There are lots of lovely things to do in Kunming though the construction of the underground makes it a little difficult to get around at the moment. Walking is usually the best option! So if you have found yourself in Kunming and wondering what to do here are just a few of our ideas..
Breakfast at the Green Lake:
The lake opens it’s gates at 6am. You will see a little crowd of old-folk impatiently waiting to get in for a bit of a stretch, tai-chi or some throat-clearing! It’s the best time to see Kunming’s main attraction.
Almost silent, you can wander around the park without bumping into crowds or having your photo taken and can watch it get light as the birds sing and the dark lake water ripples. Take a picnic with you and a flask of tea and enjoy the sound of the swishing brooms as the leaves are cleared and a handful of people quietly sway in concentration.
Golden Temple (金殿, Jindian):
There’s lots to see in the Golden Temple and you can make a whole day of it.
The temple dates back to 1602 and was originally built from bronze. The grounds of the temple park are beautiful and there are lots of gardens and courtyards to explore. Check out the greenhouses with a selection of some of Yunnan’s wonderful flora. Our favourite is the cactus greenhouse!
It’s especially nice to head to the temple late morning, have a wander around, grab a bite to eat and then relax on the grass while sipping some wine as the sun goes down!
It costs 30 kuai to get in and you can get to it with the number 10 bus (that you can catch from Xiao Xi Men or Nanping Jie). It’s the last stop so you won’t miss it!
Bamboo Temple (筇竹寺, Qiongzhu Si) :
A smaller but quieter temple to visit is the Bamboo Temple. Located outside the city, you can get bus 2 or 26 from the centre of Kunming, Xiao Xi Men and head to Huangtupo (黄土坡). It costs just 1 kuai to get there. Once you reach Huangtupo you need to jump on one of the little C buses. C62 or C63 that heads to the Bamboo Temple, which will cost you 5 kuai.
The temple is currently being enlarged and looks like it will turn into a mega-temple so visit while it still has it’s charm. The grounds are a lovely place to read a book or study some Chinese and there is a nice vegetarian restaurant too. The figures housed within the temple grounds are a little alarming but have a long history to them, definitely one of our top places to visit in Kunming!
To make the day a little longer you can choose to walk back part of the way. Once you exit the temple, turn left and cross-over the road. Continue walking along the road for about 5 minutes. You will pass a closed off bridge on the right and another 2 minutes after that you will see a track leading down. Follow this path and breathe in the smell of the eucalyptus trees! You will come across a tiny but very quirky temple, after this keep following the road till it hits the main road the bus took you up on. You can hop back on the C62/C63 that will take you back into the city.
The Back Streets:
Don’t avoid the back streets of Kunming. Get off the main roads and explore. Some of our favourite areas are to the east of the Green Lake, bordered by Yuantong Lu and Qing Nian Lu. You can find all sorts of alleyways leading to markets, little short-cuts leading to the houses of old heroes and pagodas tucked away within the gardens of people’s homes. I will be posting little alley guides soon, so check back for more info!
There are lots of good markets in Kunming. The obvious one is the Bird and Flower Market which is featured in all guidebooks. It’s a fun place to visit although the new “pet” section that took off recently is a sad sight. There are lots of interesting plants for sale and old knick-knacks. Sunday mornings is a good time to go, with all the men hanging out by the old fountain showing off with their birds. It’s busy but then markets always are.
There are plenty of food markets in Kunming and our favourite is located very close to one of Kunming’s nicest hostels, Cloudland. You can find the market just off of Daguan Lu. It’s about 10 minutes walk from Xiao Xi Men. Head west along Renmin Xi Lu, turn south down Xi Chang Lu and then turn west on to Daguan Lu. You need go over the river and it sprawls out ahead of you. Plenty of fresh fruit and veg and lots of things you’ve never seen before. It’s a good place to find South East Asian ingredients too! Just watch out as you head to the end of the market, the far corner is not the place to go for vegetarians!! It’s open from about 6am (we’ve never been earlier so it could open at 5!) and ends about 6pm. If you head there towards closing time lots of the veg are going cheap, just 1 kuai for a bag!