Does anybody remember any of the bad things about Kunming 12-13 years ago that have changed for the better?
Used to be you couldn't use your foreign credit card to take out cash from an ATM. Visas and MasterCards were utterly useless here. (Unless you felt like standing in line and gesticulating wildly at the clueless clerks in Bank of China's main branch for an hour, and then fill out paperwork for another two and a half hours while on the phone with your credit card company...)
Used to be only one bank branch that would exchange USD for RMB. (And you had to prove where you got the bills from.)
Used to be only be one post office branch that could send packages internationally. (And it cost twice as much as it does now!)
Used to be only a select few hotels that would even ACCEPT foreigners, and they were all in the same area of town. And men couldn't stay in the same room with (unmarried) women, and Chinese couldn't share with foreigners even if they were married.
Used to take 14 hours to get to Lijiang by bus, and the roads were one lane, full of craters, frequently washed out in places, and very dangerous. All the buses were filled with cigarette smoke, live chickens, and had no A/C or shocks. (And not just to Lijiang, but to anywhere around Yunnan.)
Used to be very few internet cafes, and you had to give them your passport and student ID, and they were really slow (and small).
You couldn't find an authentic mixed drink anywhere,
real chocolate and cheese was almost too much to ask, and
the only job you could have was English teacher, English teacher, or... English teacher.
And don't even get me started on the state of Kunming dentistry in 2001!
Kunming has come a long way since then, and it's much easier to live like an adult here now. Foreigners used to be sequestered, but now we can actually be independent and manage our own accommodations, finances, transportation, employment, education, and healthcare without having to be dependent on third-party entities like home-stay families, exchange programs or sponsorships. It's easy to take these improvements for granted if all you focus on is traffic, construction, and pollution.
You have to break a few eggs to make an omelet, and I think that with the completion of the subway lines and the end to this drought we will see some of our beloved former Kunming creep back in.
(But then they'll probably start working on a huge monorail project to Chenggong Qu...:)