Xishuangbanna na na na

The Yunnan province of China is a magical place full of such varied landscapes.  I headed down to the southernmost portion which borders Burma, Laos, and Thailand.  You can definitely see the influence of the former Dai kingdom as the writing suddenly changed from Mandarin and English to Mandarin and Dai.  I landed in the capitol city of Jinghong, which is just another Chinese city full of millions of people.  I can’t say it’s my favorite place but it’s a place where people live and work.

A beautiful Aini village on a hill.

The real beauty of the region is all the wilderness around it.  From the Pu’er tea fields to the scattered minority villages, Xishuangbanna is full of things living and growing.  I had the good fortune to go around the region with the fantastic tour guide operators Banna View.  These two sassy ladies are like the Thelma and Louise of China, complete with fun driving.  They have a natural odd couple relationship.  Echo is well spoken in English and quiet in demeanor.  Wendy is brash, knows every local in the region, and can drive like a maniac on any road or lack thereof.  I’m pretty sure I’d want her behind me in a bar fight.  Between the two, their love of the region and social work towards regional improvement bring them together into an awesome tour giving force.  After they took me to the a village full of bbq huts on stilts known as Mengla bbq village and enjoying hours of masterfully brewed Pu’er tea, I knew I had to go on a trip with them.  I think they’re the source of all the great information in the Lonely Planet guide on the area.

Just a lady weaving on the side of a dirt path. Like you do. No, I kid. Even my guides mentioned they haven't seen this before, it's a dying art.

In a mere two days, we saw women weaving on the street, clothes dyers who’d been doing so for 65 years, beautiful singing, and even a Balung wedding.

This lady learned to dye clothing at 23 to get married to this fine gentleman who had two wives and ten children. She's still the town dyer 65 years later. The lady in the middle is in traditional Aini clothing and starting a cultural center/museum.

It was an action and information packed few days as we passed through Aini (also known as Akha in other countries) and Bulang villages.

They broke out the Aini specialties of black chicken congee and mountain fruit air dried (literally hanging next to their clothes on the clothesline) fish.

Best of all for me, it involved eating just about two meals for every regular meal.  This is my kind of tour!  For one meal, the cooks went out and bought a live chicken for our meal.  At the wedding, they killed a whole cow for the feast.  We even drove by two men readying a calf for a wedding the next day on the side of the road.

Homestay? I think you mean abandoned-Communist-office-turned-future-cultural-center-stay.

It’s wedding season in China, the opposite of wedding season in America as it happens in the winter for some fortunate superstitious reason I do not understand.  I’m hoping to whip back around to Xishuangbanna in March as one of the ladies of Banna View is getting married.  I hear there’s a pig being fattened now.  That’s one of my goals on this trip, to be around for a pig slaughter so I can be sure I’m ok with knowing where my meat is coming from.  Doing so while attending the wedding of a fantastic new friend is a bonus.

On my list of things to do one day is to do a road trip across the United States.  Along those lines, I’m adding riding a motorcycle through Xishuangbanna/Yunnan.  Oh, and Bannaview does those too.  They’re just that bad ass.

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