Heading into the May Day holiday, Jun and I decided to travel further afield from Guangdong province. Yunnan was one of the few places we could travel to that had reasonable COVID-19 requirements. We, thus, decided we would go back to Yunnan for the second time this year. This time we would travel to the southwestern corner of the province and visit the Xishuangbanna region. This area is home to the Dai people, an ethnic group similar to others in Southeast Asia.

Accompanying us on the trip was Jun’s cousin and a friend of hers. We also decided that since Jun’s cousin had her driver’s license, we would rent a car to make traveling around Xishuangbanna easier. This decision would prove to create interesting situations during the trip.

Day 1

The first day of the trip started extremely early for me. My annual university conference occurred on the morning of May 1, which required me to be awake from midnight to 6:00 that morning. After my conference was over, I had to take a shower and then head off to the airport for our mid-morning flight. I was extremely tired by the time we got on the plane. Sadly the flight was short and required us to deplane in Nanning to pick up more passengers before heading to Xishuangbanna. Sufficed to say I did not get much sleep.

When we got to Jinghong—the main city in Xishuangbanna—we first had to go through airport health procedures. After we had cleared the health checks, we went to find the car. When we found it Jun’s cousin had some initial difficulties in figuring out how to operate the car. The attendant there helped, and we were soon on our way to the hotel. During that drive, I learned how inexperienced Jun’s cousin was when driving. She drove through a red light at one point thinking it had turned green. That incident made me nervous about what would happen next.

Fortunately, the hotel was close by, and we soon had our room keys. What should have been a time to rest in our rooms, however, soon turned into a frustrating situation.

When we got to our first room—yes, the first room—we found that it wasn’t ready and needed some time to be cleaned. We went back to the front desk, and they changed our rooms. Our second room was nice, but it had taken up some time to go back and forth. We decided that we had wasted enough time and we should go out and explore a bit.

We decided to visit a small temple nearby called Mannuan Longcun Temple. The grounds of the temple are quite small, but the central structure is gorgeous. It’s a white stupa with gold statues and silver candelabras and incense holders surrounding it. It was sublime to be there in the late afternoon, early evening sun. Jun and I enjoyed being there as it was relaxing and calming. Something I needed due to my exhausted state.

From there we next went to a local restaurant for dinner. The grounds of the restaurant were gorgeous, and the food was amazing.

After dinner, we went back to the hotel. When we got to our room, we noticed that it was quite warm. We turned on the air conditioning and realized that it wasn’t working. Jun called the front desk and they sent someone from maintenance to check it. The maintenance person found that the air conditioning unit was broken and needed to be replaced. That resulted in us moving to our third room. Fortunately, this was the last room change we needed to make. After taking a shower I was in bed and asleep for the next ten hours.

Day 2

After a wonderful night of rest, I woke up feeling more myself and ready to explore Xishuangbanna. Jun and I got ready and then went down to have breakfast. After we ate, we then went for a walk around the grounds of the hotel. As we walked, we saw that the hotel had several peacocks, including white peacocks. For Jun and me, it was the first time to see white peacocks.

When Jun’s cousin and her friend were ready, we then went out to explore Gaozhuang. Located next to the Lancang River, Gaozhuang is known for its night market. There, though, is also a temple—Shuangjing—located within it that we wanted to visit during the day. The temple had an ornate pagoda that in parts was covered in gold. The surrounding courtyard was also quite magnificent. We ended up taking a significant number of photos there.

Afterward, we then went to have lunch at a local restaurant that was decorated with cattle skulls, which was an interesting choice in décor.

After lunch, we walked a bit around Gaozhuang. While Jun’s cousin and her friend took pictures, we took a walk by the river. When we met up again, we decided to go visit Manting Park.

The drive to the park was uneventful. When we got there, however, we had to deal with a lot of traffic. Jun’s cousin got nervous and decided to drive further ahead to see if she could make a u-turn. It ended up she had to travel over a kilometer before she could. Finally, however, we were able to park and enter the park.

Manting Park is over 1,300 years old. It was once an imperial garden to the Dai royal family. Remnants of those structures still exist within the park. Besides the historic importance of the park, the grounds are gorgeous. We enjoyed walking around the park and visiting the different areas within it and around it, such as our visit to Jiebajie temple.

As it got closer to evening, we decided to go back to Gaozhuang to visit the night market. When we got there, we first stopped to have dinner at a small rooftop restaurant. The food there was nice, but there were a lot of smokers outside. Our first table had a guy who kept blowing smoke into my face. It was not intentional, but it got to the point where I started using the menu to blow it back to him so I wouldn’t choke on the smoke. He was surprised that I didn’t enjoy the smoke. He, unfortunately, was unwilling to stop smoking. The staff at the restaurant helped and moved us to another table inside the restaurant.

After dinner, we went for a walk around the night market. There were a lot of people there, which was quite a different experience from the morning. After walking and exploring the different stalls, we decided to head back to the hotel.

Our second day was fun, and it was great to explore the different parts of Xishuangbanna.

Day 3

Our third day had us venture outside the city to explore the natural side of the area.

We first visited the Xishuangbanna Primeval Forest Park. The park is typical in its design of a nature park in China with paved walkways. There are several cultural and natural sites to see, such as the Ai’ni village and the indigenous monkeys. The best part of the park was walking through the forest on the bamboo walkway mid-way up through the tree canopy. Jun and I enjoyed that experience.

From the park, we next went to the Chinese Academy of Science’s Xishuangbanna Tropical Botanical Garden. The drive there was interesting as we had to stop at a health checkpoint to make sure our negative COVID-19 test was valid. It was, but I couldn’t use the electronic system and had to get out of the car and fill out the paperwork. Joy … After that was taken care of, we soon arrived at the park and took a little tram to the western area.

The tram dropped us off at an orchid exhibition. That was neat as they had orchid mantises. I had never seen them, and it was fun trying to find them in the orchids. The rest of the exhibit was quite impressive even though they were being watered when we got there, and we had to use our umbrellas to walk through the exhibit.

Jun and I decided to explore the rest of the park by ourselves. Jun’s cousin and her friend wanted to take pictures. Jun and I first decided to eat something since by then it was mid-afternoon and we hadn’t eaten anything since breakfast. Then we went around the park and explored different areas. We ended up visiting the water gardens. We saw huge lily pads. We walked through a fun hedge maze. And we generally just enjoyed being in nature.

By early evening we were ready to go back to the hotel. When we arrived back in the city, we first had to get a new COVID-19 test. We found one near Gaozhuang that was located inside a construction site. That was a bit strange, but it went quickly. We then decided to go back to the hotel for dinner. I was a bit tired and wasn’t interested in having a large meal. I decided to go back to the room to have a snack and catch up on some of my research for my dissertation. It was nice to have a relaxing evening to end the day.  

Day 4

Our fourth day was more relaxed than the previous days. We drove southeastwardly down to the Daizu Garden, which is a cultural area of five villages that were combined for cultural preservation. I enjoyed walking around the different villages and seeing the locally constructed bamboo buildings.

The temples within the different villages were also quite impressive. I particularly enjoyed visiting the Mansunman village temple. I was impressed by the intricacies and ornateness of the temple buildings and structures. One of the things I particularly found fascinating was the bamboo Buddha statue. Jun and I had never seen anything like it before, and we were quite impressed.

The food in the village was also wonderful. We had local Dai cuisine in the inn of a local family, and it was delicious and inexpensive.

Lunch gave us the energy to continue exploring the remaining villages for the rest of the afternoon. Before we left, Jun’s cousin also got us to take some pictures of her at one of the temples.

By the late afternoon, we were headed back to the hotel to rest before dinner. We decided to take a shared car to Gaozhuang and eat at a Laotian restaurant. The food there again was delicious, especially the first dish we had. After dinner, Jun and I got a coconut mango dessert as we walked around the night market. Soon, though, we all decided to go back to the hotel for the night as we were all tired by then.

Day 5

This day was our last one in Xishuangbanna before heading home. In the morning we decided to visit the Xishuangbanna Tropical Flowers and Plants Garden in the city. The park was interesting in that it had a lot of fruit plants within it. We saw figs, pineapples, lychee, and many more different fruit plants. We also enjoyed some Thai tea and coffee as we walked along the parks’ paths. It was a nice last stop for our trip.

Soon, though, we went back to the hotel to collect our things and drove to the airport to return the car and check-in. Everything went smoothly and we were soon back in Shenzhen getting our COVID-19 test and taking the metro back to our apartment. The trip was great! It was nice to visit a new and unique place in China when compared to the other parts of the country. It was a welcomed and needed escape from Shenzhen.

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