Tomorrow the adventure begins…Another Tudong-style trip, this time on the rugged border province of Yunnan. Yunnan is…Fascinating. It has the most ethnic diversity of all China. Twenty-five officially recognized races are found here. It’s a hodge-podge of cultures. Northwestern Yunnan is, ethnically, a part of Tibet. Zhongdian, Deqin…Are actually frontier Tibetan towns, and a great way for foreigners to experience Tibetan culture without the beaurocratic messiness of getting permits into Tibet proper. Photos on Google show amazing vistas of high, craggy peaks (the Himalayan foothills), yaks grazing in pastures 3 kilometers above sea level, and prayer flags ringing sleepy-eyed Buddhas. Southern Yunnan is where the sharp boundary shown on the map de-resolves into a blurry meld flowing to Burma, Laos, and Vietnam. Ruili, Xishuangbanna, other exotic blips on the map. The former is (supposedly) Yunnan’s city of sin. Drug trade (heroin enters China here from SE Asia), illegal animal parts, rare goods like Burmese wood and jade. Xishangbanna is at the heart of China’s only tropical forest and has Theravada temples, a tropical climate, and Asian elephants(!!!) Millennia ago, the Dai Kingdom called the region home before being absorbed properly into Ming China. We’re still in the same provice, by the way, a place about the size of Montana! Eastern Yunnan, is a chaotic mix of rugged hills jutting sharply out of level plains. It’s where Yunnan melts into Guangxi province. Another ethnic group I’m only just learning about, plus the landscape is incredible. It seriously looks like something out of Dragonball Z. Don’t believe me? Here’s Puzhehei, the region that’s drawing me there:
I’m renting a nimbus. I hear they’re quite cheap.
Dali, the first town I’m staying at is a place on the edge of some of those Himalayan foothills. The Highlander Inn is just beyond a Tao temple and I’ll be hiking the mountains for three days before either a.) heading North to Lijiang and Zhongdian to see Tibet-lite, or b.) going Southwest to (maybe) Ruilin for a shopping day and a taste of Burma or straight to Xishuangbanna. I don’t know if I have time for both. Buses are frequent but it’s about 4 hours between each town. If I went up to Zhongdian, then wanted to backtrack to Xishuangbanna, it’d be a 14 hour bus ride. We’ll see. Right now, I just need to get to Dali and work from there. Downloaded the Lonely Planet’s Yunnan section onto my Kindle so between that, my bad Chinese and the people I meet, I hope to have an adventure!
Here’s hoping I make it back! Wish me luck, my friends!