Jinghong is the center point of Xishuangbanna and the only actual city - although not big enough for a McDonalds (yet). I thought it was a great city. It was small enough to be walkable. The architecture was interesting, the people were interesting, the clothing was interesting. It was a weird mix of China, Laos, Burma and the west. There were also just enough other foreigners that I wasn't stared at too much and could find information. But few enough that I still felt like I was off the beaten path. I enjoyed just walking around and seeing the city.
There is a large Dai population in Xishuangbanna and they still live in their traditional stilt houses. You really need to leave the tourist areas and city to see them. This picture was taken in the village of Mandian. Mandian is a good choice because there is a waterfalls there, so you're not just the weirdo walking around someone's village. They are a little more used to tourists it seems. But only a little, this is not at all a touristy place. See my tip on the Mandian Waterfalls for more information.
This was a landmark on our map, so we decided to check it out, even with no information. We went in the dry season, so didn't see any falls, just some really small rapids. However, as a person living in China, I loved it, this was the furthest away from people I've been in a long time. We walked through the village of Mandian to a dirt path. The path crossed the river (no bridge) and eventually just went into the river. We climbed the river rocks for a while. The scenery was really nice. Maybe we went the wrong way, but don't see how. The village was also cool since many houses were traditional Dai houses (see my village tip for that).
To get there we took the Jinghong city bus 2 to the Gadong stop. There was a bus waiting there. It was 10RMB to Mandian village. From the village, you have to ask directions (a few times) to find the path. To get back we asked the nice convenience store owner when the bus was. She said tomorrow, but was able to call a van for us to return. The van cost 120RMB total.
This was one of my favorite stops in Yunnan. I am not a plant person, and I couldn't identify anything (too bad all the plant signs had the Chinese and Latin names only) but still loved it. The small museum and all the maps were in English though. When you enter, you are in the Botanical Garden part, which is divided up by types of plants. The back of the park - almost completely devoid of tourists was the actual tropical rain-forest. Through the rain-forest, there was a paved path, but it was well enough done that I still felt like I was trekking through a forest. We rushed and it still took us a good part of the day to see it all. Entrance fee of 80RMB.
To get there from Jinghong we took a bus from the Banna Bus Station to Menglun. We were dropped off just in front of the main entrance. To get back we had to flag down a bus on the street going back to Jinghong. It was a bit tricky, but we weren't the only ones there. The bus is 16RMB each way and takes about an hour.
The main point of this place is not the rainforest as such, but demonstrations of the culture of the ethnic minority in this area.
This place is a pleasant circular walk around an area of geniune rainforest, with various activities (e.g. firing a traditional bow and arrow) along the way. Having to give tips along the way (considering the high entrance fee, RMB100 from memory) gets irritating, but the activities are quite interesting. At the top of the walkway is a stage where a dance performance is regularly given.
A guide/translator is supposedly necessary for this place, as it is claimed that the performers along the way only speak their language and not Mandarin Chinese, although they laughed when I made a joke in Mandarin - so this might be a tourist con to ensure an extra RMB20 is spent on the guide. Anyway the guide/translator was informative and helpful so the additional RMB20 is worth it.
There is also a treetop walk but this was closed for repairs when I visited.
This attraction should have a positive environmental impact. In the surrounding area slash and burn agriculture is the norm, however the fact that this place is in an area of preserved rainforest will mean that hopefully the local authorities will see the benefit of ecoo-tourism rather than the usual 'development' at all costs.
As with other places around the Xishuangbanna area the entrance fee is absurdly high, however some credit must go to the authorities for building this place.
The entire site is large, and includes a decent climb up the hill. There are some impressive temple buildings and statues, and there are resident monks.
As a new facility it still feels a little empty and lifeless, however given time this temple has real potential to be very interesting.
The Dai Ethnic Village is a disgrace. Firstly the staff at the entrance gate will neglect to tell you that there is a RMB100 ticket, and point you towards the more inclusive RMB180 or RMB280 versions.
The place is run down and unkempt. The aviary included a few birds, construction materials and a motorbike. Along the main walkway the is a monkey chained to a table, a python with it's mouth taped shut and a solitary elephant chained to one spot within a cage, for convenient photo opportunities (for additional fees of course, and if you pull out your own camera you'd better leave a tip!).
The recreation of the Dai water festival involves a parade of Dai women in costume, followed by people in bright costumes splashing people with plastic buckets full of water (while very loud commentary and Chinese opera music is blasted over a PA system).
I strongly suggest avoiding this place at all costs.
For the RMB100 entrance fee there was very little to see in this place. The environment was pleasant enough, but no more so than typical parks anywhere. As I visited when there were no tour groups present the place was mostly deserted, with a performance area littered with rubbish, a totem pole of sorts and a couple of buildings with simple artifacts. I left feeling rather cheated.
A rather cynical tourist 'attraction', which when I was there was overcrowded with loud local tour groups. Upon entering one can take a photo with an elephant which is chained to one spot, goodness knows for how long. There are then a number of souvenir stalls selling lots of Thailand T-shirts (never mind Yunnan doesn't even border Thailand), and there is then an area for elephant performances. These include the elephants bowing and making various poses, and kicking a football.
There is also an aviary which had to be the loudest aviary in the world (the noise made by the tourists, not the birds). By this time I was ready to leave and did not bother taking the cable car that is supposed to enable you to view elephants in the wild.
Oh and the entrance fee was rather high, above RMB100.
As I mentioned elsewhere, I can't, in good conscience, recommend this place. Watching one of the staff closed-fist backhand a small bear for no reason just doesn't recommend the place... I'll post the photo of the guy and the bear.
Xishuangbanna has the largest population of Dai minority group in China. They are so much like Thai people. Dai people are said to be the ancestor of Thai people. My travel partner who are from Thailand can even understand Dai language that they speak.
Lanchang River (Mekong River) runs in Jinghong town. This is a view of Lanchang river from Dai Minority Village in Menghun. It's peaceful and serene. The river can be seen throughout Yunnan from Jinghong to Deqin.
I heard that we can take a boat from Jinghong down to Laos. I don't know if it is true but it sounds interesting. However, I didn't include Laos in my itinerary last time.
Jinghong is the biggest city in the prefecture of Xishuangbanna. If you take a night bus from Kunming, you will probably end up here early in the morning. There is nothing much to see in this city as it is following closely to the footsteps of modernisation. Roads are wide and air is filled with dust. My impression is that the city is so polluted.
I enjoyed my trip out of the city to Menghun and Menglong instead of Jinghong. Take a bus from the bus terminal to your preferred destination. Anywhere is more interesting than Jinghong.
I spent one day taking a bus out of the city of Jinghong and ended up in a tiny town of Damenglong. The bus ran on a modern paved road, slowly onto smaller road, and then later into narrower dirt road. You can see ricefields along the way. I really enjoy looking at the peaceful scenery of rice field in this area. You can also see Dai women working in the rice field, some carrying their babies while they work.
Damenglong town is very small. Here I visited a small temple with such strong northern Thai architecture influence. Another temple is located on top of a small hill. This temple is with burmese architecture influences. At the small roundabout in the town, burmese influenced lions guarding in the center. I wished I had come on the market day.
I took a bus out of Jinghong heading to Ganlanba (Menghun) to visit Dai Minority Park. It is basically a few villages combined to be a so called 'minority park'. Here the Dai people still live their daily life. They still live in wooden houses on stilt. Boys still become monks in the village. There are at least 3 buddhist temples in the park that reflect Thai/Burmese architecture. There is a centre stage in the park that has performances of Dai traditional dances. After the performances, there is a immitation of Water Splashing Festival outside the amphiteatre. I found that the centre stage was too touristy and it is designed to attract tour groups from other parts of China.
However, I enjoyed my walk in the village off the beaten path to see some quiet part of the village. There are a few houses in the village/ park that participate in homestay programme. To stay with a Dai family, you just have to pay 20RMB per night. (as of 2004).
Park entrance fee was 40RMB (as of 2004)