Just a 30 minutes train ride from Kunming, Mile (弥勒) is a surprisingly nice town. Find out what to see.
Mile (literally meaning Maitreya) is a small town (about 500.000 people) located in the Honghe Hani and Yi Autonomous Prefecture in Yunnan Province (China), the same prefecture where the famous Yuanyang rice terraces are located.
Despite living only about 90Km from this city, I’ve never been there before. So I recently decided to take a short trip and see what Mile has to offer.
There is very little info about what you can do and see there and most of them are basically (poor) translations from Chinese to English and don’t really have much info. So in this article, I’ll try to give you some useful details if you are planning a trip to the city of the Buddha.
How to get to Mile (弥勒)
The best and fastest way to get to Mile is by train. Here you can book the ticket from the official website of the Chinese railway.
If you take the train from Kunming you have to go to the Kunming South Train Station (Kunming Nan) and in about 30 minutes you’ll be there. It actually takes longer to get to the train station than to get to Mile (another place you can easily get to from this station is Puzhehei. I wrote about it in this article).
The Mile train station is located about 20 minutes from the city. Once arrived you can either take a Didi (the Uber of China) or a bus to get to the city center.
When is the best time to go to Mile
Thanks to its location on the Yunnan-Guizhou plateau the weather is quite pleasant all year round. The elevation is a bit lower than Kunming (about 1500m) so it’s warmer than Kunming but never too hot.
I’d probably avoid the rainy season which usually starts from April and lasts until October, but to be fair even during that season there are plenty if sunny days.
What to see and do in Mile
Here’s a list of the most famous places to visit in the area:
Echo Lake – Shēngtài hú (生态湖)
The Echo Lake was the first nice surprise of Mile. Located right in the center of the city, is a small lake surrounded by a beautiful park and a pedestrian road. There is also a quite big sandy beach but unfortunately swimming in the lake is not allowed. There is a swimming pool though nearby as you can see from the picture.
On the lake, there is a famous fancy resort (Huquan Hotel) that boasts over 500 rooms and has a Spa. The location is quite good.
The park is a nice touch, especially for a Chinese city.
Mile Old Town
Next to the lake, you can find the new “old town”. In China pretty much every major city has an “old town” and most of them are not old at all, just brand new but built using classic Chinese architecture.
There is also an artificial canal all around the area (another common thing in these old towns). Nothing spectacular especially if you have visited Lijiang, Dali, or Shaxi, but worth a visit during the evening.
Dongfengyun is perhaps the most famous place of Mile, especially among Chinese people. When I visited Mile, the area was still under development but most of it has already been completed.
The total area covers a surface of about 3.69 square kilometers and the strange-looking buildings are nothing else than artistic permanent installations.
The mind behind many of the installations is Luo Xu (罗旭) a famous sculptor and artist from Yunnan. If you are interested in learning more about him and his project check out this article.
The building above represents the “red wine culture of Mile, as well as the combination of the fire culture of Yi nationality” one of the local ethnic groups.
Dongfengyun is located in what once was a state-owned farm, focused on grape cultivation. Today Mile is actually becoming more and more popular for the production of wine (which was introduced by the French when they built the Kunming-Vietnam railway)
Being Italian I have to say though that China has still a long way to go before they can even think about competing with French or Italian wine… Still, it was a nice surprise to find out that Yunnan is also producing wine.
To get to Dongfengyun you can take a bus or, probably better if you don’t want to wait too long, a taxi. From the city center, it should cost around 60rmb. To access the park you have to pay a ticket (about 40rmb) and an additional 20rmb if you don’t want to walk to the end of the park (about 2.2Km) but take an electric car instead.
Jinping shan (锦屏山风景区) park
The other landmark of Mile is the Jinping shan park which boasts the “tallest smiling Buddha in the world” (弥勒大佛) with its 19,99 meters (it was built in 1999).
I was feeling particularly lazy when I visited this park so rather than climbing the never-ending stairs I decided to simply fly the drone. You are supposed to pay for a ticket to enter the area.
Flying the drone was a good choice though since it gives a cool view of the artificial rice terraces at the base of the mountain.
To be honest I have no idea why these terraces have been built but my guess is that is a tribute to the Yuanyang rice terraces, located in the same prefecture. Still, quite a cool view.
Keyi Village (可邑旅游小镇)
About 30 minutes to the north of Mile, you can visit Keyi, which means “good luck, happiness and auspicious” in the local language. It’s a small overdeveloped minority village belonging to the Axi people, a branch of the Yi people.
Long story short, Keyi is a tourist trap. You have to pay a ticket to enter the area which has honestly nothing to offer.
There are some cool paintings here and there and people are really nice but you can see the same stuff pretty much in all of the minority villages around Yunnan and for free.
There is also a suspended bridge on the way to the village and a giant statue of a leaping tiger at the top of a mountain but they were clearly built to justify the ticket price.
Besides the things I listed in this article, there are other things to see in Mile but I didn’t have time to. There are for example a huge water park in Mile and the Taiping park (太平森林公园) outside the city. If you have the chance to get there let me know if they are nice.
Is it worth visiting Mile?
To be honest it depends. I certainly wouldn’t include Mile on the itinerary if the time is limited unless you are specifically interested in some of the things Mile has to offer such as Dongfengyun park.
On the other hand, if you have plenty of time, perhaps because you are already living in China and are looking for new places to discover, I’d say that Mile is a nice little gem. It doesn’t have the usual vibe of other Chinese cities, the weather is nice all year round, the place is not overcrowded and you can relax in one of the many Spas in the area.
Here you can find an article about Fuxian Lake nearby Kunming.