Let me translate that last one for everyone in case they missed it elsewhere: You can donate 1 or 2 RMB by sending a text message to 1069999301 with a "1" or a "2" in the message body. I just did it and it works - you'll get a followup message in Chinese thanking you for your donation.
I have a suggestion -- give up. It is impossible to find a bank with no international withdrawal charges. On the other hand, of major national banks, there is a range of how much you get charged. Here's what to look for:
ATM withdrawal fees: Your bank will charge you something for international withdrawal. This can range from 1-3% of every withdrawal (you take out 100 RMB, they keep 1-3RMB as a fee). Some banks have fixed rates - maybe US $3-5 per withdrawal - this is really crappy, because then even if you only withdraw 10 bucks, they will still charge you 5 for the service.
Currency conversion fees: Some banks charge 1-2% or give you a really bad $US to RMB conversion rate. This is a sneaky way of them charging you even more on top of the ATM withdrawal fees.
Credit cards often have some of these fees too -- check international use charges on the credit card and also see if they raise the rate for cash advances (good in an emergency) if you do it internationally.
Wells Fargo is undoubtedly the worst. I currently bank with them -- and between 0 interest on checking and the outrageous ATM fees, they get an F-.
I have heard good things about Citibank. Anyone have a banking success story?
that green (coriander/cilantro) chutney.
channa masala, dhal: delicious and vegetarian, which is worth catering to since many travellers and expats are.
don't leave out the breads either (i would kill for chapati
luckily it seems like lamb and chicken are both readily available in kunming.
take advantage of stuff that's available locally -- seasonal mango chutney, fresh mango lassi, do something with tamarind
sweet spiced rice deserts
spiced ice cream (cinnamon, coriander, generic "chai" flavor) -- maybe salvadors would sell it to you?
If you're considering going in for some cheap non-essential procedures while you're here in Kunming... don't. Honestly the nearest quality hospitals you'll find are in Bangkok and Hong Kong. As for Kunming's hospitals, I have heard a long chain of horror stories -- many from people who are fluent in Chinese, and can explain exactly what they need/want.
If you are feeling pretty ill and need some attention, I'd suggest getting in touch with the doctors with Project Grace for advice, or emailing your family doctor back home. If you can tell the hospital/pharmacy exactly what you need, you're better off.
My understanding is that first affiliated is as good as it gets here (note that they are SOS's partner hospital in Kunming). If anyone else has more tips... PLEASE, they'd be very welcome.
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