In Yunnan, there is an older saying: "Trains don’t run faster than cars and the railway only goes abroad, not to inland destinations." Actually, this is referring to the old Yunnan-Vietnam Railway. Today, the one-meter-gauge train still runs once a day through Kunming. The Yunnan-Vietnam Railway was constructed by France and completed in 1910. It was connecting Yunnan's capital Kunming with Hai Phong City at Vietnam's coast, covering an overall distance of over 850 km. At the same time, it was the first international railway in Yunnan Province.
Nowadays, there are only two remaining lines in Kunming City. One starts from Kunming Northern Railway Station (close to our office) going southeast to a suburb called Wangjiaying (王家营). This line is currently out of service though. The other railway still in operation, connects Kunming North Railway Station with Shizui (石咀), southwest of the city center, which is close to the Western Bus Terminal. This train heading westwards runs once per day, starting at 10:00am in the center and returning shortly after noon. A one-way trip over the complete distance takes about 50 minutes but there are several stops on the way. The fare is 1 RMB per direction which is very cheap. There are conductors selling you the tickets once you're on the train.
The ride starts at the newly renovated Northern Railway Station (火车北站) - also a subway station - passing the Panlongjiang River and the slightly chaotic Xiaocaiyuan Interchange, rattles over the campus of Kunming University of Science and Technology, crosses Jianshe Road, Dianmian Avenue, Xiyuan Road and the West Second Ring Road, all the way to the mentioned Western Bus Terminal (where the train unfortunately not stops), and ends at Shizui where the train makes a short stop before returing to the city center. The train ride is mainly a tourist attraction but is also still used as public transportation. Some people would just take the train to the last stop, get off and have a stroll when there’s a local market. Going through the high buildings, watching the citizens leisurely walking along the railway, getting an overall of west Kunming, you will experience an even more real Kunming.
Paying a short visit to the Kunming Railway Museum is also convenient. Located directly in the building of the Northern Railway Station, it shows a lot about the Yunann-French history of about 100 years ago.