This is a large park in Jinghong. It has everything, temples, more temples, souvenirs, a lake, paddle boats, a small zoo, and even some zip-line thing across the lake. It was a nice way to spend an afternoon. There might have been a sign for a 40RMB entrance fee, but we walked past it and the dozing workers . . .
Here Mekong is known as Lancang and it divides city in two pieces, although most of activities and construction happens on its right bank.
In dry season its shores expose large areas of gravel and you can walk hundreds of meters to get close to the water. Here you can see growing new hotels and promenades, many of them keeping traditional Banna style of the roof, like so many other modern and old buildings in Jinghong. Another construction site by the river bank stretches kilometers far, before there were gardens and grass, now it looked everything different (further from new bridge).
It seems less and less city feels Mekong. Before it used to bring life, people depended on its fish, sediments, floods and water - nowsadays most people find income in other activities. Its shores are no longer easily accessable to everyone. Yet it takes all the load from people and here the pollution is a great threat to the river.
This is lively street in the city centre with small and friendly restaurants which are best places to eat local and cheap food and also there are a few Muslim restaurants too (excellent ones from Uygur region).
Another section of the street I called 'burmese' market street because it makes you feel you're in Burma. This is pedestrian part with many shops, jade and other (smuggled) gem shops especially and handicraft, shoes and textiles. Most traders here are Burmese, so don't be surprised to see men in longyis sitting at their shops and smell of betel chew (and sight too) here - if you've been to Burma before you know what I am speaking.
After you saw Octagonal Pavilion you shouldn't leave the site without seeing the temple which is next to it. It's interesting to study the mural paintings from Buddhist stories on good and bad: but some scenes (those from Hell) are in very bad shape though you can imagine these horrors: hot water poured in mouth of sinner, and hand cut off from thieves for example. Or judging the good and bad deeds of person just departed. The stories from Heaven are more inspiring and colorful - oh, like a nice place to go to in 'afterlife'!
The buidling itself is Dai architecture with tiered roofs and golden bells upon them. Inside another few murals and large Buddha image and few smaller ones. Few monks live in another building, kuti. At time of my visit I was unfortuanetely unable to get more information on history of that temple.
Octagonal Pavilion is the old building in small town of Jingzhen, some 14 km from Menghai. Sources say it was built in 1701, then destroyed during the war in 19th century and perfectly rebuilt in 1981 to its present shape. It's one of the most interesting sites in Xixuanbanna - it's symetrical shape and decorations of plants and animals are done very attentively - some carved (stone and wood), some painted on the walls. It is outstanding architecture - red color of facade is prevailing, the multi-tiered roof is its most eye catching feature.
To see this old Dai Buddhist building you will have to take a bus from Banna station in Jinghong to Menghai first (60 km from JH) and then change to mini bus to Jingzhen or go there by moto taxi - but make sure you negotiate price well in advance and double check if the guy sets price one way only or both ways - or you'll be surprised in the end.
There was 10 yuan fee to enter the site which lays at the top of small hill upon Jingzhen town.
There is also an interesting temple next to pavilion, especially for mural paintings depicting scenes from Buddhist hell and heaven. These are in state of renovation.
It costs about 50 yuan to get in, per person. If you want to stay the night in the park, the ticket's good for the next day (or however many days you're staying, I guess.)
If you do go, there’s a path that leads through the park to the elevated pathway, the hotel and the museum. It also leads to the cableway. They say not to walk the path between 8pm and 6am or something, as that’s when the elephants come through… I suppose they could, but we didn’t see any… it’s a big area.
The paved/rock pathway meanders through the jungle for about 2km before it reaches the hotel and end of the cableway. It can be quite slippery when wet.
Two images. (By the way, the people in the first image, I met here in early May of 2008. I saw them again in Baisha, near Lijiang, in July of 2008. It was quite nice and unexpected to see them again. I hope they don't mind me using a photo of them... it was just so idyllic of the path scene.)
Look, I know it feels good to give animals food. Don't do it. This is a standard message for any zoo, park, or place where humans come into contact with wild animals. Don't chase after bears!
In places where people feed the wild animals, those animals are known to be more aggressive to people... they think we have food. I watched a monkey focus it's attention on my wife's hand as she put her hand into her pocket. It was getting ready to receive food. This is a problem as animals can get aggressive if they don't receive food they expect to receive.
Don't feed the animals. (Dogs and cats and domestic animals are different.) They are well-trained in how to find food and there's no shortage of it for them here.
I don't know if these are the tour guides... they look like them, minus the bull horns (no chance you're ever going to see elephants- though they probably don't understand this).
Anyway, they dress local. Pictured is them approaching the police station, heading toward the park entrance from inside the park. Just on the other side of the gate (behind me) is the parking lot.
Guides are available (for a price, of course) at the entrance. The Lonely Planet (LP) said that they cost 50 yuan. I'm not sure if that's still correct- I believe the pack entrance fee is 50 yuan (whatever the case, more than the 25 yuan in the LP).
I'm not sure how they'd torture butterflies, but if there's a way... they will? I'm not sure about that, but they have a bad record. Regardless, there are many animals here other than elephants- the peacocks, wild boars, monkeys and most everything else, I believe, are at the main, southern entrance
There is an elephant show... the Lonely Planet calls it "depressing" and I have no doubt that it is. It's at the other entrance.
Again, I can't highly recommend this place. If the animals were well-treated, I'd have no problems with it, but that's not the case, it doesn't seem.
I really wanted to bring you some images of Asian elephants, but I didn't see any. (Oddly enough, most of the images you see around here of elephants are of African elephants, not Asian elephants... who cares if it's right or not here?)
The grounds of the park entrance belie the realities- harsh treatment of the animals, scant facilities, commercialism... but they are quite beautiful, really. A lake forms part of the park around the restaurant and in another location- I can't recall exactly where this was, but I think it was just past the restaurant and animal housing.
No Chinese tourist destination is complete without its fair share of commercialism. If you want to buy souvenirs, beyond the expense of entering and staying the night, you can do so near the entrance or here, next to the museum.
I'm not the biggest, most ardent supporter of animal rights, and I won't tell you not to go to the Wild Elephant Valley, but I highly recommend not supporting this place. There have been many reports of the animals being tortured by the staff, which I never doubted, but when I saw one of the staff back-hand with closed fist a small bear, then proceed to use violent strokes to brush the bear, I nearly killed him. I did report him to the office, and showed them a photo of him, but owing to the way of things here, probably nothing will become of it. I should have just beat the living daylights out of him- maybe at least that would have been some justice for the bear. Anyway, there's absolutely no doubt in my mind that they hurt the animals here and without any reason.
I know the Chinese tourists will still flock here- they don't care so much about this type of thing it seems, but when you plan your trip, consider this! The look in the bear's eyes spoke of a long history of this type of physical abuse behaviour. I have no doubt that the other animals receive somewhat similar treatment. I'm passing this information on to other travel sites as well, to get the word out.
This museum wasn't open when we walked by it, I believe because we were on the path after hours. I can't say if it looked interesting or not. But there is a museum, though it's a 20 minute (or so) walk along the path to get to it.
I'd chance the elephants before climbing into one of the colorful cable cars, considering the lack of upkeep and maintainance that seems so prevalent... If you don't want to walk the whole way (it's a nice walk) you can take the cable car/chair lift for a good part of the walk. I'm sure it's scenic, but it wasn't running when I was there.
I have no real reason to think it's dangerous, and I'm sure many people take it and enjoy it. I believe it costs 40 yuan one way and 60 with return. Not cheap.
There are lots of signs, even ones that suggest that making noise will make the elephants angry. This next to a Chinese road on a hill, with staff being loud as they sweep and walk… hypocrites. Anyway, if you want to see elephants, being quiet is best, but you don’t want to surprise any elephants you come across either. So, be aware.
There's a better chance of not seeing anything, especially with noisy tourists wandering all over the place.