Tenwest Mandarin School

User profile: Jared

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  • RegisteredJanuary 17, 2007
  • RegionChina
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  • RegisteredJanuary 17, 2007

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Forums > Study > Book Club?

Is anyone interested in putting together a book club?

Since I got to Kunming I've been basically reading everything China-related that I can get my hands on. I thought it might be cool to get together and share insights, etc. My personal bias is toward history-related stuff, but I'm definitely open to mixing it up.

I just bought Turbulence, a novel by Jia Pingwa, and Chan's Great Continent, a history of Western depictions of China by Jonathan Spence.

If you are interested, send me an email ([email protected]). I'll be in town teaching through July and will return late August for language study.


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Saturday @ Halfway House


I saw one of their fliers advertising a free drink if you arrive in costume.

The blues band Fang was great. Yuansheng is kind of out of the way, but well worth the trip. Thanks for these weekend updates.

This would be great if it were eventually enforced. Does anyone know if regulations like this have worked in other cities?



Despite the mixed response from GoKunming readers, I'd strongly recommend Vintage Café. It is easily one of the best new(er) restaurants in town. The food is great, the atmosphere is comfortable, and the prices are a notch lower than its competitors.

Vintage is worth a visit if, for no other reason, it is one of the very few restaurants in Kunming with proper hamburgers on offer. I usually alternate between a cheeseburger and one of their sandwiches (the ginger chicken makes for a great lunch if you're looking for something light). The Western dishes all have zesty flavorings that are surely the work of someone who knows what s/he's doing in the kitchen.

The same might not be said for their Asian offerings. I've heard more than one complaint about their Vietnamese and Chinese food (though I haven't really tried, so I don't know personally).

Coffee-wise, this is one of the best places to get your java fix. The basic choices are all served as Americanos (espresso + hot water) rather than the more common drip coffee. Prices start at ¥12 for a large cup made with Vietnamese beans. It may take a few minutes but the quality is superb. I'm still not too keen on the glass mugs, but all things considered I don't think it makes much difference.

While you're sipping your coffee Vintage can be a great place to study or lounge with friends. The ambiance is a tad quieter and brighter than most of what you find in the Wenlin-area. Jazz tracks buzz just an octave above background chatter. A wide layout and a light color scheme mean you don't need an overhead death-ray to see what you're reading.

As for the servers, they have never seemed inattentive or unfriendly to me. If it seems they're slacking, maybe they are (you might too if you were earning the same wage). Just wave and they'll come right over.


Arguably the most popular and best all around Western restaurant in Kunming, Salvador's has been a fixture of the international community since it opened in 2004. Originating in Dali, the café's funky ambiance is very much in the spirit of its namesake, the eccentric Spanish artist Salvador Dali.

The relaxed environment, suave tunes, and top-notch menu are great for anything from a hearty breakfast and coffee to a Friday night drink with friends. Readers of GoKunming.com recently voted Salavador's "Best Café" and "Best Cocktails" for 2007. There's no doubt Salvador's earned every vote.

Nearly every item on the menu stands out among foreign cuisine in Kunming. The mix of offerings is perhaps a uniquely American blend of Mexican, Italian, and even Middle Eastern fare. My personal lunch/dinner favorite is the Deluxe Quesadilla (available with a choice of chicken, beef, or shiitake mushroom, ¥24), served with a side of salsa that actually tastes like salsa. The spaghetti selections are also excellent, one-upping even the city's Italian restaurants. After meal options are just as appetizing, featuring ice cream sundaes like the "UFO" and the "Star Destroyer." Beware though of the milkshakes. Despite the best efforts of the management, the staff routinely over-blends and under-fills them. The result, unfortunately, is the somewhat typical "milky shake" found at many a Chinese Western establishment.

Though Salvador's last call on the early side at 11:00pm, it is in fact one of the better bars around. The best time to enjoy their strongish cocktails is during the generous happy hour (4:00-8:00pm, daily) when Gin Tonics, Vodka Tonics, and Screwdrivers are all available at ¥10. Beer drinkers might be at first disappointed with the absence of the local Dali Beer, but can find solace in the moderately up market – though superior – Lao Beer.

When it comes to coffee, it is obvious that Salvador's takes its Coffee House moniker seriously. With imported Nuova Simonelli espresso machines and a specially selected blend of Yunnan coffee beans, the entire range of their java selection is phenomenal. Until 2:00pm each day you can enjoy a bottomless cup of regular brew coffee (¥12). While free refills go together great with complimentary WiFi access, the real draw is the espresso drinks (¥10-28). Thorough staff training produces a consistently tasty cup. For those that can't get enough, you can take a bag home (¥38 for a small bag, ¥72 for a large).

While Salvador's certainly deserves its reputation among the international resident community with authentic recreations of Western cuisine, the secret to its success lies in its ability to attract ever-greater numbers of local Kunming fans. If you plan on making a first time visit, it is best to avoid the usual lunch or dinner rush and try mid-morning or mid-afternoon. Salvador's makes an effort to be welcoming to new visitors, with menus available in Chinese, English, Japanese, Korean, and Thai.


In all fairness to Salvador's, the "58 yuan" coffee you're talking about includes both ice cream and liqueur (Kahlua or Bailey's) [see: <a href="http://www.gokunming.com/en/microsites/salvadors/menu.php]." rel="nofollow" target="_blank">www.gokunming.com/en/microsites/salvadors/menu.php].</a>

Though I haven't been to Q's, I had a similarly disappointing experience at UBC Coffee where my Americano topped ¥40.

The cheapest places I've been to for a decent cup of coffee in Kunming are Dona Donuts (¥5, Jianshe Lu) and McDonalds (¥6).

Although it goes without saying that neither beats Salvador's in terms of taste or class.


While it has a certain chic, French Cafe is dragged down by its painfully inattentive staff and uneven food offerings.


It can't be overstated just how genuinely poor the service is at French Cafe.

I stopped by this afternoon hoping to be proven wrong on this point.

I found a table outside (in view of the bar) at 3:08pm.

Sure enough, nearly a half-hour passed (at 3:34) before I saw a menu.

It was another ten minutes before the server took my order.

If you go, be prepared to have to get up and ask if you want something.

And be forewarned: your food may or may not arrive in a timely fashion, and may be totally different from what you expect.

Food & Drinks.

The french fries, naturally enough, are excellent.

Everything else I've tried has been, at best, average.

If you happen to be craving a Quiche Lorraine, they offer a good approximation.

However, for the best experience, avoid ordering a full meal and just go for drinks.

My friends from Montpellier recommend their Pastis.


French Cafe is at its most charming on a Friday or Saturday night with its dim lighting, ambient beats, and a lively but uncrowded international clientèle.

Midweek afternoons are less enjoyable, especially upstairs where it reeks of stale cigarette smoke.

The wall opposite the bar has some interesting posters, particularly the old map of Kunming from a bygone era when the French sought to extend their Southeast Asian empire northward to Yunnan.

Unique Feature.

Its Frenchness.


Library by day, pub by night, Chapter One is great for both weekday studying or Friday night libation. Despite its mediocre food offerings, Chapter One has a solid drink menu and a comfortable, relaxed atmosphere.

Food. Last spring I'd come in several times a week for the inexpensive but tasty Indian curry. Over the summer, however, the Indian menu was spun off to create Indian Kitchen (two shops down on Wenlin Jie). Besides the decent burgers, the remaining food leaves a lot to be desired.

A cheese pizza I ate a couple of weeks back had an almost milky consistency and had the aftertaste of some kind of fruit.

Drinks. Chapter One has a comparatively good selection of alcohol. You can choose between slightly up-market imports like Beer Lao (¥16) and old standbys like Dali or Qingdao (both a reasonable ¥8). The bar has at least two or three options for popular liquors like whiskey or vodka. Non-alcoholic options are pretty standard, though I wouldn't recommend the coffee.

Ambiance & Service. With its comfy lounge-like set-up, Chapter One is one of my favorite places in Kunming. The second floor features cushy-couches and sturdy large wooden tables. I've spent countless hours reading and studying there. The servers are friendlier than average, and while helpful generally leave you alone.

Unique Feature. Unlike some other expat restaurants lined book shelves, Chapter One's book collection is definitely worth browsing.