Kunming is one of China’s most western major cities and is the most cost effective connecting point to/from South and South East Asia. With it’s high elevation, it offers a cool climate but also reduced oxygen levels. None the less I wanted to explore the city.
I noticed a bus route where I could get off at Kunming City Museum, then slowly make my way back to the hostel. The museum was quite large, featuring a large ancient pillar at it’s center, with numerous halls and exhibitions all around, including one about the flying tigers, the first American volunteers to fight in China during WWII.
As I began my trek back, I stopped by the White Pagoda, part of a larger temple located in the middle of the city, creating an interesting contrast of ancient and modern.
Then I crossed the bridge around Dongfend Square, and made my way to Jin Ma Fang, a large square featuring ancient gates leading to large shopping centers including a New World mall. A little past the mall complexes was a park where old men gathered to showcase their birds and play chess.
As I approached Daguan Shopping Center, I noticed that I had ample time so I weaved through the Food Market, a street selling various items including fruits, then to the Commercial Center which sold lots of pets like dogs and birds, but felt pretty desolate (likely due to the larger nearby modern malls).
Next I headed to a large cluster of universities just north of Green Lake Park, this time getting a clearer view of the pond’s pavilions along the way. I crossed some railroad tracks and was generally surprised by the decaying state of the university, but as I ventured further in, I met a few foreigners who were studying mandarin. They pointed out the city’s affordability and the nice university experience. The conversations ran a bit long and I resorted to asking a motorcycle to take me back to the hostel so I could catch the airport bus.
When suddenly increasing elevation above sea level, make sure to give yourself enough time to acclimate or else you’ll feel shortness of breadth, especially going up hills and slopes. You can somewhat mitigate this by staying in shape through your trip, but don’t expect to be able to do as much as normal on the first day.