Our team shrank to only Michal, Jeremy and me. The rest took earlier or different flights home. We decided to fly back to Singapore in the evening so we still had 1 full day in Kunming. Resolute Michao came up with the idea that we could visit an AAAAA-class (! 🙂 ) tourist site nearby-the Stone Forest! Conveniently, there are buses available from Kunming Airport, taking about 1.5 hours to get there.
Stone Forest: The touristy vs mysterious
The Stone Forest or Shilin is an astonishing set of limestone formations about 500 km2 (!) located in Shilin Yi Autonomous County, Yunnan Province, People’s Republic of China, approximately 90 km from Kunming. The area is huge and although its divided into separate sectors (Greater & Lesser Stone Forests, Naigu Stone Forest etc), the touristy part is quite distinguishable.
Hardly anybody venture further than the few parts near the entrance. Most of the people simply buy additional ticket for a ride on the mini-bus around the circuit road. We chose the cheaper, adventurous option to just wander through the stone forest aimlessly and get lost in it. When we walk 100 meters off the main paths we had the forest to ourselves!
::: It’s hard to capture it on the picture but those rocks are really -really tall! :::
::: Jeremy&Michao in the left corner for a scale :::
The tall rocks seem to arise from the ground in a manner somewhat reminiscent of stalagmites, or with many looking like petrified trees, thereby creating the illusion of a forest made of stone. These formations, caused by the erosion of limestone, are believed to be over 270 million years old (!). Since 2007, two parts of the site, the Naigu Stone Forest and Suogeyi Village, have been UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
::: Michao- the perfect chameleon for this habitat:::
Love Legend- checked
Seems like every Chinese heritage site has its own love-legend. Stone Forest is not different 😀 . According to legend, the forest is the birthplace of Ashima (阿诗玛), a beautiful girl of the Yi people. After falling in love she was forbidden to marry her chosen suitor and instead turned into a stone in the forest that still bears her name. Each year on the 24th day of the sixth lunar month, many Yi people celebrate the Torch Festival (火把节), which features folk dances and wrestling competitions.
::: Jeremy turned into a stone :O :::
::: Good to know! A very informative information board by the bus station:::
After all day of walking around we caught the last bus to Kunming airport, picked up our bags from the luggage storage and checked-in. That was the end of our Tiger Leaping Gorge Trip!