The famous Shilin Stone Forest in Kunming, a must visit UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Image: The Bruneian

If Spring is your favourite season and thinking of the closest place to enjoy the pleasant weather, then perhaps Kunming is a perfect choice for your next holiday destination.

Kunming which is also known as the ‘City of Eternal Spring’ is a Chinese city located in the Yunnan province – a place where not many are aware of as it is not as famous as its bigger sisters Beijing and Shanghai.

Despite being a third-tier city in China, Kunming is beautiful and diverse on its own.

It gets its name due to its mild and pleasant climate all year round, keeping you comfortably chilled day and night.

Recently, it has been one of the go-to destinations among tourists and especially Muslim travelers.

Being a diverse and multi-cultural city, the Yunnan capital is open and welcoming towards its visitors.

Muslim travelers need not to worry about finding food as there are ample amount of Halal restaurants can be found in the city.

In Yunnan province, there are about 100,000 Muslims living there and they are known to cook good food especially with mostly chicken and beef ingredients.

In terms of distance from Brunei, it is just four hours away by flight via Lucky Air with Freme Travel as its local general sales agent.

Not only it is quite near, the air fare with the Chinese budget airline is relatively cheap from as low as $300 per person.

For first time Muslim travelers, either going in a group or individually, one may need to arrange and seek advice for preferred itinerary with Freme Travel for easier and safe journey.

MOSQUES AND HALAL EATS
In Kunming, you would probably be surprised and mesmerised with the Muslims on how close knitted the community is, making one feels belonged and at home.

A must-visit place when you are there is the Shuncheng Street Mosque – one of the famous mosques in the city.

The beautiful Shuncheng Street Mosque. Image: The Bruneian

Not just the mosque is unique and extravagant with Chinese architecture, what makes its special is the people and the surrounding establishments.

Just outside the mosque, you can see some carefree pensioners enjoying their time chatting with one another at the square while warmly greeting visitors who entered the area.

One will be captivated with the sight of the beautiful structure but one may not realise it is a mosque at first glance not until you see the crescent at the top of the roof.

Shops situated along the Shuncheng street selling items like prayer hats, headscarves and utensils. Image: The Bruneian

Moreover, the Shuncheng Street is an ideal place to hunt for halal food and snacks as most of the eateries are concentrated there where you can easily find some beef broth noodle, steamed buns and kebabs, among others.

Another must visit mosque in Kunming is the Yongning Mosque which has modern features and designs that are easily recognisable by the minaret, dome and Arabic writing on the exterior labels, unlike Shuncheng Mosque.

Just like Shuncheng Mosque, this mosque also has halal eateries at its compound which can be accessible to anyone.

One of the must try delicacies there is the ‘Crossing Bridge Rice Noodles’- a well-known dish in Yunnan cuisine served with condiments like fish and chicken that are poured into a large bowl of hot soup along with rice noodles.

The exterior of the Yitianyuan Sinbad Flagship Restaurant which designs resembles a mosque. Image: The Bruneian

Furthermore, if you want to have a proper restaurant sit down dining, you may want to consider a visit to Yitianyuan Sinbad Flagship Restaurant.

It has a beautiful exterior design which you may mistakenly see as a mosque. The restaurant has Muslim-style architecture with Arabian-style decorations based on the stories of Sinbad’s voyages.

NATURAL BEAUTY
A vacation to Kunming is not complete if one does not visit Shilin Stone Forest, a UNESCO World Heritage Site where you can see many stone formations that were formed millions of years ago.

Just like its name, the once submerged site is a forested area of hard stones forming arches, caves and many kinds of sculptures as a result of soft stone erosion.

Tourists walking towards the entrance of Western Hills and Dragon Gate. Image: The Bruneian
Some of the karst formation at Stone Forest. 
Image: The Bruneian

One of Shilin’s famous attraction is the Ashima Stone which according to their local legend, it was formed when a beautiful girl named Ashima ran into the forest and turned into a stone after being forced to marry a man she did not love.

The breath-taking view of the ancient forest makes you think that such natural creation is out of this world – being it was once an ocean.

At the Stone Forest, not only you get to tour around the area but you also have the chance to rent traditional costumes of the Yi tribe for photo opportunities – a cultural experience that one must try.

Tourists seen donning the Yi tribe’s costumes that are on rental at the Stone Forest. Image: The Bruneian

Furthermore, if going up a hill and taking a ride down a cable chair are something that you fancy, an ideal place would be the Western Hill and Dragon Gate.

Uphill, you will be taken by a shuttle bus which ride takes about 15 to 20 minutes along a steep and winding road – you can opt to walk but will take about two hours.

The journey going up is not as scary as you imagine because it is definitely worth the ride when you reach the top – a garden that boasts amazing blooms and refreshing greeneries, ideal for some peace and tranquility.

After passing the park, a visit to the Dragon Gate is a must where you need to take a 15-minute cable chair ride to go a little bit higher.

The cable chairs at the Western Hills used to transport visitors to the Dragon Gate. 
Image: Courtesy of Freme Travel

The Dragon Gate is a large stone structure which stone paths, stone rooms and Buddhist figures are all carved with excellent craftsmanship on a large natural rock, standing on the edge of the cliff.

Kunming’s captivating natural scenery and access to halal food are great features that make the Chinese city an ideal destination for Bruneian holidaymakers.

Wondering where else to go in Kunming? Be sure to catch the second part of the article in next issue.

This article was first published on July 27, 2019 in our Weekly E-Paper issue 47

KUNMING, CHINA
The Bruneian

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