Despite its southern latitude, due to its elevation (1891 meters) Kunming has cold weather and snows in the winter. It tends to be very rainy.

Kunming is one of the most diverse cities in China and is home to many minorities, some displaced from lands far away. Most of these have their own language. In fact, while I was there I ate dinner in a Muslim district, whose inhabitants not only wore some characteristically Muslim clothes but spoke an odd, almost Middle Eastern sounding tongue. I wish I remembered the name of their minority, but I know they originated from the borderlands of Western China. However, the principle dialect is Kungming hua, or Kunmingese, which is a dialect of Mandarin. Thus any old foreigner like me who knows Mandarin can get along just fine talking to the locals if they try to speak clearly and slowly, and if they are trying to sell you something, they will. But listen in on two locals gabbing it, and you will often find that you can't make much out at all. The dialect tends to be more clipped and guttural in general. One example I picked up very quickly, "mei you" (meaning "don't have" or "no," as in "mei you pi jio"--no beer.) becomes a quick guttural "mu tuh." (with the t almost a d). In Taiwan or Beijing, such vowels are quite unknown. Yet in other respects, Kunmingese is similar to other southern dialects like Fujianese or Taiwanese Mandarin.

Some attractions there are the Minority Villages and the Botanical Gardens--which represents not only every province of China but also many nations of the world. It is also home to Yunnan University. The government has been busy trying to renovate the city and destroy any remnants of old Kunming with its narrow brick alleys and old-style architecture and shanties, as well as make the city a tourist center.

Other than that, I am not too qualified to describe Kunming. It has many of the advantages and disadvantages of any large city in Communist China. It one of China's few Walmarts (though most of its wares are local). There are lots of music stores with lots of counterfeit CDs of good quality but poor selection and display--all usually for the price of about US$1. Overall, even as an obvious outsider not familiar with the city, I felt like I was treated fairly and only ripped off by a few street vendors, but most of the clothes and food are dirt cheap too.