KUNMING: City of Crazy Lights

As my trip began, Austin was working on a follow-up story about the earthquake in Sichuan and Kirk was helping his American teachers get settled at their Chinese schools. His program places teachers in cities across China, from industrial shitholes like Shijiazhuang (Sister City of Des Moines) to the picturesque southern capitol of Kunming. After Kirk and Austin wrapped up their Beijing business (a day after Super Gambei) we grabbed a plane south.

Kunming’s topology of affectless skyscrapers is interrupted by nicely preserved (or faithfully reconstructed) traditional architecture like these gates. Iowans shown for scale.

Garish light shows were a constant in the places we visited. Kunming had some of the more tasteful displays.

Step off Paris, you’ve been outshined by the “City of Crazy Lights.”

Who writes these signs? And for whom?

Sketched over tea at a courtyard café. Kids played netless badminton nearby.

Austin and I checked out a fortress that was the site of battles during the Nationalist period. Inside the walls, we saw a woman walking backwards. Austin explained that this was a common form of exercise. I considered joining her until she tripped over a sign and fell hard.

Power-lines arrayed in big, low-slung bundles for safety.

We discovered less of Kunming’s cultural life than we hoped. This purported art studio enclave had nothing going but a game of volleyball.

Break time at the Kunming School of Reflexology. I want to believe this chart has some basis in empirical science.

Yunnan province is home to the Dai minority culture, related to the Thai. Our Thai meal in Kunming was one of the best of the trip, full of tart citrus, mint and intense spice.

Knotted beans.

At a park by the massive Dian Chi Lake outside of town.

The lack of sun at this park did not stop half a dozen wedding portrait sessions.

Confronted by a lake with no barrier fence, I felt fortunate to see this warning.

Chinese traffic has this invisible logic by which cars, mopeds, bicycles, buses and pedestrians can be precariously enmeshed without colliding.

We poked our heads into a few shops in search of funky gifts (or an insanely cute animal sweater) before catching the night train to Guiyang.

1 comment
  1. AYU said:

    great photos! i wish i could be there

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