When we visited Yuanyang, we were rather close to Jinghong, the capital of the Xishuangbanna province. However, the bus trip would have taken two full days on very bumpy roads. So we took the bus back to Kunming and flew the 40 minutes from there to Jinghong, where we were in for another surprise.
We simply loved this place! We expected a dull provincial town, but we found everything you may want. It has the infrastructure of a tourist town, but it is not cramped like Lijiang or Yuangshuo, where Chinese tour groups all move around a few streets. It is rather small, there is little traffic, great food, especially many exotic fruits on every corner and above all, the temperature is so different from anything we have experienced in China’s Southwest: hot and humid!
The city’s wide boulevards are lined with palm trees as well as chic shops. Thy kitschy glitter and sparkle of the multi-colored neon lights that adorn palm trees, roofs and street lamps create a real holiday feel. No, we have not lost our mind when we say neon lights are great! Nevertheless, here they are… Cities in China are usually rather bland, so this is such a nice change! Also people look very different here, with the majority being Dai. This is why all the signs here are both in Chinese and in Dai, which reminds a lot of Burmese script.
This place seems like the Chinese Riviera, without the sea. Chinese city dwellers come here to enjoy the exotic flair and the balmy temperatures. Some ladies shrieked when they stepped out of the airplane and the hot temperature swallowed us up, got rid of their sweaters and stepped down the gangway smiling.
For the very few foreign tourists, Jinghong is not the primary destination, but the base to explore the minority villages in the surroundings, which of course we had planned to do as well. To be honest, we never left and simply wandered all over the place. One reason was that Gilles was still somehow feeling sick. On the other hand, we liked it so much here.
For 60 Yuan, less than 6 Euros, we stayed at a very comfortable air-con room at the Jing Yong Fandian Hotel. Of course, we tried many different eateries, but the very place to meet other travelers and share experience is Mei Mei Café. For example, we informed a surprised French traveler that he should start to reconsider his itinerary: he had not heard that the border to Tibet was closed to foreign tourists, as well as the northwest of Sichuan.
The best place to enjoy a late evening here is the Peacock Lake Park next to the artificial lake, where all kinds of activities go on. One night, we watched what seemed to be ballroom dancing, hilarious! The next evening, it was some kind of Chinese group dance. It seemed pretty much open floor: some of the dancers knew what they were doing, others just had fun. This was so much more entertaining than the expensive Dai Dance Performances aimed at the Chinese tour groups! Another very interesting “act” was a kind of sung dialogue between a man and a woman, we could not tell whether they were true artists or if this was spontaneous.
One hot afternoon, Heidi went to the swimming pool at the Golden Banna Hotel. Very pleasant grounds, but being the only western tourist and the only woman in a bathing suit was a strange feeling. Although everybody was smiling and saying hello, she constantly felt observed and thus only once quickly used the pool, otherwise hiding in a corner with her book.