It was a grey and overcast morning. Kenzo and I had to leave the apartment at 08.00 to catch the train to Jianshui which left at 09.32.
We arrived at the rather futuristic Kunming Railway Station in plenty of time…. and just as well. It wasn’t a case of walk in and hop on the train. Not at all!
There was security everywhere with armoured personnel carriers parked at strategic locations and armed police patrolling the street in front of the station as well as the station forecourt. Airport type security for screening bags had to be negotiated before the station buildings proper were reached. Once through all that, it was straight on to the train (K9832) which consisted of 16 carriages, some sleeping cars, (as I think the train went through to Hanoi in Vietnam). Our carriage had 118 rather uncomfortable cloth covered seats arranged 2×3 across the carriage. Each seat had an embroidered antimacassar. And the train left on time.
So where were we headed on this train? You can see Jianshui on the map…. it’s 220 km (137 mi.) south of Kunming. It wasn’t the most comfortable of train rides but, of course, there was plenty to see out of the windows.
Shortly after leaving Kunming, we travelled through an area of plastic tunnel houses – perhaps the same ones I flew over on my approach to Kunming?
Every space is used to grow something. All very neat and orderly.
As I was pondering on this view, a warning was given by the crew over the PA. What did it mean? Thankfully I had Kenzo to translate for me. We were being told to be careful of our money when using the toilet because the suction created by the open system had a tendency to suck money out of people’s pockets! Not too good for the passengers. But good for some. It seems that local farmers patrol the line picking up this new found wealth!
Another warning… another translation required. This time we were being warned, even discouraged, from brushing our teeth with the water in the toilets! Maybe it really meant that the water was not potable… something got lost in the translation.
The train arrived a little late … another announcement over the PA. But this time I had an English translation on the sign to tell me where I was. Even though we were late, the local buses were still waiting for the train to arrive so we caught one of them into the centre of the town.
Jianshui is known as one of the famous national historic and cultural towns in China. It’s described as an ancient town with history dating back 1,200 years. Today, the town retains much of the traditional style of the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) with over 15 ancient buildings still standing. I was looking forward to our exploration.
Jianshui is a walled city and the bus dropped us off just outside the eastern gate.
This eastern gate, the one facing the sun rise, is called Chaoyang Tower. It’s been compared with the Tiananmen Tower in Beijing. However, this tower predates the Beijing tower by 28 years! It’s quite large: 24.5 m (80 ft) high, 12.3 m (40.5 ft.) long and 26.8 m (88 ft.) wide.
Early in the morning and again at sunset the locals bring their pet song birds to this square in front of the East Gate. Time for a sit and a chat while ‘walking’ the birds.
Some birds are for sale as well.
Once inside, we walked around to the northern side of the Chaoyang Tower. The saddle shaped roof has three levels and is supported by large wooden poles.
The bell that hangs on the NE corner is still rung at sunset each day.
I love finding old door handles. They make me wonder about all of the people who have turned those handles, who have walked through that door. What’s behind that door? And what stories could those door handles tell… if door handles could tell stories! This one almost looks like it could speak… just silenced by the ring. I had a feeling that exploring this town was going to be an exceptional experience.
but more of that anon.
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