上周，我到中国西南的云南省去了，过了五天。我从我所工作的徽县到成都坐了火车，然后转到了开往昆明的车。来到昆明，我很快就意识到了这个城市的独特气息。昆明一点都没有成都那么时尚，该城市的高楼较少，建筑没有成都的那么壮观，相反，昆明的楼房像有复古的元素。再说，有些楼房涂成亮黄色，其他浅色，虽然这样的楼房诚然不很多，这还使我想起那种英国人当中最流行的旅游地，就是南欧暖和的小镇。怪不得 – 昆明一如既往以其四季如春的气候而闻名。
Last week, I went and spent five days in Yunnan Province in southwest China. I took the train from Huixian, where I work, to Chengdu, and then changed to a train bound for Kunming. When I got a Kunming, I quickly noticed the distinct feel of the city. Kunming is not half as fashionable as Chengdu, the city has relatively few high buildings, and the architecture isn’t so imposing. Instead, Kunming’s buildings seem to have more of a retro look to them. In addition, some are painted bright yellow or other light colours, and, although they aren’t that many, they still bring to mind those warm Southern European towns that are so popular with British tourists. It’s no wonder – the city has always been famed for having ‘four seasons like spring’.
One hundred and twenty kilometres to the southwest of Kunming is the stone forest, an area of breathtakingly beautiful scenery which undoubtedly lives up to its name. Here you are surrounded by huge stone pinnacles – a weird and wonderful work of nature. As soon as you enter the maze-like stone forest you are surrounded by stone, and in some places you can only see the sun through a tiny crack.
Besides the stone forest, the scenery around Kunming also includes a few mountains. Standing on the top of these you can enjoy a view of the whole city and a pretty temple, while the superstitious can bring themselves good luck by touching the Dragon Gate. However, the most noticeable feature of this place is not the scenery, but rather the sharp contrast between front and back. To arrive at the mountain, I took Kunming’s super-modern tube system; on arrival I was pestered by a woman offering to drive me to the mountain. Unlike the tube, this was hardly official transport, so I turned her down and walked behind her up towards the entrance. After a few minutes, this didn’t seem to be getting any nearer, so I was left with little choice but to take up another person’s offer for a ride. The vehicle was a cheap box van, old and worn out; equally scruffy were the villages we passed at the side of the road. On the mountain there were a number of elderly peasants forced to spend their time selling items from a meagre little stand to make ends meet. When we came out the other end of the attraction, we discovered that we had come in from the back end of the mountain; the front looked more like a proper tourist attraction, well designed and with buses and electric buggies delivering tourists to the entrance. This kind of difference can be seen everywhere. Many tourist attractions seem at first glance to be very modern, but this is in many ways a false impression: the towns behind them are only halfway to being developed, and their residents hardly well off.
One of the reasons for this mountain being so beautiful is that below it is a lake. British people tend to take being near the water for granted, but in China visiting the lakeside is a big deal. At this lake there was no beach, but there was a pier. It was full of people enjoying themselves on the lake and watching the birds. As far as I was concerned, however, what many people were doing was hardly pleasant to watch: many people were buying bags of bird feed and straight away giving out a few mouthfuls for the seagulls to eat. As a result, we got surrounded by these irritating birds, and the nearby tour boats were covered in bird mess! This didn’t make for a good view at all, yet regardless of this, people kept throwing out food to attract the birds…