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Kunming smells part II: The good, the bad and the ugly

By in Features on

Editor's note: Following the publication of Ginger MacDonald's article Counting down Kunming's Top Ten Smells, long-time GoKunming contributor Roz Weitzman got in touch offering up her own take on all things odoriferous and minging here in the Spring City.

If you haven't noticed the intense fragrances that fill the air we breathe in Kunming because you are one of those people who have been perhaps blessed with a poorly equipped sniffer, there is whole long list of scents to both endure or cherish — namely the good, the bad and the ugly.

The good

• Sidewalk stands cooking all variety of things, from spicy deep fried potatoes to squid tentacles on a stick.
• The pleasant and unmistakably comforting smell of simple steamed rice wafting through apartment hallways at every mealtime.
• Freshly steeped green tea.
• Freshly chopped garlic, chives and spicy chilies just dropped into a red-hot wok.
• Almost anywhere in the city at mealtime and the enticingly yummy scents of cooking wafting from restaurants and homes that stir hungry feelings, even when you've just eaten.
• Clementine and mandarin oranges piled up on farm trucks, for sale on street corners.
• Spice stalls at local wet markets, which bring back memories of freshly baked batches cookies or Thai curries.

The bad

• One can never forget the grey water sprayed on all the plants, bushes and trees across the city, giving us a terrible aroma that even sticks to shoes and splashes on the backs of pant legs.
• The rotting stench emanating from the streetside 'rainwater' sewers. As you pass by, the urge is to hold your breath and walk away as quickly as you can.
• The horrible breath — a combination of too much tea, garlic, ginger, lajiao — exhaled by public transit commuters.
• Badly cooked food taken onto public transportation, with folks ignoring this no-no, even when the NO FOOD sign is clearly posted!

The ugly

• The overwhelming stagnant smell in the shallow waterways around town and the putrid smell emanating from the tributaries flowing down into Dianchi Lake.
• Raw meat for sale on hot summer days in the wet markets anywhere in Kunming.
• The nasty exhaust of old and overused vehicles in desperate need of engine or transmission repair.
• To me — and most normal, sane people — the smell of durian is undeniably foul and pernicious, no matter how wonderful those who appreciate it think it tastes.

There are some exceptionally pleasant aromas in Kunming, ones that will be etched into our memories long after we leave China — and some overwhelmingly rancid odors that make us feel like losing our collective lunches. When too many unpleasant ones come at you, it's time to escape to a forest or unpopulated area where you can open your lungs and catch the lovely fragrances of grass, wild flowers, leaves, and mountain streams. Yunnan sure has an abundance of these as well.

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You get used to it all after awhile, as most of Kunming's 7 million inhabitants surely have.

Picture 3...what is that guy doing...lol !

Please, no part three

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