The region of Xishuangbanna is in the deep south of Yunnan Province next to the Myanmar (Burma) and Laos borders. It's warm and tropical and home to many of China's minority groups who live a much more laid-back life far from Beijing.
Jinghong struck us as a quiet and sleepy place, with little traffic and substantially less horn blowing than we had come to expect in Chinese cities. The mornings were surprisingly cool until the mist cleared around 10 am when the sun came out, dry and hot.
I've run out of adjectives to describe the ritual shaking we endured enroute to the weekly market in the neighbouring village of Menghun. Suffice it to say that someone could make a fortune fitting shocks on the buses in China! The market, however, did not disappoint, as members of several minority groups attend the market decked out in their national dress; most noticeable were the Dai and Hani women. The Dai women were identifiable by their headwear which consisted either of flowered scarves or chenille towels wrapped around their heads; they wore tight-fitting blouses and Thai-style sarongs as well. The Hani or Akha women layered predominantly black clothing trimmed with colourful braid; there was an under-blouse and trousers, then a knee-length tunic all covered by an apron. Their headgear consisted of a black scarf decorated with beads and coins wound around their head and then swooped vertically up over their forehead. The market was a fairly typical affair with every sort of foodstuff, clothing and houseware being available, including lengths of hand-woven cloth, sarongs and beaded headgear. Dan was mystified as to why he could not make himself understood while bargaining for a length of hand-woven cloth; he finally realized that the women he was speaking to was not speaking Mandarin but rather a regional dialect!
We contacted a local guide to take us trekking in the Mandian Rainforest Nature Preserve, a protected area of rainforest located 1.5 hours north of Jinghong. Our guide, Susan, was of Akha descent and had been raised on a rubber plantation commune. We saw many similar communes enroute to the preserve; the trees all had a tell-tale scar and small pots attached to catch the latex.
Our trek through the preserve to a beautiful waterfall began in a Dai village and took us past rice paddies, over rapids via suspended bamboo pole bridges and through tropical rain forest. We stopped for lunch near the base of the waterfall where Adrian very nearly took a ride down the rapids as he slipped on some moss covered rocks. On our return, we visited a Dai Buddhist temple where the village's boys are educated not only in Buddhism but also in Dai language and culture.
The boys were intrigued by the concept of attending an "English Corner", an opportunity to meet with local people so that they can practice their English. Their adventures with Luke at the Lemon Grass Cafe and English School are next.......