The drive by cab took around half an hour first through the city and then through the countryside up into the mountains. The scenery changed rapidly from high rise blocks to tall, elegant pines. In the middle of them stood a famous Bamboo Temple, one of the iconic sites of Kunming. Once we realised that we were a long way from the city centre we decided to ask the cab driver to wait for us. The small issue was that we didn’t speak Chinese and driver didn’t speak any English. After a lots of “yes, no”, head nodding and finger pointing still unsure if he understood us, we decided to try our luck and visit the temple. If he wasn’t there after an hour we would get a bus or start walking…
The first thing you notice even before you enter the Temple is its serenity. The temple is located in the Ya’an Mountain and surroundd by thick, fresh forest. The birdsong and light breeze of the clean air are the only things you notice.
Once inside the temple you can enjoy a beautifully designed courtyard spread over four layers and decorated with flowers in full bloom. There were a few couples playing mah jong, quietly, immersed in their own thoughts and blending into the peaceful surroundings. We had heard about the very good vegetarian food here but as we didn’t have a guide with us or speak any Chinese we couldn’t get any information…Scared to distort the natural harmony of the Temple, we didn’t talk to each other and instead walked around, enjoying the architecture and taking photos. At the back of the temple, we saw a door which we thought could lead into the kitchen and feeling like intruders we decided not to go through. Then luckily three girls walked towards us with freshly cooked meals in boxes and with chopsticks. We went where they had come from and found a monk, dressed in a kitchen apron holding a huge wok and preparing vegetables. Rice was already ready. Again using our fingers, head and rudely pointing to the dishes we managed to get a meal, a vegetarian freshly cooked meal, for RMB5 which is around 50p. The size of the portion was small compared to an ordinary Chinese meal but bear in mind that most Chinese meals are left unfinished! With the portion which we had at the Bamboo Temple we felt full. It was just the right amount of food and it was tasty! A touch of spice was added – it was like peppercorn…Sitting in a beautiful courtyard, with delicious food in serene surroundings was like a dream experience and as in evey dream, it didn’t last long. We had to go back and check if our driver had understood us and to our delight he was there waiting for us. We gave him a good tip after the journey.
The Bamboo temple in Kunming was built in 1270 after Zen Buddhism was introduced to Yunnan. Since then the temple was destroyed and rebuilt several times. The Bamboo Temple is well known for 500 statues of arhats or holy men who look very realistic in their own individual poses and expressions. Also the temple is known for two 500 year-old cypress trees in the front of the courtyard and for old cynics like me there are bamboos on the premises but behind the temple. If you wish to see a video of the Bamboo Temple In Kunming please click here.
If you wish to book a day trip to the Bamboo Temple in Kunming with your own English-speaking guide, car and driver please email Tara@ReadyClickAndGo.com