This is a special zone which encloses several Dai minority villages. Things are pretty quiet in the morning and it's good to have a bike to ride around this area in order to see the lake, the Mekong River, and several temples. Around 2 pm, tourist buses arrive and things start to pick up. I really enjoyed the dance show at 3:30 pm.
There are now 18 passenger "official" buses (versus the little privately run vans you can also catch) to Ganlanba. Tickets are 7.5 kuai at the Jinghong No. 2 bus station. It pulls into a bus station at Ganlanba (which did look rather shiny and new). Traveling to and fro, i definitely got car sick from the windy roads (and sick from all the second hand smoke).
Minibuses leave about every 45 minutes from Jinghong headed straight to Ganlanba. I think the buses depart when a full load of 6 passengers is met.
The ride is 45 minutes and costs about 6 yuan. The trip is almost entire along the Mekong River and the road is windy. Because of the windy road and the erratic driving, you could become sick so if you are the type that gets automobile-sickness, be prepared as this is a rough ride.
The buses leave about every 45 minutes from Ganlanba. There is not a bus station in Ganlanba, rather the buses depart from an intersection in the middle of town - and you purchase your tickets right there at a table on the sidewalk.
Because of the frequent and short bus ride, Ganlanba can be made a pleasant day trip, but there is lots to explore beyond the town so you may want to stay for a night or two.
Ganlanba has a beautiful golden pagoda (Dai style) on top of a hill, it is located on the upriver edge of town. If you are in a hotel or a building just a few levels high, you will easily see the pagoda. Because it is so intriguing, you will also want to visit it, as I did.
One day I drove my rented bicycled up to the pagoda. There is a small paved street on the way up. At one point there is a concrete wall directing you to get off the road and take the path in the woods. Take the path, DO NOT TAKE THE ROAD FURTHER!
I made the mistake of staying on the paved road and came across a person's home, equipped with two big mean dogs. After some pointing from the owner of the home (he was telling me I was headed in the wrong direction), his two dogs came after me. I cycled back down the hill and the dogs eventually caught up to me. One of the dogs bit my foot but I pulled it away and peddled fast enough down the hill to pull away from the killer dogs.
This was totally my fault, the owner of the home was a nice man, and the dogs probably came after me for just looking and smelling so strange.
The whole point is to follow directions and be careful when going up the hill leading to Ganlanba's golden pagoda.
In Ganlanba, bicycle rental is a must because there is so much lurking outside of the town.
I only know of one place to rent a bicycle, that is the Dai family restaurant. The town is so small you will find it. Here one of the girls in this Dai family speaks English.
I met some travellers from Canada and they found bicycles at the market. So there are a few places to get bicycles. If you cannot speak Chinese, you best choice is to go to the Dai Family Restaurant. Otherwise if you speak Chinese, go to the market and ask around.
Once you have the bicycle, you are ready to explore. There are so many maps in backpacker restaurants and guesthouses but they are pointless in my opinion. They are drawnings of previous travellers' trying to explain where to go. I was suggested by a friend in Jinghong to disregard the maps and just go in a direction. This proved to be wise as I came across some great stuff, and I know it would have been the same in any direction away from the city.
So my advice is to disregard the maps of the surrounding area and just go blindly.
One suggestion: Ganlanba lies directly on the Mekong River. You can cross the river and explore that side. Although I did not do this, it seems promising. So from the center of town ride down to the river, there will be a docking area of some sort. It should cost about 1 or 2 yuan for a boat ride across the river (don't pay more than 2 yuan, as that seems high enough in my opinion). Once on the other side you can explore. This side is less developed as I believe there is no road or actual town infrastructure, so more authentic and traditional.
Taking a bicycle trip between Jinghong and Ganlanba is a good way to spend a day. First, rent a bicycle of good quality in Jinghong. Head to the short-distance bus station and take a mini-bus to Ganlanba. The driver should not have a problem with bringing the bicycle as there is a rack on the roof of the minibus.
Upon arrival in Ganlanba, ride the bicycle back to Jinghong taking the same route as the bus. Most of the ride will be along the Mekong River.
On this trip you will get to see some people selling fruit along the street, a nice view of the river, and some Dai houses along the road. It is a pleasant bike ride as the road is paved and in good condition, and will only take a few hours.
Equipment: All you need is a bicycle and some water
I am the type of person that is interested in the origin of stuff around me, so I took some interest in rubber plantations.
Yunnan is an important producer of agricultural and raw products that are only grown in Yunnan. For instance, tobacco, rubber, and palm oil are common agricultural products for this province.
When cycling outside of Ganlanba, I came across a rubber plantation, which grabbed my attention. So if you are around this part of Yunnan and you find it interesting, stop by some of these farms as it can be a good learning experience.