Yesterday we went to a place called Shilin known as The Stone Forest.
Shilin is roughly 90km from Kunming and although it was a bit of trek getting there it was well worth the effort.
We began by getting a taxi to the East bus station which was a twenty minute ride out of town (35 rmb) Once there we fumbled a bit over where we had to go to buy tickets as there was a security check you had to go through to get to where the buses were and a long row of counters upstairs selling tickets but the queue was about 20 deep across the board.
Thankfully we had the Mandarin characters to hand and so when we got to the counter we just had to point and say two and without any fuss we got our tickets (27 rmb each)
After going through security and a trip to some toilets with no doors we made our way to the right bus… and waited. The buses just wait until they are full before they leave so we unfortunately had to wait about 45mins just sat on the bus before everyone was on. However, the bus was comfortable, the seats reclined, it had a suspension so it wasn’t a bumpy ride and they even had seat belts and a TV that played a ridiculous Chinese farce about a man trying to win the affections of a noble woman and the horrors that befell him in trying to do so. It was entertaining at least.
The bus ride took about one hour 30 mins and the ride there was mostly uneventful as it was quite rural with smaller settlements dotted here and there.
When we arrived at Shilin we were a bit confused as aside from a lack of signs it was also quite empty and we were still some way from the site itself. Outside we followed the road and watched as other tourists boarded shuttle buses (25 RMB each) that look like giant golf buggies. Two minutes walk down the road takes you to where you can buy entrance tickets (175 RMB each) for the day and then you follow the road again for another 20 minute walk until you reach the main entrance which is shown in the photo below.
Once inside we were greeted by a wide open space with a bridge over a lake before you can set off on one of the smaller paths into the stone forest proper.
After wandering down a few paths we entered the major area in which we only met a small handful of people over the course of an hour as we wandered down tiny paths, up and down steep and narrow steps and sometimes into cave like area where the stones above had blocked out the sunlight.
I recorded a portion of our time walking around the forest here:
After we emerged into an area with a lot more people called Peak View Pavilion which is the spot where most of the more famous photographs are taken as the view is pretty amazing.
After you reach the Pavilion you are not far from the exit and also all the tour groups that miss out the quieter areas where we went and just climb the Pavilion and go back down again so we’re glad we walked around the way we did otherwise we might have missed all the bits in-between.
We decided to get the shuttle bus back (25 RMB each) as we were feeling tired and didn’t want to get back to kunming too late as it was already 4pm. We brought our return tickets (27 RMB each) and waited for the bus to arrive. We fell asleep on the journey back but it was again just one hour 30 and we managed to get a taxi home straight away (35 RMB) so we were back home just after 6pm.
Shilin is a must-see attraction if you’re in Kunming or Yunnan as trying to describe it as a forest of stone doesn’t really do it justice and it was a lot of fun scrambling around in the darker areas and getting lost amongst huge pillars that rise up and over you. That said I wouldn’t take kids into these areas maybe just to the lake, mini stone forest and the pavilion as some areas have steep steps, big drops and can be a bit fiddly to navigate. The cost is a bit steep and we went by public bus so if you went as part of a group tour or worse got a lift from one of the mini-vans (we were quoted 400 RMB one way!) then it will be very expensive. There were toilets in the park but not much in the way of food however there is a restaurant at the bus station at Shilin and snacks you can buy. I brought a pizza the day before so we took that in with us with a 2l bottle of water and that did us fine. As we went on a Monday in normal term time the forest wasn’t crowded at all and as mentioned earlier we were able to get around for almost an hour without bumping into more than a small handful of people when we went into the deeper areas.
To sum it up, after having seen Shilin it makes Stonehenge look silly.
Some more photos of our time at the Stone Forest are shown below: