Kunming

Kunming (昆明; Kūnmíng) is the capital of Yunnan Province in China. Known in China as the City of Eternal Spring, Kunming is at an almost-tropical latitude but with a 2000 m (6600 ft) altitude, which gives it a very temperate climate. However, in winter it has been known to snow, so if visiting in December–February, pack warm. Also, when it rains - it's cold.

Kunming at dawn

The air is also quite clean compared to other Chinese cities, even though the traffic-congested streets still emit more than their fair share of pollution. The population of the prefecture of Kunming is now close to 10 million and the city is expanding rapidly, with numerous highways and modern buildings. Largely because of the fine climate, flower-growing is a major industry; tourist attractions include flower exhibits and auctions and a huge botanical garden.

In addition to its own charms, Kunming serves as a base from which to explore Yunnan province. Some routes to or from Kunming are described in Hong Kong to Kunming overland. The most popular route within Yunnan runs north and west from Kunming, and is described in Yunnan tourist trail. Kunming is also the jumping off point for trips to the tropical paradise area Xishuangbanna down in southern Yunnan near the Laotian border.

Understand

Kunming is one of the most important transport hubs of Southwest China. It is well connected to the rest of China by road, rail and air and also has good air links to Southeast Asia and a few outside the region.

Some historic routes no longer exist. The old French-built railway to Vietnam is no longer in service, but there are buses, and a new bullet train link all the way to Singapore via Vientiane is under discussion. The Burma Road, which terminated in Kunming, no longer exists but there are newer and better roads over much of that route and rail over some of it.

Get in

Kunming is well connected to anywhere in China or Southeast Asia and reasonably easy to reach from outside that region.

By plane

Airport Centre Station, Kunming Metro

Kunming Changshui International Airport (KMG) has flights from South-East Asian cities such as Bangkok, Chiang Mai, Kuala Lumpur and Singapore, as well as plenty of domestic connections throughout China. There are also a few flights outside the region, such as Amsterdam, Kolkata and Delhi.

The new Changshui Airport is located about 25 km north-east of the city area, and the old Wujiaba airport is no longer in use. Immigration can sometimes be congested. A taxi ride to the city centre will take approximately 30–40 minutes, at peak times you can expect to double this, as Kunming suffers major traffic congestion.

There is also a Metro line (Line 6) now in service, running between the airport and the East Bus Station. East Bus Station provides a large number of bus services into the city centre within a short ride. There are two intermediate stops between the two stations, but these are not yet open as of August 2012. Currently the hours of operation for line 6 are from 07:00-19:00 daily. Trains are 5-10 minutes apart at peak times, and up to 30 minutes at other times. A single ride takes about 20 minutes, and costs ¥5.

Another transport option are Shuttle Buses (named Airport Express. There are six lines with different operation times (app. 8 am to 12 pm for most popular lines), single ride costs ¥25.

You can book air tickets from the Air China Office, Wallton Building, 448 Baoshan Jie,(0871)3159171, from any number of travel agents in the King World Hotel a few blocks north of the train station on Beijing Lu, or from other agents around town. Tickets to Beijing are usually about ¥1600 to 2000, to Hong Kong about ¥1200 to 1500, with closer destinations getting ever cheaper as China's domestic carriers jostle for market share.

By train

The South train station has recently been refurbished and has a ticket office on its lower level. The station serves destinations throughout China including Hekou, Nanning, Guilin, Chengdu (Sichuan), Guangzhou, Beijing, Shanghai, and Xi'an. The train service to destinations inside of Yunnan is poor except for an overnight sleeper train to Xiaguan (Dali New Town) and Lijiang.

There are discussions underway about extending the Hekou line to Hanoi and possibly all the way to Singapore via Vientiane and Bangkok, but no final agreement on these proposals has yet been announced.

By bus

Kunming has moved its bus stations to the edge of the city in a bid to decrease traffic congestion. There are four bus stations for each of the cardinal directions (N,S,E,W). The general rule of thumb is you should go to the bus station in the direction you want to travel (e.g. if you are headed to Dali or Lijiang you will need to use the West Bus Station (Xibu Keyun Zhan); or if you are headed to Jinghong or Jianshui or Vientiane (Laos) you will need the South Bus Station).

The bus stations next to the train station are NO LONGER long-distance bus stations.

The long distance buses are excellent - cheap, reliable, comfortable, however, overnight sleepers can be cold, bumpy and dirty, check out the bus before you buy the tickets. Non-smokers should be aware that people smoke in the bus in China, which is a big problem if the weather is cold and all bus windows are closed.

There are international departures to Laos and Vietnam, though these services are not always running. The bus to Laos goes all the way from Kunming to Vientiane, and cost approximately 550,000 kip or US$80 and last 38 hours if you go all the way. You can get off at stops in between like Luang Prabang or Udomxai (Oudomxai), and the cost of the ticket is comparative. From Vientiene to Luang Prabang, there are also VIP night buses with reclining seats as well as several daily local buses. There is a better chance of getting the slightly more expensive sleeper if you book the day ahead. The buses will make rest stops at local restaurants with standard Lao squat toilets. From Vientiane to Luang Prabang is about 12 hours, from Luang Prabang to Udomsai is about 5 hours, and climbs up a mountain road with severe potholes and many scenic villages clinging to the side of the road. From Udomxai to Kunming, is claimed to be about 19 hours but leaves at 12:30 pm and arrives about 9:30 the next morning. The road on the China side of the border is several lanes wide with many tunnels and smooth pavement. There are many freelance money changers on the China side of the border; there is no bank or currency exchange at Kunming's South Bus Station.

The journey to Vietnam is less arduous. Buses to Hekou, the border city on the Chinese side, leave regularly. There were night buses which allow you to leave Kunming at eight p.m. and arrive at Hekou in time to cross the border as soon as it opens, but the bus only needs 7 hours now so times might have changed. The bus station in Hekou is about 3 km from the border crossing, and public buses go there. From there, you can take one of the many buses to Sapa, bus or train to Hanoi, or elsewhere. To reach the Eastern bus station from the railway station, you can take bus 60 (¥2, ~30min).

NOTE: Beware of con men who may help you to board the bus and then ask for a "luggage fee" or "Chinese gasoline fee". There is no such fee, the ticket price is all inclusive. They may present fake bus company ID cards or threaten to call the police if you express suspicion. Stay firm and refuse to pay and they will eventually leave.

Get around

Main train station and the usual heavy traffic

Kunming has generally good roads but they are often badly overloaded with traffic, and not only at peak times. By Western standards, the driving is often appalling; see Driving in China. For any journey by ground transport, a generous allowance for traffic delays is good planning.

Kunming metro map

See

One of a number of traditional buildings in this modern city
Zhenqing Culture Square
Clay sculptures in the Qiongzhu Temple

Built in 1634. According to historical records, before the temple was erected, there had been a thatched shack where Shi Shiqiao, a scholar of the Ming Dynasty, buried himself in books. Shi Tai, grandson of Shi Shiqiao, donated the estate for the shack whereon the temple was built.

In the backyard there was an epiphyllum tree, which is called tanhua in Chinese, hence the name. The temple went through many renovations during the Qing Dynasty. It is well known for its flowers and plants. It has been a scenic spot for more than three hundred years, and an epitome of Kunming, the Flower City of the Southern Frontier. The epiphyllum tree was planted in the side court of the depository of Buddhist Scriptures. There is a stone tablet on which four characters are carved The Epiphyllum Brings Luck. After the erection of the temple, the original epiphyllum withered and died. The epiphyllum now standing taller than the eaves of the temple sprang from the root of the original one at the beginning of the Qing Dynasty, and is about three hundred years old. It bursts into flowers in mid-summer. The big loquat tree in the backyard is said to have been planted in the early Ming Dynasty.

In the South Garden there are flowers and rockeries with winding paths among the flowers and the zigzagging corridor surround the Lotus Pond, where you can watch fish. The East Garden is shaded by tall cedars and cypresses and include seven smaller gardens and a Children's Playground.

In recent years, the old temple has resumed its original grandeur. It has become one of the most famous scenic spots in Kunming.

Main hall of Yuantong Temple

With a history of more than 1,200 years, Yuantong Temple is the grandest and most important Buddhist temple in Yunnan Province. King Yimouxun of the Nanzhao Kingdom built the temple in late eighth century. The restorations from the Qing Dynasty onward has not changed the unique mixed architectural style of the Yuan and Ming Dynasties.

Unlike all other Buddhist temples, you enter Yuantong Temple from above and descend along a gently sloping garden path. A memorial archway with four Chinese characters is standing halfway. The temple complex is built around Yuantong Hall, which is surrounded by a very large pond. A delicate stone bridge which has an elegant octagonal pavilion stands in the center and connects the hall and the temple entrance. The pavilion is connected to the rest of the complex by various bridges and walkways.

Sakymuni, Amitabha and the Medicine Buddha, all Yuan Dynasty statues, are found in the main hall. The surrounding 500 Buddhist Arhats which are carved in the walls are noted for their perfect proportions and lively appearances. Also in this temple hall are two ten metre high pillars from the Ming Dynasty, each engraved with a dragon trying to extend their bodies and claws into the air. Outside, on each side of the main hall, there are stone staircases carved out of the mountainside and wind their way to the top of the hill. There are ancient inscriptions along the way and various stone artworks considered the most important historical relics in Kunming. From the top of the stairs, you are presented with a terrific panoramic view of the entire complex. In 1982, Thai Buddhists sent a 3.5 metre copper statue of Sakymuni, which is now placed in the Copper Buddha Hall combining Chinese and Tai styles.

Surrounding the temple pond are a series of halls where you will find old women praying, people sitting and chatting, ongoing classes in Buddhist scriptures, a magnificent calligraphy studio, an exhibit of temple photographs, a temple shop, a restaurant and more.

Yuantong Temple is a real working temple. Buddhists from many different countries come here on pilgrimages to pay homage. There are special Buddhist services twice each month, and the Buddhist Association of Yunnan Province is also located here, making it a centre of Buddhism in Yunnan.

Museums

Streets and areas

Parks

Kunming Botanical Gardens
Scenic view on southwest edge of Kunming
The stone forest near Kunming

Do

Zhigong Hall, Yunnan University

Theaters

Other

Buy

Golden Horse memorial Archway on Jinbi Road

Eat

Local specialties include:

Many restaurants in Kunming offer localized food delivery. One particularly convenient restaurant delivery service in Kunming is called Lazy Bones Home Delivery. They deliver food for restaurants like Daddy’s Diner all over Kunming. Unfortunately they charge a small fee. You can find them on the web or call ☎532 2515

Budget

Mid-range

Chinese

The Vegetarian Restaurant is located a few doors to the left of the Kunming Zoo main entrance on Yuan Tong Lu, serves somewhat pricey imitation meat dishes from a 1,500 year-old tradition. Dishes range from ¥3.5 to ¥98. The crispy "duck" is especially good.

Western

In the Kunming Flower and Bird Market, there is a great pizzeria set in a Qing dynasty courtyard house. The prices are more expensive than eating local dishes, but the atmosphere and quality of the food are outstanding. To find it, head to the flower and bird market and as you walk round, keep your eyes peeled for their sign above the stalls.

Along Wenlin Jie there are many Western cafes and restaurants. This street is commonly known as Western Street and the taxi drivers know it well! These cafes include:

Splurge

Drink

The main club area is in the Wuhua district, specifically Kundu Bar Street. Clubs are open until 5:30am to 6:00am. There are probably more than 10 clubs to suit every style and taste.

Kundu Bar Street

Wen Lin Street (Wen Lin Jie)

This long street is full of 20-30 small lounges/bars that locals and university students visit.

Other areas

Several western-style retro-bars can be found on Tuo East Road east of Bailong Road, and catering mostly to a local clientèle afford an opportunity to mingle with locals.

Other bars include:

Sleep

Near railway station

There are a number of so-so budget options around the railway station and along Beijing Road north of the station.

Budget

Mid range

Splurge

Cope

Visas

Consulates

Stay safe

Kunming is located in an earthquake zone and the last earthquake happened in 2009.

There were some bomb incidents in 2008 including one in bus No. 54 and one inside Salvador's Coffee House, and 1 March 2014 was marked by an attack at the Kunming railway station. Obviously, such incidents are not a constant occurrence, but neither are they unheard of.

There are lots of pickpockets in buses, so try to keep your bags, pockets, and mobile phone safe.

If you are looking for prostitutes, this is not the place to do so. You might end up being scammed and losing all your money. As in other Chinese cities, the authorities have cracked down on the sex trade, and the anti-prostitution campaign has been ramped up since 2012.

There have also been reports of bag slashing in the commercial city center.

Travelers to Kunming in 2010 reported barber shops, massage centers, and other small shops involved in various cons. One such involves an older woman entering the shop and demanding a larger amount than was quoted. The woman together with the workers apply pressure and it can be especially intimidating to be surrounded by a shop filled with angry Chinese while your head is covered in soap (and it is dripping into your eyes), all your clothes and passport are locked in a closet (and they have the key), or together they are blocking the exit. If you give in to the much larger demanded amount, the service will continue. Disagreement can result in variations of the shop workers pushing you out with your hair half cut/full of soap, barefoot, or simply not allowing you to leave while one (or many) of the workers surround you attempting to pick your pocket. To date, so many incidents have been reported to the PSB in Kunming that they are considering setting up the first ever Tourist Police unit in Yunnan Province.

Dianchi Lake (滇池) is highly polluted. Do not swim in the lake or eat fish caught in it.

Go next

This article is issued from Wikivoyage - version of the Tuesday, March 15, 2016. The text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share Alike but additional terms may apply for the media files.