Despite being only an hour away by car, Yuxi is still a bit off the radar of most Kunming residents. Clean, quiet and markedly different from the Spring City, Yuxi is one of the better options for a daytrip out of Kunming.
Accessible by bus or car from the Nanyao bus station on Beijing Lu, Yuxi is home to a wide variety of great-tasting food. It has several hot springs of various quality - one even with waterslides. And, of course, there are rows of shops and bars that would hold their own in Kunming (excepting the discos, of which there is only one.) Yuxi is a small but wealthy city powered by the economic might of tobacco giant Hongta Group. The international population is surprisingly small (somewhere around 20 or so) and people are still likely to turn their heads and stare at any newcomers, but they are friendly as any. The pace of the city is slow and relaxed, the air is relatively clean, the city-wide ban on car horns keeps it relatively quiet, and, oh yeah, the food...
There is a range of food from Xinping cuisine - which is typically more exotic and features a lot of wild plants, mushrooms, and insects for the curious - to standard Yunnan fare, gourmet fish, hot pot, and Dai cuisine. Among the hot pots, sour chicken soup (suan tang ji, 酸汤鸡) is one of the more notable options, featuring a unique ginger-based spicy-sour flavor. There are several barbecue fish restaurants, and a few places like 39-Degree Bar (san shi jiu du ba) with a more upscale offering of dishes like cold spicy chicken in soy sauce (jiangyou ji, 酱油鸡), which tastes much better than it sounds. Standard Kunming-style food is often fresher and zestier than it is in Kunming. Good (and very affordable) restaurants for Yunnan food include: Jingji Xiaochi, Laojia Cai (the gongbao rou is especially good), Lao Kunming near Xiao Miaojie (小庙街) and 39-Degree Bar.
The neighboring city of Dayinjie is home to many hot springs and is only a 15-minute drive from the Yuxi city center. The nicest of these is Moon Lake, comprised of a series of 12 pools with different herbs, mineral salts, and liquors to soak away a day. There you can also indulge in drinks from the on-site bar and/or eat a free buffet with fresh fruit afterwards. A nearby waterslide park in Huilong Park (Huilong Gongyuan, 灰龙公园) is a nice place to visit in the evening on a weekday, when it's possible to essentially have a small waterpark to yourself complete with hot spring water. The waterslides aren't huge, but they're definitely big enough to enjoy the experience with or without a few beers. The remaining two hot springs are more typical - one for VIPs with sauna and basketball courts and one for the hoi polloi with a big outdoor series of three pools.
Night life is centered around seemingly thousands of small bars and shao kao. Western Bar (Xibu Xiaowu, 西部小屋) has good food and shakes plus fresh sweet and clean mango smoothies as big as your head for 8 kuai. Ni'er Guangchang is home to a man-made lake that is actually clean enough to swim in (!), complete with a man-made beach that has volleyball nets and soccer goals. There are occasional evening events there and a column of mist that acts as a movie screen for random programs. There's also a place nearby to rent bicycles, which is a good idea for trips into the mountains. Around the lake's perimeter, there's a variety of slightly upscale but not exactly pricey bars. The nicest thing about night life is that it is relaxed and essentially open all night excepting the disco that closes at 2 am. It's not a place to get too wild, but there's enough to keep one occupied. In addition, the area around the newly developed Hongta Shan Park (红塔山公园) and the Buddhist temple up the hill from the park are both worth a look.
Western food is sparse, for those of you who must eat some, but there is one successful foreign-owned cafe, Cafe fin de Monde, that has a very nice atmosphere in one of the nicest business districts located around an old Confucian temple and brand new Buddhist one. There are also many alleys nearby offering random items from clothes to cold noodles. The pizza is fairly good and so is the fried food and dried spiced meat snacks. This is also an area where you can listen to some old folks singing and playing away on their traditional instruments or browse the nearby upscale shops.
Accommodation is cheap and the hotels are clean. A room at the largest and nicest hotel Hongta Da Jiudian runs around 300 yuan per night. There are several other hotels in the Xiaomiao Jie area that almost always have rooms available.
All in all, Yuxi isn't the most happening place on the map, but it is a nice one or two day excursion for a change of pace from Kunming and a chance to eat some amazing and fresh Yunnan-style food and while away a day in the hot springs. Yuxi is more than anything a comfortable place to live. If you don't need the instant gratification of modern big-city life, it's easy to see why it ranks as one of the best "small" cities in China.
[Thanks to Yuxi resident Ryan Ziols for this contribution to GoKunming. If you want to write about where you live in Yunnan, please contact us via our contact form.]© Copyright 2005-2017 GoKunming.com all rights reserved. This material may not be republished, rewritten or redistributed without permission.