stay (the International Youth Hostel of Tengchong). A brand-new place with great dorms (25rmb/person) and conveniently located at the outskirts of town. You don't really want to be in the town because it has nothing to offer...

On Friday we decided not to do a lot, but just explore the town (at that time we did not know yet that the town has little to offer...). Walking around, eating some noodles, drinking beer, reading a book, getting a massage, the stuff you do when on vacation :-) For the next day we prepared to take a cycling trip to the volcano area about 26km from the hostel. WE rented a couple of really decent mountainbikes and took off at 9.30. The road was hilly and including a breakfast stop it took us nearly 2.5 hours to get there. Paid the entrance fee (a ridiculous 40rmb each) and were allowed to go see the "Big Empty Hill" & "Black Empty Hill". And I am sorry to say it once again, but what a disappointment... It is one of those Chinese attractions: lots of flowery words that evoke great expectations but once you actually get there... See for yourself what kind of "amazing" view you have once you climbed the 596 steps to the top of "Big Empty Hill": indeed a big empty hill... (the pic on the right is the top of the volcano!!!)

But since we have visited quite a few Chinese sites we weren't having high expectations and just had a laugh about the way things are in this country :-)
Another 12km from the actual volcanoes there was something called "columnar joints" which supposedly is unique for this area. And this actually was pretty cool-looking. Due to the heat of the magma the rocks got shaped as columns and stuck together. It almost looked fake! (you can see these column things in the background of the right picture)

Luckily we did not have to cycle the same way back but could take a trip via the "Beihai Wetlands". Which is another famous attraction for this region and is also very Chinesy... a lot of blabla, but nothing very special (so we decided not to pay another 40rmb but to skip it). On the way back we stopped at the busstation and bought our sleeper tickets back to Kunming for the next evening. At around 21.00 and 80km later we got back to the hostel and were glad we made it!!!
On Sunday we walked around town, sneaked into the Waterfall Park, admired the local azaleas, got another massage and left to the busstation.
This morning we arrived in Kunming, where it is pouring at the moment, and can start the normal life again.

Bis schnell,
Der Rudi und die Shoshannah

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