One Year in Yunnan (Part Two) Posted by sasha on Jul 9, 2015 in Uncategorized
I’ve had an amazing year living, working, and traveling in Yunnan province. In case you missed it, check out part one to discover the capital of Kunming, tourist hot spots Dali and Lijiang, the epic Tiger Leaping Gorge, and more. While all of the places we covered last time were north of the capital, for part two we’re heading south to explore some more of this fascinating corner of China.
Jianshui (建水 – jiàn shuǐ)
Just a few hours away from Kunming by train, this ancient town is a great place to spend a few days exploring the sights, including China’s third largest Confucius temple (孔庙 – kǒng miào), the lovely Zhu Family Gardens (主家花园 – zhǔ jiā huā yuán), and the neon-lit Swallows Cave (燕子洞 – yàn zi dòng). Outside of the major attractions, one of the most interesting things to do here is wander the old streets, which are full of wells that local people have been using for generations. It’s said that the well water is the reason for the area’s rice noodles and stinky tofu being so delicious.
Honghe County (红河县 – hóng hé xiàn)
This isn’t exactly high on the tourist radar of Yunnan, but we took a trip there over Spring Festival to spend the holiday with some friends from Kunming. It’s a pretty little town, and traveling to places like this definitely gives you more of a “real China” feel than some of the super touristy towns like Dali and Lijiang. It’s a very mountainous and scenic area, and you’ll get great views even in local restaurants. Outside of town, you can walk in the dreamlike rice terraces. These are free to visit unlike the nearby Yuanyang terraces, at least for the moment.
Xiaohe Village (小河村 – xiǎo hé cūn)
To ring in the Chinese New Year, we visited our old friend in his village of Xiaohe, a tiny town tucked in between the mountains and surrounded by banana trees. It was about as Chinese as a Chinese New Year celebration could be, as we gathered around the table for a very large meal, copious amounts of bai jiu, and the obligatory CCTV New Year’s Gala show. Of course, there were also plenty of fireworks to welcome in the Year of the Goat. The hospitality shown by our friend’s family and the village in general was a reminder of why we love living in China, and we feel very lucky to have been able to celebrate the holiday with them.
You can see more of our Yunnan CNY trip in this short video:
Xishuangbanna (西双版纳 – xī shuāng bǎn nà)
This region in the south of Yunnan is a popular place to visit, especially in the middle of April when the local Dai people (傣族 – dǎi zú) celebrate the Water Splashing Festival (泼水节 – pō shuǐ jié), also known as the Thai New Year. Over the course of the three days, there are parades, dragon boat races, temple ceremonies, and the most ridiculous water fight you’ve ever seen. It’s a very lively affair and tons of fun; just be prepared for insane crowds of people. Also, if you’re a foreigner, get ready to be totally soaked in the water fight as you’re an easy target.
Over the Tomb Sweeping Festival, a small crowd gathered in the mountains outside of Kunming for the inaugural Spirit Tribe Festival, a 2-day psytrance party with art, yoga, poi spinning, and much more. We camped under the glow of a full moon and also saw a partial eclipse – adding to the feeling that the stars had aligned for us on this magical weekend of music. The group who ran the party now own property on the land, so you can expect more events like this to take place in the future. Check out the video highlights from the first one below:
Luoping (罗平 – luō píng)
Famous for its rapeseed flowers that cover the landscape in a sea of yellow, Luoping is an easy place to reach from Kunming, making for a great overnight trip. Unfortunately, the flowers were pretty much all gone by the time we got there, but we still enjoyed taking in the views of the beautiful rolling hills and walking around the Nine Dragon waterfalls (九龙瀑布 – jiǔ lóng pù bù) for an afternoon.
Fuxian Lake (抚仙湖 – fǔ xiān hú)
Another easy day trip from Kunming is this beautiful lake, the third largest in Yunnan province. At 155 meters, it’s also the deepest lake in the province. Dotting the lakeshore are quite a few villages, which you can either cycle to or hire a driver. Out here, you can also hike, swim, or just relax and enjoy the scenery. As it was our last chance to get out of Kunming before heading home for the summer, we decided to just take it easy and stay in a nice hotel with its own private beach and swimming pool. It was a bit too cold for swimming on our visit, but it was still quite nice. It’s possible to visit on a day trip, but you’d be much better off staying a night or two and enjoying it a bit more.
We managed to see quite a bit of Yunnan in our year of living there, but there’s so much more to do. It’s far and away our favorite part of China to travel in, so I’d recommend dedicating at least two weeks to traveling there if you can swing it. Subscribe to the blog and check back in the weeks and months to come, as I’ll be diving a bit deeper into some of these amazing places in Yunnan province.
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