For hundreds of years Kunming has been a hub for trade between Southeast Asia, India and China's heartland to the north and east. Overland trade through Kunming extends back to the Tang Dynasty (618-907AD) and probably earlier.
Kunming was the hub of the ancient Tea Horse Trail over which traders (mostly Yunnanese Muslims) transported goods by pony and mule caravan over an area extending from Assam, Burma, Thailand and Laos in the south, to the Chamdo region of eastern Tibet and the south China provinces of Sichuan, Guizhou and Guangxi.
The city's modern prosperity dates from 1910 when a railroad line opened to Hanoi. Besides railroad connection to Vietnam, roads connect the city to Laos, Myanmar and Thailand.
The central government is positioning Kunming to be the trade, transport, financial and cultural center of Southeast Asia. Steadily expanding direct air links to all major Chinese cities, most major cities in Southeast Asia, and some major cities in Japan and South Korea are helping to achieve this objective. A new international airport, under construction and scheduled to open in 2012, will be the fourth largest in China (after Beijing, Shanghai and Hong Kong).
Air links to India are likely to be opened as well. On February 28 we took Air China's inaugural flight from Bangalore, India, to Chengdu, China, where we connected to another Air China flight to Kunming (the flight from Bangalore continued on to Shanghai). On April 30 we will fly nonstop from Kunming to Kathmandu.