KunmingCopyright: TZIDO SUN/Shutterstock.com
KunmingKnown as the City of Spring, Kunming, the provincial capital of Yunnan, is blessed with a mild climate especially favourable to plant cultivation, which becomes instantly evident in the city's vibrant flower markets. The pace of life here is slow: hardly anyone is seen in a hurry. The best thing to do is smell the roses, and wind down gently while exploring this very pleasing city and the breathtaking nature getaways in the environs.
The CityThe Province of Yunnan, which sits right on the Vietnamese border, is not dissimilar from its southern neighbour in its wealth of flora and fauna, as well as its cultural diversity. Kunming, the provincial capital, a great base for exploring the region. The city itself though is unmistakably Chinese. Its main attractions are the vast Dianchi Lake and the famous Horti-Expo Garden.The Jinmabiji Square and the Kundu area have become the centre of the city. For shopping, the Zhengyi Road, Nanping Street, Xiao Ximen and Qingnian Road are the places to go. Since Kunming sits at a height of 1891 metres, some visitors may experience altitude sickness. Sunscreen is also strongly advisable at these altitudes as well as an umbrella against the ever changing weather, plus an overcoat since it gets chilly when it rains.
Do & See
The best way to experience the charm of Kunming is to simply wander around the constantly evolving city centre. Though modernising the city is an ongoing process, most residences in Kunming still retain the traditional style of architecture, quadrangle courtyards with sun-powered water heaters, and comfortable temperatures even without air conditioning, thanks to the landscape and climate. Flowers are abundant – at roadside stores, along green belts, and across tables of local eateries, giving the city a very pleasant vibe. Most sights outside the city centre are just a quick bus ride away, with enough to occupy the visitor for more than a couple of days.
Kunming is famous for Yunnan rice noodles (also known as "crossing-the-bridge noodles"), served separate from a piping-hot broth and a variety of add-ins, all of which are mixed together into the soup where they cook before the diners' very eyes. Wild mushrooms are another local speciality, a delicacy prised by the Chinese (the high season runs June through September).
There is no shortage of cafes in Kunming, but something really worth making time for is a visit to a tea house for a sampling of celebrated Yunnan Pu'er. Most cafés are open from around 09:00 to 02:00.
Bars & Nightlife
Nightlife in Kunming begins just as the clock strikes nine. There aren't too many bars here, so those dotting the areas around Jinmabiji Square, Kundu and Green Lake tend to get rather busy. For a more subdued evening out, places along Wenlin Street and the Cultural Alley are a better bet. Most bars and clubs are open from 20.00 to 02:00.
Yunnan's ethnic minority groups each have honed crafts of their own, and products such as the Dai brocade or bronze pieces make for excellent gifts to bring back home. Pu'er tea, which originates from the province, is another great buy.