Kunming is the capital of Yunnan Province, China, called the City of Eternal Spring. It’s the starting point for any exploring experience you might plan in this wonderful province. Most travelers overlook it, treating it as a simple transit location; however, there are quite a few places worth exploring. There are temples, mountains, parks, lakes, good food…what else could one want from a city? Below, you can find a few ideas for places to visit and things to do while in Kunming.
1. Dance with the locals in Cui Hu Park
Cui Hu Park (or Green Lake Park, as it it’s known in English) is a great place to experience Chinese culture. On sunny days, Cuihu is full of people of all ages; it’s the meeting point for everyone who is off work. There are also many retired people who choose Cuihu as a place to undertake their outdoor activities. You will see many groups dancing different types of traditional ethnic minority dances, you will see choirs practicing their singing outside, and you will also see people playing cards, mahjong (Chinese dominos), or Chinese chess. What makes Cuihu even more attractive is its location; it is very easy to get to since it’s in the middle of the city, and it’s always full of life. Feel free to join one of the dancing groups; they are always happy when tourists join them, even if just for a short time.
Cui Hu Park
Address: No.67 Cuihu South Road, Wuhua District, Kunming, China
2. Walk along Dianchi Lake promenade
Unlike Cui Hu, Dianchi is a bit outside the city, but it is a great place to relax and have an evening walk or even a run. During the day, Dianchi is the place to enjoy the stillness of the lake and the view over Xishan (West Mountain). In the evening, the general atmosphere changes, the promenade becomes full of life and there are even a few street bands playing live music. Some of the performers are really good and entertaining. If you prefer to enjoy the evening breeze, there are a few open air bars along the promenade that you can choose from. You can get there by cab or you can search for bus 73 or 233, as they both pass close to the city center.
Address: Xishan District, Kunming 650228, China
3. Climb up Xishan
Located in the western part of the city, Xishan overlooks Kunming. There are many hiking paths on Xishan, and locals say that it’s easy to get lost, so one should be careful. There are, however, a few main roads that can always be used as a reference point while hiking Xishan. There are a few scenic view points that give a good view of Kunming. Some locals like to go up the mountain in the evening to enjoy the night lights or early in the morning to watch the sunrise and do some morning exercises before work. There are many access points for Xishan, but among the most popular is close to Dianchi lake. It’s an enjoyable one-day hike, allowing you to immerse yourself in nature so close to the province’s capital city. It’s also a good place to bike, but expect a few steep hills in order to get to the top.
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4. Have tea with the monks at Bamboo Temple
Bamboo Temple (Qiongzhu Temple) is one of the Buddhist temples in Kunming. Located in the west side of the city, the easiest way to reach it is from Dianmian Dadao (Dianmian Avenue). It is on top of a hill, but if you don’t feel like walking, you can take a bus all the way up. However, the best way is to either bike or hike up. After you visit the temple, you can just enjoy the calm environment of the place. There is a sitting room where you might be able to enjoy some tea with the monks if you’re lucky and they’re around.
Address: 12 km (7 miles) northwest of town, Kunming, China
5. Yunnan University Campus
The best university in Yunnan — Yunnan Daxue — also has a wonderful campus right in the heart of Kunming. The tall trees and the green malls, makes it feel more like a park than a campus. There are many stone tables where you can sit, read, have a picnic, or plan the rest of your trip. The campus always has a cool mix of students, locals, and travelers. It’s a very good place to hang out, and you’ll find great food nearby.
Yunnan University Campus
Address: Ling Yun Dao, Wuhua Qu, Kunming Shi, Yunnan Sheng, China, 650223
Website: Yunnan University
6. Eat mixian (traditional rice noodles) at one of the small noodle shops
Chinese people really like food tourism. You might think that Chinese food is the same everywhere you go in China, but that’s really not the case. Every city is famous for a certain dish, and all Chinese people know that. They can tell you exactly what you should eat based on the place you’re going to visit. Kunming is famous for its rice noodles, which locals eat every single day. There are many types that you can choose from. If you want to try the traditional version of rice noodles, you can choose from a bunch of ingredients that you can have in the soup such as beef, chives, tofu, and more.
The most famous type of rice noodle soup in Kunming is guoqiao mixian — cross bridge rice noodles. When served this dish, you will be given numerous ingredients in separate bowls and a bowl with very hot water and then you mix everything together yourself.
However, my personal favourite is douhua mixian, which is rice noodles without the soup, but with some sort of tofu pudding, chopped peanuts, and sauce.
Explore Kunming to find out why so many people love this city
By Chinese standards, Kunming is considered a small city, yet for European standards it is very large, providing ample opportunities to explore and discover, both inside the city and around it. Even if the main focus of your trip might be the mountains in Shangri-La, the old town in Lijiang, or the Mosuo ethnic minority around Lugu Lake, don’t make the mistake of treating Kunming as a simple starting point. Take a few days to explore and walk around the city. You will then know why there are so many people (including expats) choosing to transform Kunming into their home. It really is a wonderful place.
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