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Lost in the Stone Forest of Yunnan in China

Among the number of things that I learned during my China travel was their reference to a lot of things as a forest. Hence, when they see so many pairs of shoes displayed in a store, they would exclaim… Oh! It’s a shoe forest. So, when the tour guide told us participants to the Asia-Pacific High Level Cooperative Leaders Round Table Discussion on Business Cooperation in Kunming City, Yunnan Province, China that we will be visiting the Stone Forest, countless stones popped up in my mind.

Thanks to our petite and well-meaning lady-tour guide, the one and a half-hour travel from Kunming City to the Shilin Yi Ethnic Autonomous County within the Yunnan Province on board a tourist bus chartered by the All China Federation of Supply and Marketing Cooperatives (ACFSMC) was never a boring and exhaustive trip. Among her tales which caught my attention was the admonition to us gentlemen-guests to literally “put our hands inside our pockets” while inside the stone forest, lest we will be tempted to touch any of the two triangles in the headdress of a girl belonging to the Sani Tribe and be branded as a playboy and punished to stay in the Stone Forest for 3 years on hard labor.

And the story-telling session ended when we reached our destination…

Stone Forest

Tourist Bus No. 09208 taking a stop at the Stone Forest Parking lot

The facts I gathered at the Stone Forest Visitor Center that the  Stone Forest of Yunnan is composed of a vast array of karst formation in a three hundred fifty-square kilometer stretch of land crowded with huge and gigantic rocks reaching up to 50 meters or 133 feet tall had added nutrients to my fertile mind. Further, the information I learned that it was inscribed as a UNESCO GeoPark last February 13,2004 and into the World Heritage List last June 27, 2007 had intensified my excitement some more.

The tour started with a 10-minute ride on …

Stone Forest

... the Electric Tourist Shuttle Car

After the usual entry procedures at the gate, we strolled through a paved walkway amidst a well-maintained lawn passing by a karst lake dubbed  “Long Lake” that is three kilometers (two miles) long but only 300 meters (zero point two miles) wide which features underwater stalagmites and stalactites with a small island in the center of the water.

Stone Forest

The comely Long Lake

Of the 5 sub-units comprising the Stone Forest National Park, we decided to visit the Major Stone Forest spanning about 3 square kilometers and situated at the central part of the entire stone forest landscape due to time constraints and considering the fact that its classic stone forest physiognomy of karst formation is deemed superior to the other units consisting of the Minor and Naigu Stone Forests and the Dadieshui and Changhu Scenic Areas as well.

I was holding my breath as I slowly stepped into the walkways with the tour guide’s advice in mind that: “for a stone forest tourist to enjoy, he/she needs to spend 30% of the time sight seeing and 70% imagining.” And, this sight had first caught my attention . . .

Stone Forest

Can you help me imagine what these rock pillars mimic?

It turned out that what I initially saw was only a tip of the iceberg, so to speak. As I wound and zigzagged into the stone-step trails originally constructed in the later part of the Ming Dynasty that ruled China from 1368-1644 A.D., an assemblage of rock peaks and pillars rising high amidst flowers and trees and the underground rivers and deep pools exhibiting its superlative beauty came into my view.

Stone Forest

The spectacular limestone rock pillars with Chinese characters inscribed by former Yunnan Province Governor Long Yun...

I hastened my steps while passing through the “Critical Moment Rock,” a dangerous gate formed by two towering rocks capped with a giant stone…

Stone Forest

The Critical Moment Rock...

A stroll deeper into the stone forest lead me to the foot of a huge reclining rock that prompted me and my new-found Vietnamese buddy, whom I fondly called Duck, to try something foolish. . .

Stone Forest

Me imagining the rock as push cart...

Stone Forest

... Duck mimicking herself as the Atlas.

As we passed by the “Mountain of Knives,” also known as Sea of Fires, the sight of pinnacle karst composed of rock pillars transformed by vertical erosion of rain water for a long time into peaks with pointed tops and sharp edges, shaping like sharp swords piercing into the sky…

Stone Forest

The Pinnacle Karst

After an exhaustive walk, I felt delighted as we reached a cliff cave containing stone tables, desks and railings…

Stone Forest

Duck sitting on the stone chair...

Stone Forest

... and me savoring the deserved rest.

As the hike resumed, the sight of the Peak View Pavilion from a distance had kept my adrenaline rushing up…

Stone Forest

The ant's-eye view of Peak View Pavilion ...

Nothing beats the thrill that I felt after I set foot at the Peak View Pavilion perched on the rock peaks in the central part of the Major Stone Forest…

Stone Forest

A reclined victory sign at the zenith of the Major Stone Forest...

Verily, the panoramic view of spectacular sceneries coming into my eyes had captivated my senses and rejuvenated my soul. While overlooking the entire Major Stone Forest area, and amidst the continous clicking sound of my Nikon D7000 camera, my mind was transported into the ancient Chinese mythological times when a beautiful Sani girl by the name of “ Ashima” got kidnapped by an evil landlord’s son. Her lover named “Ahey” had managed to rescue his beloved but the pair got chased into the Stone Forest where the flood drowned Ashima and she transformed into the famous Ashima Stone, now forming part of the popular attractions in the forest.

But Alas! when I came to my senses, I found out that all my colleagues were gone. I hurriedly descended the stairway and went one trail after another including these . . .

Stone Forest

A pinched trail...

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Another narrow pathway...

Nevertheless, the intricate combination of paths and passages had rendered it difficult for me to find my way to reach the exit. Little did I know that I was lost in the huge arrays of labyrinths created by the giant stalagmite-like pillars.

As time passed by, a scenario started to appear in my mind… What if Ashima, the Sani girl, appears in front of me and offer some help provided I shall touch the triangles in her headdress… shall I accept the goodwill knowing that I can go back to the Philippine only after serving 3 years of hard labor in the Stone Forest for being a playboy?

But, having been told by my crisis management mentor to stay focused even in times of extreme pressure, I paused for a while, mapped out my next moves and decided to search the origin of the sound of drums beaten to the tune of the Annual Tinabangay Festival street dance in Bucas Grande, my island home. Slowly but surely, I slogged through winding trails and my heart kept beating faster as the drum sounds got louder to my ears until I saw this…

Stone Forest

My co-participants and Stone Forest Tour companions gamely participating with the Sani Tribal Dance...

I hurriedly went to my buddy Duck and inquired if the tour guide had sensed that someone was missing as the 2.5- hour tour time frame had already lapsed but she answered in the negative as the tour participants were so occupied in merry-making with the tribal dancers. It was then that a sigh of relief engulfed upon my psyche as I vow not to tell the story to Duck and anybody else until they can discover my blog and read this post.

All tour group members being accounted for, we returned to the Stone Forest gate and went for the most awaited group picture taking…

Stone Forest

The Stone Forest Tour participants coming from various countries in the Asia-Pacific Region attending the High-Level Cooperative Leaders Round Table Discussion on Business Cooperation held in Kunming City, Yunnan Province, China hosted by the All China Federation of Supply and Marketing Cooperatives (ACFSMC).

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8 comments

  1. That’s truly an awesome place you have explored! May you see more of the world :)

    • Thanks very much Coach MJ. An old Chinese saying goes: ‘If you have visited Kunming without seeing the Stone Forest, you have wasted your time.’ At least, I made use of my time during that once-in-a-lifetime visit.

  2. Never been to Kunming :( Those rocks look amazing. I would love to see that “forest” one day!
    Aleah | SolitaryWanderer.com recently posted..The Best of My Travels in 2013My Profile

  3. I’d like to get lost in Stone Forrest too.

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