Chatting with a local today.
There is a lot of dust being kicked up by the subway/metro construction that is making things worse downtown.
This can only add to the more car thing. One good thing about Kunming is the prevailing inshore wind from the south, blowing clean air into the city. Unless of course you live below the mountains in the north.
If there is 7 of you, I would suggest hiring a 9 seat mini-bus and driver. If you can haggle in Chinese, there are loads of husband and wife driver guides and you can negotiate price. However, the guide will be a Chinese speaker.
If you organise through a travel agent they can do it all for you, especially if you need an English speaking guide. Try several agents, but I think the margins are pretty tight as competition is high outside main holiday seasons. I would not do any research now, as you will get the now price (Spring Festival). I would wait until a week or two after the hols. However, almost anything in China can be organised on the spot, as you probably well know.
However, there is a risk that if you buy a package they will drag you around all the markets to earn some commission from market owners. And so don't get sucked into a package deal. And avoid the cheapest deal, as they will have to make up the money somehow.
Seeing as you are travelling so far, it is unlikely that you will find a guide who knows all the sites. As such the most effective would be to find a guide in each location you go to, if you want in-depth interpretation. Or look at wiki-travel, lonely planet, etc before you go, and print stuff off.
We tend not to use tour guides. If they are from the site, they will often whisk you through quickly to get the next customer. Unless it is a very quiet day and she is a nice girl. My wife then acts as interpreter.
A good guide we will tip. This then makes it easier for the next family who not just focussed on price.
If the guide is not from the site, they will not know much more than you can find in half an hour on the Web.
I am not an expert, but that is how we have handled things when we travel. We hire a bus and driver, and look at a book for travel info. Only at some sites do we hire a guide.
I have to say that I see the problem as much simpler than any political historical thing. I think it is more about the business culture in the particular institution, and aspects of Chinese business culture.
Universities are not businesses. The quality of management in the public sector is often lower. Hierarchical systems do suffer from poor management, group think and resistance to change. Add 'face' to the equation and the office politics get worse. It was also pointed out that nepotism is an issue.
The systems may be poor, but many staff will criticise it. It would not be in their best interest to criticise a system that they have no power to change.
The university I worked at before, in a tier 3 city, was very political. There were things that just would not happen. Anything that would in any way change any admin procedure would never happen. Most Directors had come from the admin stream. Admin held the power. Teaching was secondary. In other universities the power base will be somewhere else. I just learned the system there and worked it as best as I could.
A third element also touched up is expectations. In the west we expect certain levels of service and accountability as a given. Here in China expectations are rising, but they are not yet at US levels.
And again, as said above, TIC.
My two cents.
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Great to know it is no longer dry.
Good review BTW
This has moved.
The cut flowers are about 700m east on Duonan Jie. The plants and trees are about 700 m west and follow Duocai Section.
A reasonable choice of lumber that has improved over time. Fancy hardwoods like walnut, and mahogany are in abundance. There are some plywood and rubber-wood boards available. There are also some kiln dried imported softwoods and merbao available. Some of the lumber is very green, so look for the kiln dried if you need stable timbers.
Echo everything said by others.
Breakfast great and the serve from 8am. Most other places say 9am and they still are not ready.
Sandwiches are cheap 22-32, and really packed full of filling. We got some sandwiches for a day out, the only mistake I made was ordering two, as this was too much. These are seriously good sangars, and they are wrapped in alu foil.
In fairness to Metro, they are a wholesalers, and not really a supermarket. Hence the need for a card, which can be got around.
They have improved in the year I have been away. They now carry a more consistent range of imported foodstuffs and they also seem to have sorted out the mported milk supply.
They have a wider range of electrical appliances now, there is a coice of more than one toast. There is also a better range of seasonal non foods, like clothes, shoes, garden furniture and camping gear.