A visit to the points of interest of Kunming, China before taking the overnight bus to Luang Prabang, Laos

Kunming Places of Interest

Kunming is the capital city of the Yunnan province in southern China.  Things to do in Kunming include;

  • Yuantong Temple
  • Green Lake
  • Stone Forest
  • Dian Lake
  • Trips to Dali, Lijiang (UNESCO World Heritage Site) and Shangri La

Kunming is a large city but the good news is that it’s walkable.  Hotels in Kunming are good value and plentiful, as a result you should find one within your budget.

Kunming China Points of Interest

Kunming, Yunnan, China

Kunming, Yunnan, China

There are lots of good value hotels near the train station in Kunming, I’d recommend staying here especially if you arriving / leaving by train.  You can walk to the main shopping district of Kunming (above), various restaurants and the points of interest such as the Yuantong Temple and Green Lake Park.

Yuantong Temple – Kunming Places of Interest

Yuantong Temple, Kunming

Yuantong Temple, Kunming

Yuantong Temple is a Chinese temple you should make a couple of hours to visit whilst in Kunming.  The temple dates back over 1300 years to the Tang dynasty.  During the Ming and the Qing dynasties the temple expanded to what it is today.  In recent years the temple has been expanded more with funding coming from another Buddhist country, Thailand.  Furthermore, In the lake around the temple, you must keep your eye out for water turtles, there are quite a few swimming about.

Green Lake

Green Lake, Kunming

Green Lake, Kunming

It’s worth walking to Green Lake Park in the center of Kunming.  Although I thought that the lake in Yuantong Temple was greener than the lake in the park, as a result this really deserves the name ‘Green Lake’ more than the actual Green Lake itself!  This park is to Kunming what Central Park is to New York City, for this reason it’s worth a visit.  In addition, there are lots of well kept traditional Chinese buildings as well as bridges in the park making it the perfect location for photography in Kunming.

Kunming to Dali

Dali, Yunnan

Dali, Yunnan

If you have a week or so to spend in the Yunnan province then you must visit the historic Chinese towns of Lijiang, Dali and maybe even Shangri La in the mountains.  Shangri-La is a city in the mountains of Yunnan as well as a famous hotel chain.  I visited ancient Dali and Lijiang, I recommend you stay at least 1 night in each of these cities.

Dali is a 4 hour bus ride from Kunming.  Furthermore, Dali is an ancient Chinese city which is very well maintained and perfect for photographing.  The ancient city of Dali is famous for the Three Pagodas of Chongsheng Temple, Dali Ancient City as well as Foreigner’s Street Central Square.  If you want an authentic Chinese experience then I recommend you spend a day or two in ancient Dali.

Kunming to Lijiang

Water Wheels, Old Town of Lijiang, Yunnan

Water Wheels, Old Town of Lijiang, Yunnan

Lijiang is a 3 hour bus ride from Dali.  In fact, the old town of Lijiang is a UNESCO world heritage site which makes Lijiang more popular than Dali, although I found them to be both as beautiful.  A symbol of the old town of Lijiang are the water wheels (above).  As a result you’ll see crowds of Chinese tourists taking selfies and Instagram photos around these wheels.  Whilst walking around the old city you’ll see lots of buns being sold, these are known as Lijiang Stuffed Buns, I recommend you try one.  They come in two flavors, minced ham or sugary.  If you decide to go to Shangri La in the mountains it’s a further 4 hours away from Lijiang.

Kunming to Luang Prabang Laos Bus

Overnight bus from Kunming to Luang Prabang

Overnight bus from Kunming to Luang Prabang

This site is all about overland travel and this part of the journey overland from Kunming, China into Luang Prabang, Laos is not a famous overland route.  There is talk about making a train line through Laos and Thailand, all the way down to Singapore but if you make the journey overland today you’ll have to take this bus (above).  The journey from Kunming to Luang Prabang takes 24 hours and the good news is that you get a very small single birth on the bus so although it’s a little cramped you can stretch out.  The bus stops regularly for bathroom and food breaks as well as to stretch your legs and get some fresh air.

The good news about entering Laos is that you can buy your visa on arrival at the border.  You’ll need to fill out a form, provide passport photos and pay from $30-$40 (depending on your nationality).  It’s cheaper to pay in US Dollars, so buy some before arriving at the border.

In Laos they speak a language very similar to Thai and I can speak Thai.  I offered the Laos immigration officer $5 to stick the Laos visa on top of old stamps in my passport to save pages in my passport.  He was very angry I asked him this and put the Laos visa on a new page.

Enjoy your trip from Kunming to Luang Prabang Laos!

The bus left Kunming in the evening around 6-30pm and drove through southern China to the border at night. Early morning was when we went through the border, first exiting China then entering Laos. The bus drove all day through Laos before arriving in Luang Prabang a little behind schedule at around 8pm.

Luang Prabang to Udon Thani