I’m in Kunming, China in Yunnan Province, about a 2.5 hr flight west of Shanghai. Yunnan Province borders Southeast Asia and is a quick flight from Thailand, Vietnam, etc. I’m happy I’m here because, while Kunming is still a big city (6 million people and growing), it’s small and more remote when compared to Beijing, Shanghai, Guanghzo, and Hong Kong.
The best part about Kunming is its ethnic minorities. About 50% of the city is the majority Chinese race (Han Chinese) and 50% minorities. Most of the minorities have dark skin but some, near Russia, have pale white skin.
My contact Alan, who’s lived in Kunming his whole life and is the husband of a friend of a friend, met me at the Kunming Airport this morning and drove me to my hotel. I dropped off my stuff (I’m glad I upgraded hotels from the piece of shit place I had a reservation at….Dalian taught me to pay more and get English speaking front desk staff) and then headed back out with Alan. I didn’t really know what Alan had in mind for me or how much time he was going to spend with me.
Our first stop was to a local, authentic Yunnan restaurant (Yunnan cuisine is famous). While eating we watched the big stage in front of us while various ethnic minority dancers performed. Amazing stuff. All the dancing is built into the restaurant. "Now THIS is different," I told myself while slurping noodles and meats out of this big bowl of steaming soup which cooks the meat. The dancers from Tibet and all over China were dressed in stunning clothes with bright red and orange colors.
Next we headed to Alan’s office so he could show me his work. He works with Kunming Municipal Government, so given my experience working with dozens and dozens of local governments we could chat about Chinese vs. American styles. He works in import/export, trying to get people in other countries to buy Kunming company products or set up manufacturing in Kunming. This place is growing like mad and there are tons of investment and development opportunities.
Then we drove to a beautiful, lakeside park and wandered through an art gallery. It’s all by this one famous local artist. The second floor is a tribute to America. Yep, a tribute to American troops who helped Kunming fight back against the Japanese during WWII. Pictures of American troops and Air Force planes.
We then took three cable cars up this huge mountain to get a birds eye view of Kunming. Beautiful! We hiked around in this mountain where paths and steps are carved out of rock. Nestled into the rock are various Buddhist and Taoist shrines. Kunming is already at a high altitude and going into the mountains made the air even thinner.
All this brought us to dinner time where we dined at another local Yunan restaurant. Unfortunately I couldn’t enjoy the food because I had to go to the bathroom so badly. I tried to go to the bathroom but found it without toilets. It was the squat method. Having not done my homework, I freaked out and decided to hold it until back at the hotel. Oops. I did manage to hold it, but I was uncomfortable throughout our dinner.
Kunming day 1 proved adventurous thanks to the generous hospitality of Alan. I’m here two more nights and will probably work on my book some, since cookie cutter tourism opps are scarce, but I will try to wander around a bit and try to get my head around western China.