China’s Stone Forest
Every time I say this someone flames me, but I find some of China’s more mainstream attractions underwhelming.
I wouldn’t go so far as to say I think the Great Wall would be more aptly named the Pretty Good Wall, mostly because I would like to think the problem is mine for having only seen a small (and very touristy) portion of it.
But you know you’re in a tourist trap when they’re peddling this:
However, one spot in China that captivated me was the Stone Forest in Yunnan Province.
Part of the South China Karst UNESCO World Heritage Site, the “forest” is actually of stone – tall, imposing pillars of limestone that form a vast, surreal landscape.
Features of the 90,000-plus acre site include a lake, caves, and of course the stones.
Many stones are so intricate they’re named after the animate figures they resemble.
If you didn’t come with a guide, one can be hired on the spot – although I thought the process appeared a bit odd.
Available guides, dressed in the traditional attire of the Sani (the ethnic group of the surrounding area), wait in a “Tour Guide Service” area to be hired. I had arrived with a guide so I didn’t participate in the “selection” process, but from appearances it just seemed not the most tastefully handled. Almost “meat market-y,” for lack of a better description. On the other hand, perhaps it beats the chaos of an alternative system.
Either way, I would say hiring a guide is a good idea (but not essential). The rocks start to blend together after a while and it’s difficult to know what you’re seeing without guidance.
And if you’re interested in the legend behind the forest, read up on the story of Ashima, the young girl after whom one of the stones is named.