Discovering Kunming’s Heartland: Jinma Biji

Discovering Kunming’s Heartland: Jinma Biji
By Matt Poulter ,

A view of Jinmabiji Square. Photo:

Kunming is often viewed by travelers as a convenient staging post for the more advertised wonders of Yunnan, such as Dali or Lijiang. The ‘Spring City’ offers so much more, however, and Jinma Biji Fang, in the heart of the metropolis, provides an array of sights and activities that tantalize, and tempt the first time newcomer into booking an unplanned second night.

The area takes its name from the two gateways, Jinma and Biji, golden horse and jade rooster (or emerald chicken if you prefer), which stand imposingly in the centre of the square. We’ve never been given a satisfactory answer as to why they are the horse and rooster arches, as opposed to other animals. Unfortunately, at least aesthetically speaking, the four hundred year old mosque that used to sit tucked away down a backstreet near the square, made way for a much larger Las Vegas-esque version. The green dome does add colour however, to the grey array of tall shopping malls that line the pedestrianised zone opposite Jinma Biji. Amongst these you can find a hidden Carrefour, a Pizza Hut, a ridiculously expensive Haagen-Dazs ice cream parlour, and of course, the ubiquitous McDonald’s and KFC outlets.

The outdoor patio of The Hump Hostel. Photo:

Much more interesting though, is the area directly behind the two arches. Collected somewhat scruffily together, a small complex of clubs, bars, restaurants and shops stands squatly amongst the surrounding panorama of Kunming skyscrapers.

In the left corner away from the road, The Hump, a backpacker friendly guesthouse, provides a fantastic place from which to see Jinma Biji. You can enjoy a spacious restaurant and a rare outdoor patio area with second floor views over the square – and great pictures to be had of Chinese nightlife! While the western food is quite average and doesn’t compare to that on offer in the western cafes in other areas of Kunming, the location is perfect for whiling away a soft, summer Kunming night. If you’d like to stay at The Hump, private rooms average around 90 RMB and dorms are available for around 40 RMB. Be warned however, The Hump is not the quietest place for a night’s sleep. Pounding Chinese club music filters through from the surrounding entertainment area, particularly on Friday and Saturday nights.

If the disco beats tempt you out, pop into The Hump Bar, on the first floor of the hostel. Currently run by a lively Irish/Chinese duo, the bar often sees live Western acts playing on Friday or Saturday nights. Chinese beers are available for 12 RMB, while a selection of imported foreign beers retail for around 20 RMB. 

Just round the corner from The Hump Bar, is Pandora’s. This gay-friendly club packs in the crowds almost every night of the week. On Friday or Saturday nights, be prepared for dancing Donald Ducks, Mickey Mouses, Michael Jackson impresarios, and last time we were there, a Chinese MC Hammer. There is usually an array of promotional costumed alcohol sellers floating around, including the usual Budweiser/Heineken/Tsingtao cowgirls – this is the Chinese wild south-west after all! If you’re very lucky you might be accosted by Captain Morgan and his ‘Morganettes’, who will ply you with free whisky. As a foreigner, expect to attract lots of attention and drink toasts from every other table. Watch the step on the way out.

As dark takes truly over, and if you can’t sleep, the clubbing zone of Kundu is a short fifteen minute walk away. From Jinbi Square, walk west down Jinbi Lu towards Xichang Lu, turn right up Guofang Lu and you’ll find yourself there. Kundu is full of numerous Chinese-style discos that change name and ownership frequently. With the usual tiny dance floors, expensive drinks and music that makes your ears scream, Kundu is not for everyone. However, the area is full of activity into the early morning hours and makes a good place to satisfy the late night munchies. 1895 Movie Bar can be found nearby and is a quieter alternative to the larger clubs. The bar hosts regular live music nights, which are advertised locally.  

If you’re after a really relaxed scene, carry on down Jinbi Lu, past Kundu on to Xiba Lu where you will find TCG Nordica. Nordica is a Scandinavian/Chinese café and gallery and the perfect getaway from the hustle and bustle of the centre of the city. Soak in the quiet and enjoy a freshly prepared coffee while perusing one of the art exhibitions that are frequently held. Check out the Nordica website ( for information on upcoming events. If Scandinavian minimalist design isn’t for you and clubbing Chinese-style isn’t an attractive option, find a nice spot near the arches on one of the low walls that line the square. Muslim barbeque stands spring up after sundown. Munch on a skewer of lamb or roasted vegetables, and watch the busy world flaunt by. You are likely to be approached by any number of con artists, interested Chinese English students or lost Western tourists; take it all in your stride and appreciate the fact you are in beautifully, diverse Yunnan!

The Hump Hostel驼峰酒吧 (Pandora’s is down the alley next to The Hump)View In Map
Add: Jinma Biji Sqaure, Kunming
Tel: 087 1364 0359

1895 Movie Bar电影主题酒吧 View In Map
Add: 106 Wacangzhuang, Sanheying, Kundu, Kunming
Opening hours: Mon-Fri, open until late
Tel: 087 1361 2661

TCG Nordica TCG诺地卡 View In Map
Add: 101 Xiba Lu, inside Chuang Ku art compound, Kunming
地址: 昆明市西坝路101号 创库内
Tel: 087 1411 4691
Opening hours: Mon-Fri, 10:00-21:00

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Keywords: Jinma biji Kunming best Kunming nightlife the hump hostel Kunming jinma biji guide Kunming discovering kunming jinma biji


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