The single greatest thing about Kunming is the weather. It is called the ‘spiring city’ and it was easy for us to see why. In the dead of winter the weather was warm and sunny and gave us a chance to avoid our winter coats for a few days.
The second greatest thing about Kunming is the cafes. Yunnan University is located here and outside the school’s gate is a bunch of hip, small little coffee/tea places that are outrageously overpriced but worth every penny. (I had the best cup of lemon tea I’ve ever had in my life while in one of these little cafes. It was regular black tea, but had some sort of sugary-lemon goo that was so good. They also kept adding hot water for 3 hours as we sat there and the tea never lost its flavor.)
The third greatest thing about Kunming was the park. Of course, the beautiful weather helped, but we spent a lot of time walking around and enjoying the huge, active park.
Now, parks in China are not at all like parks in the US so I thought I would take a few minutes here to describe them. Every town has at least one, (bigger cities of course having many) and they are usually named “The People’s Park.”
The parks are indeed for the people by the people. No matter where you are the park will be filled with old men playing cards, large groups of people singing old communism songs, musicians everywhere you look, people dancing, groups singing, kids running around screaming, friends playing badminton. There is always a lot of activity in the parks in china.
(For some reason in the Kunming park all the trumpet players stood right next to each other, while all the ladies singing and dancing stood near each other and all the groups of people dancing and blasting cheesy techno music stood near each other as well. We couldn’t figure out if there were specific areas for doing things or people just drifted together in a ‘hey, he’s playing trumpet here I think I will too!’ kinda way.)
You are free to jump into any activity you see going on, or free to ignore it all. People come with their families, girlfriends, or by themselves. The park is a real community meeting place where you can yell about some current news topic or sit by yourself quietly and no one even looks twice. (Except by us foreigners who think an old guy smoking a cigarette by himself on a frog bench looks picture worthy!)
One of the first places we go to in any city is the park and we will often spend the better part of the day there. You really get a feel for a place by the activity that is happening in the park. We decided that out of dozen or so parks we’ve been to in China the one in Kunming is our favorite. In fact, I wished we lived a little bit closer just so we could go visit it every now and then!