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Forums > Living in Kunming > Dear Foreign Musicians

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.

Forums > Living in Kunming > What is bad about Kunming and Yunnan?

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.

Forums > Travel Yunnan > Vietnam travel visa for Chinese citizen?

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.

Forums > Living in Kunming > VPN services, which one?!

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.


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Thanks so much for highlighting this important series — beautifully filmed and fascinating to watch. I just watched the one on bamboo art. Big concerns that some of China's oldest art forms like these will die out since it's so hard to make a living mastering them, but encouraging that some enterprising millennials have recognized the value of these arts and are working to create a high-end market for preserving them.

John and Cas, I'm bummed to hear you're leaving Kunming before I made it back there, but I'll definitely be stopping by to see you in Chiang Mai. Thank you for your warm embrace and all the fun times and great music you shared!


Wow, reading this brought back great memories of my 2 years in KM. Moondog was always the place to start your Friday nights (after a pizza at Slice of Heaven or a sandwich at Sal's) — the welcoming vibe created by Joost and Fried made it a casual, fun place to hang out (and I don't even drink!). Joost is such a kind and generous soul. It was great making music with you, brother — your humor got me through a lot of brutal monkey shows. (I'll send you some pics.) Sorry that I didn't make it back to KM before you left — I really wish you and your family all the best!


Wow, this is rich! I can see why this video went viral. More than another "Officials Gone Wild" clip, to me it's a fascinating window into how people react to things around here. I enjoy people-watching and guessing what they're thinking. A few details I found most interesting:

0:19 Uniformed guy behind counter clearly does not want to deal — he fidgets, then walks away (whistling?), leaving the female airline employee alone with the lunatic. He later walks back into frame, but stays behind the rope line, passively watching as hell breaks loose in front of him.

0:41 The wife/mother immediately gets on her cell phone. (calling whom? a higher up to come fix their problem?)

1:15 pointing directly at face — the most extreme insult short of striking someone?

1:21 Two other uniformed people arrive, and join their colleague in staring from behind the rope, only moving to step back when shrapnel starts to fly.

1:36 "Uh oh, Dad's goin' off again." Younger son takes cover.

1:56 Camera pans to a wider angle, showing large crowd gathering, spectators moving in for a better view of the action.

2:18 Older son tries to stop Dad, then thinks better of it and slinks away with head down.

2:39 Older son again tries to intervene, placing Dad's bludgeon down, out of harm's way. (btw, Dad bludgeons like a girl, no?). (My heart goes out to these boys, who are clearly embarrassed, but don't know what to do. Can you imagine what their schoolmates are saying after seeing it all on the internet?)

2:43 It's interesting that the man who finally steps in to intervene doesn't appear to be an official. Could he and the woman who joins him actually just be citizens doing what's right: talking some sense/shame into them?

3:30 Dad shows the intervener his ticket, still in disbelief that they won't let him on the plane after he's gone ape s..t (or just trying to save face at this point?)

3:36 Random woman in yellow shirt casually walks through the crime scene, then stands in the front row expressionless, with hands in her pockets. Just wanted to get a closer look?

3:47 Just for good measure, Mom smashes something too — perhaps to avoid awkwardness later at home (or in jail) when her husband asks her why she didn't do anything to help.

This video's ripe for a soundtrack, with actors voicing each character's thoughts, like cartoon bubbles above their heads, don't you think?


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