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10/07/2013

Things to do in Xishuangbanna I

After your Kunming tour, you can visit Xishuangbanna.

1. Jinghong

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.

2. See a village

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.

3. Mandian Waterfalls

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 (unit for China money) total.

4. Tropical Botanical Garden

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.

5. Rainforst Valley

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 China tour 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.

6. Mengle Buddhist Monastry

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.

You can consider the above for your top China tours in Xishuangbanna.

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