Kunming – The unexplored Yunnan region: how to access and photograph it

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Kunming is the capital of Yunnan district, one of the most remote provinces in China. You can here discover the cultural wealth in the wide variety of traditional clothes, colors and smiles.

In this Chinese trip remember always:

  • the most important question for any photographer : Wǒ kěyǐ ba pāizhào? Can I take a picture of you?
  • the reference map at the end of the post

The city of eternal spring

I lived for 6 months in Kunming and with 8 millions people around me, it’s really an anthill. For China, it is the 16th most populated city. It is regarded by the citizens of Beijing and Shanghai as a resort place and it is nicknamed “the city of eternal spring”.
In winter, from October to early April, thousands of black-headed gulls migrate here from Siberia to stay in the DianChi Lake, on the edge of the city, and the Green Lake. This is an artificial lake built over 300 years ago in the city center. It is a real tourist attraction in the migration months. The local government even allocates annually special funds to encourage people to feed the birds that sleep around the great DianChi lake and they commute to feed in the early morning to the Green Lake

If you are interested in birdlife photography, this is a must go place to visit

Outdoor life

Chinese people love to spend a considerable amount of time in public parks and gardens, doing sports and performing group activities as dancing. This is part of the Chinese culture, and interesting part of the local life to observe.
There is a very sweet and pleasant feeling to watch the sunrise with the birds singing and the traditional music on speakers with the elderly people doing their gym, dancing, playing badminton and many other activities (sometime unusual ones).

The Confucius Park is for the lovers of the Chinese chess and the game of Go. This place is very popular with the male population, drinking tea and smoking cigarettes, surrounded by the excited and sometime loud strategy discussions. Move away from the gaming groups and you will find a quiet area in the middle of the urban traffic where time has no hold. This is the perfect place for a break, admire the local flowers and be part of the unique Chinese atmosphere with plenty of portrait photography opportunities

Urban Landscape

Everyone knows that China is the top concrete consumer in the world. Kunming is a huge construction site. Buildings grow one floor a day and companies build up to 15 towers at the same time! If you like to wander between tools, hoists and the surprised eyes of the local workers, do not hesitate to do it! Do not feel afraid to walk everywhere camera in hand. Such a great place for urban and portrait photography.
Sorry for the street art fans, you will find only displays of the Communist Party here 🙂

If you don’t suffer of acrophobia, you will have plenty of opportunities for landscape photography from the top of the buildings. It’s very easy to spot a tall building, take the elevator to the top (it is better to choose a finished building cause 28 floor by foot it’s tiresome..) and sometimes the roof door is open and you have 360 degrees of amazing view.

Suggestion : bring empty SD card and full battery…;)

Around Kunming – XiChan’s Mountain and the Stone Forest

Go to climb the XiChan’s mountain, overlooking the DianChi’s lake, for a good day out of the city. You can take the cable car to reach the point of view or you can climb through the forest crossing many of the local temples. This path will be your first pilgrimage in the Chinese religion.
From the peak you will have a wonderful view over the huge lake and you can finally realize how big is actually the city.
I would highly suggest also to go to the famous Stone Forest, or Shilin (80 km east of Kunming) – an unusual limestone formation and an amazing site for some landscape photography. Shilin is part of the UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

Travel Photography Tips

  • come to Kunming in winter (from October to April) if you love bird life and bird photography; you will be rewarded with the fantastic show that is the migration of thousands of black-headed gulls from Siberia to here
  • wake up for an early visit to the local parks. Thousand of locals are there for the daily exercise. Not to be missed
  • visit the Confucius Park for the best portrait opportunities of the elderly chess players
  • wonder around the construction sites. Many possibilities to document the local life of many Chinese builders in these years of huge economy expansion
  • walk or take a lift to the top of the buildings for the best landscape photography. Doors are often open 😉
  • climb to the XiChan’s Mountain for the best vantage point of the city and the lake around it
  • plan a visit to the famous Stone Forest, or Shilin (80 km east of Kunming), an amazing site for landscape photography
  • remember the most important question for any photographer : Wǒ kěyǐ ba pāizhào? Can I take a picture of you?
  • check the map for the top sites to visit for your photography and food experience

View all the posts on The unexplored Yunnan region

Map with top sites to visit


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Remi Lesueur
I love the light, travel and the idea that our steps that creates the way. I don't like vacuum cleaners, be catching cold and cooked chicory. I try to make photos like telling a story. A plot of contrasts with the colourful words, moving characters and a smile for the end.

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