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From Chengdu to Kunming

The first leg - Chengdu to Junlian at the Sichuan border


It was already the end of October when I decided to cycle from Chengdu to Kunming. Since it was late in the season there was no way I wanted to do the route to Kangding, Litang and then south to Zhongdian. Besides, I had done that road some years earlier. Instead I decided to try my luck on a road I had little information about.

Leshan Giang Buddha

There are plenty of roads from Chengdu to Kunming and I decided to go first to Leshan and see the Giant Buddha. My experiences with getting out of big cities is no too good. I find it easier to get into them then to get out.

The reason is quite simple: when getting in, there are sign boards, things like how to reach the railway station etc. When you get out, you're lucky to find signs of the next big city or even smaller town.

Usually I try to pick up a local map which give me directions (Xinhua bookstores sell them for Y6) and they're always an excellent investment.

During my travels I always try to use locals maps. My city map of Chengdu showed me a road out of the city center. I followed the signs to Leshan but I ended up on a dead end street. The signs directed me to a road which was still in process of building. Instead of going back the same way I tried my luck on a small road going west. After all, I couldn't be further then about 8 to 10 kilometer from the main road going south.

Mah Jong in China

It was very quiet here. When passing some little villages people came out of their houses to see the foreigner passing by. It must be one of those strange and unfamiliar sights in the area for them. After all, there's no reason why somebody would visit this area.

Streets of Kunming before the city was renovated
Streets of Kunming before the city was renovated

It took me about 25 kilometer to get back on the main road. Now it was too late to continue straight to Leshan. In China almost everywhere a hotel can be found and it wasn't different in Pengshan. I do admit, I don't remember much what the town looked like. I was not really far on my way from Chengdu to Kunming but had already had my first little adventure.

Chengdu to Kunming, Chinese tourist shop in KunmingLeshan, on the main tourist trail from Chengdu to Kunming was still 99 km away. So I did that the next day.

This part of Sichuan is still flat. Leshan can be used an excellent base to visit Emeishan, the legendary and sacred mountain. Since I was too late in the season, I decided to skip the mountain this time.

If Leshan has the biggest Buddha in China, Rong Xian claims to have the second biggest. It's a pleasant town with some nice parks and indeed a big Buddha statue.

The same can be said about Zigong. Zigong is a very big and busy city. It was not a pleasant entrance in town too as the roads were dirty and traffic heavy but in the city center I found a descent hotel.

There are only a few interesting things to visit in Zigong. One is called the Chinese Dracula castle. In fact it is a very nice teahouse. Zigong is also famous for it's dinosaur fossils. Outside the city there is a dinosaur museum, which is very popular with the locals.

Zigong Salt museum

In the town there's an old temple, now in use as a salt museum. Zigong was a major salt area for Sichuan. It's a nice open museum, however, few of the describing texts are in English.

Chengdu to Kunming, Zigong salt museum ticket
Zigong Salt Museum, in the middle of the town, near the "Dracula" teahouse

The next place on my journey from Chengdu to Kunming was Yibin. It was a nice bicycle ride through the hills but Yibin itself was not particular interesting. Even the hotels were not very willing to accept a foreigner. Later I understood why: the staff couldn't read my passport. Fortunately I had a business card with my name in Chinese and that opened quite a few doors.

Kunming old town centerAfter Yibin, I followed the Nangquang Ho. It went stream upwards but in the end I hardly had done much climbing. Yibin and Junlian, were I was now both can be the base of exploring the nearby Sea of Bamboos, a forest of Bamboo trees.

The easiest way to reach it is to cycle from Yibin south east following the direction Xuyong. From Xuyong you can work your way further to Bijie. Guiyang and Liupanshui (Anshun waterfall) are both within reach.

I didn't visit the bamboo forest for the simple reason that it was pouring rain!

I went from Yibin to Junlian and followed the road to Zhaotong. My bicycle journey from Chengdu to Kunming had brought me now at the border between Sichuan and Yunnan.

The continuing road was even less traveled than before and it started with a hellish ride  ... here is the continuing story about the road to Kunming

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