Playing music for money is something that every self-respecting musician wrestles with, and not just in China. What is my talent, time and effort worth in terms of musical, monetary and social rewards? Each musician has to answer that for him/herself. In China, it's a bit more complicated because "monkey shows" sometimes can feel so demeaning (not to mention the racist overtones), but on the flip side, agreeing to play different types of commercial shows here (weddings, conventions, company parties, music videos, etc.) has enabled me to experience aspects of life in China that I wouldn't otherwise have had the opportunity to see, and I've gained a lot of interesting insights, stories and video clips along the way. I'd also like to think (perhaps naively?) that some of our performances have exposed some Chinese people to types of live music that might have enriched their lives in some small, or possibly large, way. From time to time, I receive feedback along those lines. (O.k., maybe not that birthday party for the rich 12-year-old girl we played with the magicians and guys in animal costumes at that mansion it took us 3 hours to find way out past the new airport! But certainly, the American pop music and camaraderie we contributed to the international music festival in Xishuangbanna, the jazz for the company parties, weddings, and many other functions.) My point is that not all "commercial gigs" around Kunming are "monkey shows," and I'm not sure what good it would do for foreign musicians to boycott everything. It's not going to change the Chinese desire to have westerners at their functions, and would miss opportunities for cultural exchange.
It's been really fun playing all different types of music with all different types of people from all over the world (including many fine Chinese musicians) whose paths happened to lead through Kunming around the same time. (And not necessarily just in smoky bars with drunk people rolling dice, slamming foosball and yelling. )
I like the idea of us having some basic guidelines that we agree to follow, and what's been presented by @rocket and @weekapaughead sound good to me. Of course, it's impossible to enforce, but it's good to have this discussion and some general agreement about how we deal with agents.
I have lived in both Hangzhou (only two months) and Kunming (one year), and, while I've grown to love Kunming, and plan to stay here another year, I must say, compared to Hangzhou and other more developed eastern cities, it feels like quite the backwater (15 years behind Hangzhou?). I guess you could say that's part of its charm.
But if you plan to live here (totally different than just visiting a place), be prepared for some striking contrasts from Hangzhou. Kunming is much more chaotic and less organized. Some of the things that stand out most to me:
Noise pollution — Unnecessary horn-honking, e-bike alarms and loud lugey-hocking are constant.
Air pollution (micro) — While Kunming's general air quality is still better than HZ or most cities in China, it is nearly impossible to walk or bike for more than a minute or two without getting one of the following in your face/lungs: black bus exhaust, cigarette smoke, construction site dust (large portions of the city are under construction).
Hazards — One needs to always be on alert for: blatant traffic violations, oblivious pedestrians, anything-goes on sidewalks (bikes, silent e-bikes, uneven pavement)
Cleanliness — dirty buildings and sidewalks, restaurants, bathrooms.
Unprofessional business culture in Yunnan — very difficult to get things done or depend on people to deliver on what they say they're going to do. Seems that people are less educated here and more set in their (inefficient) ways.
There are many exceptions, of course, and these are just my impressions. Am interested in hearing what others think...
On the positive side, besides what's already been said, because Kunming is smaller, it's easier to get around in and get to know people. There's a vibrant live music scene and student life — feels more laid-back and less touristy than HZ, easy to get out of town for fun day trips like mountain-biking, hiking, etc.
Just wondering what visa preparation a Chinese passport holder needs to do before flying to Hanoi and staying a few days. Also wondering if anyone knows about visa requirements for a Chinese citizen to travel through Malaysia. (she is a U.S. resident and green card holder, but I don't think that matters)
We also will be traveling through Laos, Cambodia, Thailand, and Singapore before returning to Kunming, but our understanding is that those countries issue visas on arrival. Any info anyone can offer is greatly appreciated.
Astrill is working pretty well for me. Good help desk service and faster than when not on Astrill (although if the connection to your building is slow like mine, there's not much you can do about it). Can access FB, youtube & otherwise blocked websites. $5.83/month for year subscription.