The motivation for
this site was the lack of comprehensive
English-language travel information on Yunnan.
Last updated 2005-12-18.
- Walter Stanish (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Dali Prefecture (大理)
Deqin Prefecture (德钦)
Lijiang Prefecture (丽江)
Nujiang Prefecture (怒江)
Chuxiong Prefecture (楚雄)
Kunming Prefecture (昆明)
Yuxi Prefecture (玉溪)
Dongchuan Prefecture (东川)
Qujing Prefecture (曲靖)
Zhaotong Prefecture (照通)
Baoshan Prefecture (保山)
Dehong Prefecture (德红)
Lincang Prefecture (临沧)
Simao Prefecture (思茅)
Xishuangbanna Prefecture (西双版纳)
Honghe Prefecture (红河)
Wenshan Prefecture (文山)
Peoples of Yunnan
Yunnan is the most ethnically varied province in China.
The following is an outdated yet interesting excerpt from Yün-nan, the Link between India
and the Yangtze, by Major H.R.
Davies, 1909, pp. 332-333. For up to date
information regarding specific ethnicities, see the List
of Chinese Ethnic Groups at English
Wikipedia. An enthnic distribution map in Chinese can be
non-Chinese tribes that the traveler encounters in western China, form
perhaps one of the most interesting features of travel in that country.
It is safe to assert that in hardly any other part of the world is
there such a large variety of languages and dialects, as are to be
heard in the country which lies between Assam and the eastern border of
Yün-nan and in the Indo-Chinese countries to the south of this region.
The reason of this is not hard to find. It lies in the physical
characteristics of the country. It is the high mountain ranges and the
deep swift-flowing rivers that have brought about the differences in
customs and language, and the innumerable tribal distinctions, which
are so perplexing to the enquirer into Indo-Chinese ethnology.
A tribe has entered Yün-nan from their original Himalayan or
Tibetan home, and after increasing in numbers have found the land they
have settled on not equal to their wants. The natural result has been
the emigration of part of the colony. The emigrants, having surmounted
pathless mountains and crossed unbridged rivers on extemporized rafts,
have found a new place to settle in, and have felt no inclination to
undertake such a journey again to revisit their old home.
Being without a written character in which to preserve their
traditions, cut off from all civilizing influence of the outside world,
and occupied merely in growing crops enough to support themselves, the
recollection of their connection with their original ancestors has died
out. It is not then surprising that they should now consider themselves
a totally distinct race from the parent stock. Inter-tribal wars, and
the practice of slave raiding so common among the wilder members of the
Indo-Chinese family, have helped to still further widen the breach. In
fact it may be considered remarkable that after being separated for
hundreds, and perhaps in some case for thousands, of years, the
languages of two distant tribes of the same family should bear to each
other the marked general resemblance which is still to be found.
The hilly nature of the country and the consequent lack of good
means of communication have also naturally militated against the
formation of any large kingdoms with effective control over the
mountainous districts. Directly we get to a flat country with good
roads and navigable rivers, we find the tribal distinctions disappear,
and the whole of the inhabitants are welded into a homogeneous people
under a settled government, speaking one language.
Burmese as heard throughout the Irrawaddy valley is the same
everywhere. A traveler from Rangoon to Bhamo (The Burmese capital to the Yunnan border)
will find one language spoken throughout his journey, but an expedition
of the same length in the hilly country to the east or to the west of
the Irrawaddy valley would bring him into contact with twenty mutually
The same state of things applies to Siam (Thailand) and Tong-king (North Vietnam) - one nation speaking
one language in the flat country and a Tower of Babel in the hills.
Caves in Yunnan
The report from a Hong Mei
Gui Cave Exploration Society 2002 Yunnan study is online here.
Online Maps of
SOAS = School of
Oriental and African Studies, HMG = Hong Mei Gui Cave Exploration Society,
0833 = 0833.net/cntop, CHG = China Historical GIS
Almost every traveller to Yunnan visits Dali, and not without
reason - the ancient capital of Dali lies nestled between the soaring
Cang mountains and
picturesque Ear Lake. The region is famous throughout China for it's
marble, in fact right across China marble is called "Dali Stone"!
Unfortunately, the quantity of travellers to the
area has dramatically changed its character, and tourism is the
overwhelmingly dominant industry in the area. Many travellers seeking
to smoke locally grown marijuana (大嘛 / Da Ma) have promoted a
significant and overt market in the plant. Despite the severe change of
character in the city, Dali prefecture remains one of the most
picturesque regions of Yunnan, and it's easy to strike off alone.
Gautama Buddha. Kingdom of Dali, Song Dynasty.
(Part of the Yunnan Provincial Museum collection, Kunming)
- Dali (大
理市) / "Old Dali"
Awash with travellers, Dali is a town with a lot of history.
It was the capital of the lively Tang dynasty kingdom of Nanzhao, and
later, years after being overrun by Yuan-dynasty Mongol hordes and
falling in to a sinicised slumber, Dali was at the centre of a
moslem rebellion. Today, having outgrown the old city walls and filled
with hordes of Chinese and foreign tourists alike, Dali nevertheless
retains its cobbled charm. You might like to see the Map of
Dali online at Yunnan
As we neared Ta-li Fu (Dali), and indeed along the entire road, we
were amazed at the prevalence of goitre. At a conservative estimate two
out of every five persons were suffering from the disease, some having
two, or even three, globules of uneven size hanging from their throats.
In one village six out of seven adults were affected, but apparently
children under twelve or fourteen years are free from it as we saw no
evidences in either sex. Probably the disease is in a large measure due
to the drinking water, for it is most prevalent in the limestone
regions and seems to be somewhat localized.
About two o'clock in the
afternoon we reached Hsia-kuan (Xiaguan), a large commercial town at the lower end
of the lake. Its population largely consists of merchants and it is by
all means the most important business place of interior Yün-nan; Ta-li (Dali), eight miles away, is the residence and
At Hsia-kuan (Xiaguan) we called upon the salt commissioner, Mr.
Lui, to whom Mr. Bode, the salt inspector at Yün-nan Fu, had very
kindly telegraphed money for my account, and after the usual tea and
cigarettes we went on to Ta-li Fu (Dali) over a perfectly level paved road, which
was so slippery that it was well-nigh impossible for either horse or
man to move over it faster than a walk.
We rode toward Ta-li (Dali) with the beautiful lake on our right hand
and on the other the Ts'ang Shan (Cangshan) mountains which rise to a height of
fourteen thousand feet. As we approached the city we could see dimly
outlined against the foothills the slender shafts of three ancient
pagodas. They were erected to the feng-shui, the spirits of the "earth,
wind, and water," and for fifteen hundred years have stood guard over
the stone graves which, in countless thousands, are spread along the
foot of the mountains like a vast gray blanket. In the late afternoon
sunlight the walls of the city seemed to recede before us and the
picturesque gate loomed shadowy and unreal even when we passed through
its gloomy arch and clattered up the stone-paved street.
We soon discovered the residence of Mr. H.G. Evans, agent of the
British American Tobacco Company, to whose care our first caravan had
been consigned, and he very hospitably invited us to remain with him
while we were in Ta-li Fu (Dali). This was only the beginning of Mr.
Evans' assistance to the Expedition, for he acted as its banker
throughout our stay in Yün-nan, cashing checks and transferring money
for us whenever we needed funds.
The British American Tobacco Company and the Standard Oil Company of
New York are veritable "oases in the desert" for travelers because
their agencies are found in the most out-of-the-way spots in Asia and
their employees are always ready to extend the cordial hospitality of
the East to wandering foreigners.
Besides Mr. Evans the white residents of Ta-li Fu (Dali) include the Reverend William J. Hanna,
his wife and two other ladies, all of the China Inland Mission. Mr.
Hanna is doing a really splendid work, especially along educational and
medical lines. He has built a beautiful little chapel, a large school,
and a dispensary in connection with his house, where he and his wife
are occupied every morning treating the minor ills of the natives,
Christian and heathen alike.
Ta-li Fu (Dali) was the scene of tremendous slaughter at
the time of the Mohammedan war, when the Chinese captured the city
through the treachery of its commander and turned the streets to rivers
of blood. The Mohammedans were almost exterminated, and the ruined
stone walls testify to the completeness of the Chinese devastation.
The mandarin at Ta-li Fu (Dali) was good-natured but dissipated and
corrupt. He called upon us the evening of our arrival and almost
immediately asked if we had any shotgun cartridges. He remarked that he
had a gun but no shells, and as we did not offer to give him any he
continued to hint broadly at every opportunity.
Ta-li Fu (Dali) and Hsia-kuan (Xiaguan) are important fur markets and we spent
some time investigating the shops. One important find was the panda
(Aelurus fulgens). The panda is an aberrant member of the raccoon
family but looks rather like a fox; in fact the Chinese call it the
"fire fox" because of its beautiful, red fur. Pandas were supposed to
be exceedingly rare and we could hardly believe it possible when we saw
dozens of coats made from their skins hanging in the fur shops.
Every year a few tiger skins find their way to Hsia-kuan (Xiaguan) from the southern part of the province
along the Tonking (North
Vietnam) border, but the good
ones are quickly sold at prices varying from twenty-five to fifty
dollars (Mexican). Ten dollars is the usual price for leopard skins.
Marco Polo visited Ta-li Fu (Dali) in the thirteenth century and, among
other things, he speaks of the fine horses from this part of the
province. We were surprised to find that the animals are considerably
larger and more heavily built than those of Yün-nan Fu (Kunming) and appear to be better in every way. A
good riding horse can be purchased for seventy-five dollars (Mexican)
but mules are worth about one hundred and fifty dollars because they
are considered better pack animals. - Roy
Champan Andrews, Camps
and Trails in China, 1916-1917.
- Old City Gates
The old walls have been mostly removed, however the north and south
gates still stand (restored), and provide and interesting target for
- Moslem Village
(回人村 / Hui Ren Cun)
A little south of town, this ethnic Hui village is rarely visited by
tourists. With a large, modern mosque under construction, the village
surrounded with fields, and further up Cangshan an old cemetary and a
marble quarry. An interesting area to walk in, though you must be
careful to respect the locals and refrain from wandering anywhere where
you might not be welcome (close the the Mosque, private land, etc.).
- Cangshan (苍山)
Pronounced 'Tsang Shan', the mountain range that towers behind Dali can
in fact be a dangerous place, with significant drops and extremely
variable weather. Despite this, the elevated views of Dali and the
lake, stunning scenery, lengthy walks and opportunity to escape the
crowd draws many travellers. Though it's possible to hike all the way
up the mountains, most people take the cable-car just north of town
(35元), and walk along the not-so-strenuous, level paths that have been
cut along the mountain. Apparently there is a southern cable-car too,
closer to Xiaguan, however I've never taken it.
- Three Pagodas
Dating from the Nanzhao kingdom, these three symetrically-aligned
Buddhist pagodas may very well be the most photographed in Yunnan!
paying a relatively hefty entry fee, photographers can quickly locate
the "optimal photograph position for pagoda reflection in pond" and
off a few shots before running back to their tour-bus. Getting here
late in the day or first thing in the morning seems to be the go if you
want to avoid the Chinese tour groups - the area can in fact be quite
- Ear lake (洱海 / Er hai)
The massive lake offers many recreational opportunities.
First off, it's possible to hire bicycles in Dali, so some people
circumnavigate the lake over two or three days. Secondly,
tourist-oriented boat trips about: across the lake to local markets,
to small islands for picnics and out with crane utilising local
- Xiaguan / "New Dali"
Most travellers skip through Xiaguan to Dali, which is a
little further up the western side of the lake.
We improved our time [in Xiaguan] in hunting about for skins and finally
purchased two fine leopards and a tiger. The latter had been brought
from the Tonking (North Vietnam) frontier. There were a number of Tibetans
wandering about the market place and in the morning a caravan of at
least two hundred horses followed by twenty or thirty Tibetans, passed
into the city while it was yet gray dawn. They were bringing tea from
P'u-erh (Pu'er) and S'su-mao (Simao) in the south of the province and although
they had already been nearly a month upon their journey there was still
many long weeks of travel before them ere they reached the wind-blown
steppes of their native land. - Roy
Champan Andrews, Camps
and Trails in China, 1916-1917.
|100元 / 9 hours
"Left at 11.30p.m. rather than 7.30 shown
on the ticket. Took 9 hours comfortable ride to
Tengchong (there is a bus station on the south side of the street not
marked in LP)." - amtrakker, 2003/02
Generally considered pretty damn cold - this is really the foothills of
Supposed to be bloody cold. There's some monasteries to
see, though these receive mixed reports. More often than not,
travellers to Zhongdian seem to use it as an interesting route between
Sichuan and Yunnan rather than a destination in itself. It's also
a launch-point for permitless (illegal) trips to Tibet.
"Traveling into Tibet via overland or flight?
Here is what three weeks of trying to go overland has taught us: $1 = 8
RMB (yuan) We were in Zhongdian in late March '04 trying to get
into tibet. The lowdown was as follows:
from Zhongdian can be arranged on short notice ( they fly out Wed. and
Sat. during high season- now- and just Sats. in low Season). Cost is
2450 RMB plus a 50RMB airport tax. 1250 is for the permit and 1200 is
for the ticket. Go to the Tibet Tourism Bureau on the main street and
talk to Chien (sp?). He is friendly and speaks fine english. He even
gave us a refund on a deposit after we decided to go overland.
Zhongdian is a fine enough spot. Dragon Cloud Guesthouse is a great
place and the cheapest in town. 20/bed. 15/dorm bed.
also go overland from Zhongdian to Lhasa if you rent a Toyota
Landcruiser. 9-11 days. 20,000 RMB flat fee ($2500). Max 4 people plus
driver. TTB is also the place for that.
In Chengdu, you can
fly to next day to Lhasa daily for 1750 RMB (1200 for ticket, 500 for
permit). Sam's guesthouse or Holly's Hostel can supply the goods. No
one in Chengdu that we could find (PSB, TTB, major tour operators just
sells permits for independant overland travel.) Even though there are
buses that go Chengdu- Lhasa nonstop, foreigners can't get on one. We
had fun trying and though we had a ticket from someone who went
Lhasa_Chengdu (450 RMB!) nobody could/would get us a permit.
easily travel from Zhondian to Chengdu for under 700 RMB. My wife and I
did it in two days of constant travel for about 250 RMB each.
we are in Golmud trying to go to Lhasa. Blackmarket offers for 800 RMB
($100/person) - should we do it? CITS costs seems to be at 1700RMB
Good luck." -
The domain of the Naxi and Lolo people, this region has been
and remade as 'Shangri-la' due to a handful of foreign visitors that
wrote about their experiences here in the early 20th century. The
botanist Joseph Rock, and the
Russian Daoist Peter Goullart
known of these two. You can read Peter Goullart's book, Forgotten
You can also check out Rock's photos of the region here (that link also has a good,
high-resolution, old map of the area). Another foreigner in the
area was the Austrian Botanist Baron Haendel-Mazzetti.
The Naxi's pictographic writing system is particularly
interesting. Samples can be viewed online at the Library
of Congress Naxi Manuscript Collection.
of depressions in the area is online. See also Map
of Lijiang online at Yunnan
left a part of our outfit with Mr. Evans at Ta-li Fu (Dali) and with a new caravan of twenty-five
animals traveled northward for six days to Li-chiang Fu (Lijiang). By taking a small road we hoped to find
good collecting in the pine forests three days from Ta-li (Dali), but instead there was a total absence of
animal life. The woods were beautiful, parklike stretches which in a
country like California would be full of game, but here were silent and
deserted. During the fourth and fifth days we were still in the
forests, but on the sixth we crossed a pass 10,000 feet high and
descended abruptly into a long marshy plain where at the far end were
the gray outlines of Li-chiang (Lijiang) dimly visible against the mountains.
Wu and I galloped ahead to
find a temple for our camp, leaving Heller and my wife to follow. A few
pages from her journal tell of their entry into the city.
rode along a winding stone causeway and halted on the outskirts of the
town to wait until the caravan arrived. Neither Roy nor Wu was in sight
but we expected that the mafus would ask where they had gone and
follow, for of course we could not speak a word of the language.
Already there was quite a sensation as we came down the street, for our
sudden appearance seemed to have stupefied the people with amazement.
One old lady looked at me with an indescribable expression and uttered
what sounded exactly like a long-drawn "Mon Dieu" of disagreeable
Li-chiang (Lijiang) was our first collecting camp and we
never had a better one. On the morning after our arrival Heller found
mammals in half his traps, and in the afternoon we each put out a line
of forty traps which brought us fifty mammals of eleven species. This
was a wonderful relief after the many days of travel through country
devoid of animal life.
I tried smiling at them but
they appeared too astonished to appreciate our friendliness and in
return merely stared with open mouths and eyes. We halted and
immediately the street was blocked by crowds of men, women, and
children who poured out of the houses, shops, and cross-streets to gaze
in rapt attention. When the caravan arrived we moved on again expecting
that the mafus had learned where Roy had gone, but they seemed to be
wandering aimlessly through the narrow winding streets. Even though we
did not find a camping place we afforded the natives intense delight.
I felt as though I were the
chief actor in a circus parade at home, but the most remarkable
attraction there could not have equaled our unparalleled success in
Li-chiang. On the second excursion through the town we passed down a
cross-street, and suddenly from a courtyard at the right we heard
feminine voices speaking English.
"It's a girl. No, it's a boy.
No, no, can't you see her hair, it's a girl!" Just then we caught sight
of three ladies, unmistakably foreigners although dressed in Chinese
costume. They were Mrs. A. Kok, wife of the resident Pentecostal
Missionary, and two assistants, who rushed into the street as soon as
they had determined my sex and literally "fell upon my neck." They had
not seen a white woman since their arrival there four years ago and it
seemed to them that I had suddenly dropped from the sky.
While we were talking Wu
appeared to guide us to the camp. They had chosen a beautiful temple
with a flower-filled courtyard on the summit of a hill overlooking the
city. It was wonderfully clean and when our beds, tables, and chairs
were spread on the broad stone porch it seemed like a real home.
The next days were busy ones
for us all, Roy and Heller setting traps, and I working at my
photography. We let it be known that we would pay well for specimens,
and there was an almost uninterrupted procession of men and boys
carrying long sticks, on which were strung frogs, rats, toads, and
snakes. They would simply beam with triumph and enthusiasm. Our fame
spread and more came, bringing the most ridiculous tame
things--pigeons, maltese cats, dogs, white rabbits, caged birds, and I
even believe we might have purchased a girl baby or two, for mothers
stood about with little brown kiddies on their backs as though they
really would like to offer them to us but hardly dared.
The temple priest was a good
looking, smooth-faced chap, and hidden under his coat he brought dozens
of skins. I believe that his religious vows did not allow him to handle
animals--openly--and so he would beckon Roy into the darkness of the
temple with a most mysterious air, and would extract all sorts of
things from his sleeves just like a sleight-of-hand performer. He was a
rich man when we left!
The people are mostly
tribesmen--Mosos, Lolos, Tibetans, and many others. The girls wear
their hair "bobbed off" in front and with a long plait in back. They
wash their hair once--on their wedding day--and then it is wrapped up
in turbans for the rest of their lives. The Tibetan women dress their
hair in dozens of tiny braids, but I don't believe there is any
authority that they ever wash it, or themselves either.
Li-chiang (Lijiang) is a fur market of considerable
importance for the Tibetans bring down vast quantities of skins for
sale and trade. Lambs, goats, foxes, cats, civets, pandas, and flying
squirrels hang in the shops and there are dozens of fur dressers who do
really excellent tanning.
This city is a most
interesting place especially on market day, for its inhabitants
represent many different tribes with but comparatively few Chinese. By
far the greatest percentage of natives are the Mosos who are
semi-Tibetan in their life and customs. They were originally an
independent race who ruled a considerable part of northern Yün-nan, and
Li-chiang was their ancient capital. To the effeminate and "highly
civilized" Chinese they are "barbarians," but we found them to be
simple, honest and wholly delightful people. Many of those whom we met
later had never seen a white woman, and yet their inherent decency was
in the greatest contrast to that of the Chinese who consider themselves
so immeasurably their superior.
The Mosos have large herds of
sheep and cattle, and this is the one place in the Orient except in
large cities along the coast, where we could obtain fresh milk and
butter. As with the Tibetans, buttered tea and tsamba (parched oatmeal)
are the great essentials, but they also grow quantities of delicious
vegetables and fruit. Buttered tea is prepared by churning fresh butter
into hot tea until the two have become well mixed. It is then thickened
with finely ground tsamba until a ball is formed which is eaten with
the fingers. The combination is distinctly good when the ingredients
are fresh, but if the butter happens to be rancid the less said of it
The natives of this region are
largely agriculturists and raise great quantities of squash, turnips,
carrots, cabbage, potatoes, onions, corn, peas, beans, oranges, pears,
persimmons and nuts. While traveling we filled our saddle pockets with
pears and English walnuts or chestnuts and could replenish our stock at
almost any village along the road.
Everything was absurdly cheap.
Eggs were usually about eight cents (Mexican) a dozen, and we could
always purchase a chicken for an empty tin can, or two for a bottle. In
fact, the latter was the greatest desideratum and when offers of money
failed to induce a native to pose for the camera a bottle nearly always
would decide matters in our favor.
In Li-chiang (Lijiang) we learned that there was good shooting
only twelve miles north of the city on the Snow Mountain range, the
highest peak of which (Jade
Dragon Snow Mountain) rises
18,000 feet above the sea. We left a part of our outfit at Mr. Kok's
house and engaged a caravan of seventeen mules to take us to the
hunting grounds. Mr. Kok assisted us in numberless ways while we were
in the vicinity of Li-chiang and in other parts of the country. He took
charge of all our mail, sending it to us by runners, loaned us money
when it was difficult to get cash from Ta-li Fu (Dali) and helped us to engage servants and
It had rained almost
continually for five days and a dense gray curtain of fog hung far down
in the valley, but on the morning of October 11 we awoke to find
ourselves in another world. We were in a vast amphitheater of
encircling mountains, white almost to their bases, rising ridge on
ridge, like the foamy billows of a mighty ocean. At the north,
silhouetted against the vivid blue of a cloudless sky, towered the
great Snow Mountain (Jade
Dragon Snow Mountain), its
jagged peaks crowned with gold where the morning sun had kissed their
summits. We rode toward it across a level rock-strewn plain and watched
the fleecy clouds form, and float upward to weave in and out or lose
themselves in the vast snow craters beside the glacier. It was an
inspiration, that beautiful mountain, lying so white and still in its
cradle of dark green trees. Each hour it seemed more wonderful, more
dominating in its grandeur, and we were glad to be of the chosen few to
look upon its sacred beauty.
In the early afternoon we
camped in a tiny temple which nestled into a grove of spruce trees on
the outskirts of a straggling village. To the north the Snow Mountain (Jade Dragon Snow Mountain) rose almost above us, and on the east and
south a grassy rock-strewn plain rolled away in gentle undulations to a
range of hills which jutted into the valley like a great recumbent
A short time after our camp
was established we had a visit from an Austrian botanist, Baron
Haendel-Mazzetti, who had been in the village for two weeks. He had
come to Yün-nan for the Vienna Museum before the war, expecting to
remain a year, but already had been there three. Surrounded as he was
by Tibet, Burma, and Tonking, his only possible exit was by way of the
four-month overland journey to Shanghai. He had little money and for
two years had been living on Chinese food. He dined with us in the
evening, and his enjoyment of our coffee, bread, kippered herring, and
other canned goods was almost pathetic.
- Roy Champan Andrews, Camps
and Trails in China, 1916-1917.
- Around Town
- Black Dragon Pool
(黑龙潭; hei long tan) is a park
which lies at the northern edge of town, under Elephant Hill. You can scale
the hill from the park for a good view of the surrounding area. I
scaled it myself and had no problems, however some people reported
being robbed at knifepoint on this path 2004-06-03,
so either take a knife or scale it with some friends.
Picture an incredibly long valley, with a tropical at the bottom
and year-round snow on either side, and you have the quintessential
image of the area. The prefecture actually incorporates parts of three
major river-gorges: the Irrawaddy (Dulong / 独龙), the Salween (Nujiang /
怒江) and the Mekong (Lancangjiang / 澜沧江), of which the Dulong is the
most remote. The province is named "Nujiang Lisu Autonomous Region",
after the Lisu minority that live in the area. UNESCO listed the area
as world heritage in 2003, and describes it as "one of the world's least
disturbed temperate ecological areas, an epicenter of Chinese endemic
species and a natural gene pool of great richness."
An English map
is online, and a lodge operated by a local Tibetan has a website here. See also
of Nujiang online at Yunnan
The Upper Reaches of the Yangtze
left Habala, on November 23, for a village called Phete where the
natives had assured us we would find good hunters with dogs. For almost
the entire distance the road skirted the rim of the Yangtze gorge and
there the view of the great chasm was even more magnificent than that
we had left. While its sides are not fantastically sculptured and the
colors are softer than those of the Grand Cañon of the Colorado,
nevertheless its grandeur is hardly less imposing and awe-inspiring. If
Yün-nan is ever made accessible by railroads this gorge should become a
Mecca for tourists, for it is without doubt one of the most remarkable
natural sights in the world. - Roy
Champan Andrews, Camps
and Trails in China, 1916-1917.
"Chuxiong Yi Autonomous Region" is named after the Yi ethnic
minority that live in the area. The Yi are one of the largest ethnic
minorities in China, and are spread throughout the southwest. See
of Chuxiong online at Yunnan
- Chuxiong City (楚雄市)
Chu-hsuing (Chuxiong) was interesting as being the home of Miss
Cordelia Morgan, a niece of Senator Morgan of Virginia. We found her to
be a most charming and determined young woman who had established a
mission station in the city under considerable difficulties. The
mandarin and other officials by no means wished to have a foreign lady,
alone and unattended, settle down among them and become a
responsibility which might cause them endless trouble, and although she
had rented a house before she arrived, the owner refused to allow her
to move in.
She could get no
the mandarin and was forced to live for two months in a dirty Chinese
inn, swarming with vermin, until they realized that she was determined
not to be driven away. She eventually obtained a house and while she
considers herself comfortable, I doubt if others would care to share
her life unless they had an equal amount of determination and
At that time she had not
her work under the charge of a mission board and was carrying it on
independently. Until our arrival she had seen but one white person in a
year and a half, was living entirely upon Chinese food, and had tasted
no butter or milk in months.
We had a delightful
Miss Morgan and the next morning as our caravan wound down the long
hill past her house she stood at the window to wave good-by. She kept
her head behind the curtains, and doubtless if we could have seen her
face we would have found tears upon it, for the evening with another
woman of her kind had brought to her a breath of the old life which she
had resolutely forsaken and which so seldom penetrated to her
Roy Champan Andrews, Camps
and Trails in China, 1916-1917.
- Lufeng County (禄丰县)
Famous for the 1975-80 excavations of about a dozen eight
million year old Ramepithecus fossils, including teeth and skulls, the
county of Lufeng has been unearthing fossils since the early 20th
century. A Dinosaur Museum in
Lufeng town seems to be the solitary attraction.
- Yuanmou County (元谋县)
In Shangnabang village, 1965,
a 1.7 million year old Homo erectus known as 'Yuanmou Man' was
discovered. He was the first Homo
erectus to be found in China, and had the ability to manufacture
tools and use fire. Aside from this landmark discovery, Yuanmou county
sports the Yuanmou Earth Forest
(元谋土林), which is located only a few kilometres west of
Most travellers don't really check out this city, except perhaps to go
the Stone Forest, but there's plenty more to see. (See also: Images of
Kunming City (昆明市)
Kunming (previously known as Yün-nan Fu) is the capital of
Yunnan. It sits
astride Lake Dian, about 2000 metres above sea level.
accomodation, decent doubles in smaller local hotels go
for as little as 60元. Also, someone asked
where to get cold-weather gear. There are stores selling 'North Face' gear all
over the place (eg. walk west from Camellia Hotel along
Dongfeng Dong Lu [东风东路] and there's one on the north-side before you
to the China Telecom building). Easy to find, and cheap. An
organised pickpocket gang has been reported in the Kunming KFC.
we arrived at Yün-nan Fu (Kunming) we found a surprisingly cosmopolitan
community housed within its grim old walls; some were consuls, some
missionaries, some salt, telegraph, or customs officials in the Chinese
employ, and others represented business firms in Hongkong, but all
received us with open handed hospitality characteristic of the East.
We thought that after leaving
Hongkong our evening clothes would not again be used, but they were
requisitioned every night for we were guests at dinners given by almost
everyone of the foreign community. Mr. Howard Page, a representative of
the Standard Oil Company, proved a most valuable friend, and through
him we were able to obtain a caravan and make other arrangements for
the transportation of our baggage. M. Henry Wilden, the French Consul,
an ardent sportsman and a charming gentleman, took an active interest
in our affairs and arranged a meeting for us with the Chinese
Commissioner of Foreign Affairs. Moreover, he later transported our
trunks to Hongkong with his personal baggage and assisted us in every
In August, 1916, just before we reached Yün-nan Fu (Kunming) there was an exposé of opium smuggling
which throws an illuminating side light on the corruption of some
Chinese officials. Opium can be purchased in Yün-nan Fu (Kunming) for two dollars (Mexican) an ounce, while
in Shanghai it is worth ten dollars (Mexican). - Roy
Champan Andrews, Camps
and Trails in China, 1916-1917.
"Take a bus to the Western hills
cablecar, get a ticket up one way (40 yuan), turn left, pay 20 yuan
entry fee, walk to Dragon Gate lookout, & then downhill to the
exit, take the mini train back to the carpark (1yuan?), then take the
other cablecar across the lake to the minorities village, then a bus
back to Kunming." - chrisj, 2004-04-01
there & away
|140元 / 19 hours
"There is a bus ticket office next to City
Cafe which I used to get a sleeper bus (19 hours) to Jinhong - cost
150RMB and saved the hassle of going to bus station to buy ticket."
- amtrakker 2003/02
|~35元 / few hours
I got this from an eastern bus station, accessible by following 东风东路 futher
east, crossing the railway, and then turning south at the subsequent
highway overpass. The bus station is on the eastern side of the
north/south road that you turn in to, about 500m south of the
|?元 / 8 hours
- Getting around
There is no subway in Kunming, but being small in
both population and area the city doesn't need one. The public
transportation system is based on buses, of which there are many.
Cycling is also a great option.
Taxi flagfall is around 5-7元, and will get you
halfway across town, after which a reasonable rate is charged per
kilometre. Flagfall goes up slightly in the evenings.
The bus system in Kunming is cheap and well developed. Most
buses are government run, and routes in the middle of town
see buses every few minutes. Areas on the outskirts of town, such
as the Western Mountains, may
only by private routes, which vary in price and frequency. Some
buses are double-decker. At the time of writing, rides on all
public buses were 1元, regardless of distance travelled.
Kunming public bus
Bicycles are a great option for getting around
Kunming. Other than the most outlying areas, almost everywhere in
town can be reached by bicycle in a few minutes. Dedicated
cycleways straddle most major traffic routes, and cyclist-friendly
overpasses cross major roads. Bicycle theft is a massive problem
- do not leave bikes unlocked, or in any unmonitored, street-accessible
area, even when locked. Protected biycle parking in major centers
attracts a minimal charge. Cheap bicycles area available for around
100元, or as little as 30元 if second hand (and therefore likely
stolen). More expensive mountain bikes, Taiwanese GIANT frames
and Shimano components can be procured from the Xiong Brothers' Bike Shop, on a
street just west of the Green Lake. To get there, walk west along
the road running east-west on the southern side of the lake.
After the lake, don't turn immediately north, but take the second
street. Hidden halfway up the hill on your right (the eastern
side of the road) is the shop.
Brothers' Bike Shop,
just west of Green Lake
- Around town
- Bamboo Temple
It was being renovated during my stay, however I've heard many reports.
There's a whole lot of statues inside, but apparently you're not
allowed to take pictures. Generally mixed reports. Anyway, who wants
to see another temple? The real gem
nearby is a large, squirrel themed garden area, which is usually devoid
of people. A network of paths with homely little pagodas (not to
mention a giant concrete mushroom!) make this area one of the best
places to escape the persistant barrage of people and take a breather.
Technically there's a few kuai entry price, but sometimes the guards
asleep and you can just walk in. You can usually see the native
squirrel-like creatures scurrying through the treetops. My favourite place in the city.
- Bird and Flower Market
Well, I never quite figured out the Chinese name for this area, but I
have a complaint. The number of flowers in this market is negligible. I
think LP hoisted the name upon this otherwise interesting market. The
interest? Well, there's some great old architecture, and old trees. In
the middle down an alley is 'Pizza de Rocco', which personally I didn't
like but some people love. I prefer Wei's. On the subject of pizza,
there was also a secret, third pizza restaurant in town - the domain of
a few expats - but it's probably closed down now. It appeared to be on
its last legs in early 2002.
- Black Dragon Pool
(黑龙潭 / Hei Long Tan)
Directly north out of the city. I never made it here, but spoke to
numerous travellers who had. It was fairly 'nod nod', nothing
spectacular or terrible. Detailed report, anyone?
- Camellia Hotel (茶花宾馆 / Chahua
The most popular hotel with backpackers - most go for
the 30元 dormitories, doubles are
120-180元. There's a relaxing
garden courtyard (nothing to write home about by western standards, but
great in China), and a resident restaurant - the Cha Ma Bar (茶马吧 / "Tea
Horse Bar"). Inside the main building are the Lao and Burmese
consulates, and reportedly there's a Vietnamese visa agent there
now too. The dormitories were redone a couple of years ago and
are very clean.
new dormitories at the Camellia
- Da Guan Park / Pagoda (大观楼 / Da Guan Lou)
You must pay an entrance fee (around 15元) to enjoy this lakeside park,
come to sit, drink tea, fly kites, and go boating. There's an ancient
pagoda here, which you can climb for another toll, offering a great
over the lake to the western hills. There's a famous example of an
obscure form of Chinese poetry displayed at the front of the park's
which I am told is the longest of its kind in China and describes a
bygone scholar's view from the top of the structure. A map of the
park can be found here.
A lilly-covered lake
and pagoda inside
Guan Park, which borders Lake Dian
on the southern edge of Kunming.
- Golden Temple
North of the city, this area offers some fairly crowded paths to walk
around on, and some interesting architecture and artefacts for 15元. My
favourite are the florally named hero-swords, which weigh so much that
you could barely lift them - let alone wield them! There's a pagoda to
climb here that offers a good view back toward the city. You can get a
bus or cycle here - it's impossible to get lost as there's a road
straight out from central Kunming.
- Green Lake (绿湖)
Located in the center of the city, the lake is
quite beautiful, especially when its flowers are in bloom. Entry
to the islands inside the lake costs
5元. You can drink tea at the teahouses inside, or take a ride on
a paddleboat for an extra fee.
Green lake, Kunming
- Kunhu Hotel (昆湖饭店)
Two blocks north of the main bus station on the
western side of Beijing Lu, this hotel offers simple dormitories at 20
with a 20元 deposit. Seemingly more popular with Japanese and Korean
travellers, as far as I know it's the cheapest hotel in town. Other
than the permanently out-of-order lift, I think I actually prefer this
place. Warning - don't drink the 'clean' water provided, it's
boiled and I suspect it's what sent me to hospital! According to
'mango5' (2004/07) Doubles can be had for 50元 (No air conditioning but clean, with mixed
bathroom (but separate male/female squat
toilets – half height cubicles. You can shake hands with your neighbour
as you take a dump).
- Kunming City Museum (昆明市博物馆)
Smaller than its provincial counterpart, this museum's best exhibit is
about the history of the city. Other features include a dinosaur
exhibit and a rotating exhibition space that holds anything from
history to art exhibitions. There's also a scale-model of the Kunming
area documenting archeological sites relating to the illiterate Dian
culture that dominated the area sometime approximately around
- Kunming Zoo (昆明动物园)
Not a very pleasant place for animal lovers. My advice: don't
- Moslem Street
Right in the centre of town, this is the place to go for
decent bread, moslem noodles, and the more mundane (non-canine)
street-side carcasses. There's a good selection of fried tofu
restaurants here, too.
Street, central Kunming
Located slightly west of the center of town,
is a good place to find Western or household items. Foodstuffs
usually be found cheaper elsewhere, however.
- Western Hills (西山)
Actually located southwest of the city (west of the lake), this area
basically consists of a road up to a lookout, with a smattering of
temples on the way. The highlight here for me was the art collections
on sale at some of the temples, which are apparently donated by
artists seeking good karma. Don't try to cycle out here, the road is
terrible. Reportedly you can get a 10元 minibus from the front of the
Kunming Hotel straight out there. Personally, I took the 2元 public
bus/change-bus option instead.
- Yuantong Temple (圆通寺)
The temple, which lies protected in a natural
depression, is very old. In recent years it has been expanded, with
money from Thailand. Across the road from the temple is the only
vegetarian restaurant in Kunming, which is expensive but universally
acclaimed (yes, even by carnivores!).
- Yunnan Provincial Museum (云南省博物馆)
Right at the end of the the moslem street lies the provincial museum,
which features some interesting exhibitions on the 'bronze drum'
cultures that were once dominant in the area, Chinese Buddhist
artifacts, etc. Very cheap, and worth a look.
- Getting visas
The Burmese and Lao consulates are both located in the
Camellia Hotel, Dongfeng Dong Lu (东风东路 茶花宾馆). For Laos visas, amtrakker
reports (2003/02) that "the bloke at the desk said a 30 day visa could
be given for 500RMB (3 working days)." Personally I think I got one
cheaper, around 350元, back in 2002/03. Also from amtrakker - "Laos visa
available on ground floor of main lobby and LP prices of 270RMB 3
working days, and 400RMB 1 day are still current. Needed 2 photos and 2
visa applications." For Burmese business, amtrakker states "Myanmar visa
was still 185RMB for 28 days and available at room 225. Room 208 posted
flights to Yangon between 1600-2190RMB one way, and to Mandalay at
1370RMB one way. Think you needed 3 photos."
- Eating, drinking and being
There's plenty of good street food in Kunming,
much of which is specific to the region's minority peoples. Local
vegetable markets are also worth checking out.
Local vegetable market,
Breakfast pancake with
You Tiao (oilstick). These usually
include sweet red bean paste,
and some chilli.
- Paul's Cafe
(Just north of the Green Lake, up the hill)
The legendary Paul's
Oasis has moved! The man himself has migrated south from
Chengdu and is setting up in Kunming.
Cafe (the new Paul's Oasis), Kunming
- City Cafe
(30m west of Camellia Hotel on Dongfeng Dong Lu / 东风东路)
This Naxi minority run cafe thrives on foreigners from the nearby
- Wei's Pizzeria
(behind Greenland Hotel, cnr. Baita Lu (白塔路) & Tuodong Lu (拓
A great pizzeria run by a friendly Dutchman named Alex and his local
wife, who the place is named after. Pizzas are around 20元, and have a
well-deserved reputation for excellence. Good conversation and if the
time's right, upstairs is an excellent place to soak in some sun.
- Camel Bar
(Tuodong Lu (拓东路), on the section in between Beijing Lu (北京路) &
Baita Lu (白塔路))
Close to Wei's, this Chinese-managed bar is the only successful remnant
of the similarly named chain. This one's relocated a couple of times,
though LP's updates consistantly fail to update the location - proving
that they really do never visit some
of the places they write about - it's still popular with the
Camellia crowd due to proximity.
- Yunda District
Mainly this refers to a particular street to the near Yunnan
which is primarily frequented by foreign students who are studying
long-term in Kunming. The French Cafe
(兰白红) with free internet is located here, as are other popular bars and
reported (2003-03-07) - "The French
Cafe, along with most of the street, is being knocked down in two
months. No word yet of where they're relocating to but a good new
alternative, in the same style but not yet popular, is Prague Cafe next
to Therea's Pizzeria - check it out; comfy seating." (Theresas
another block away). This indeed is true - on my 2003-08 trip the
French Cafe had moved to the street running east-west directly
south of the old location. It was popular and seems not to have
suffered from the move. Other popular haunts, such as Stone Tribe, are now gone.
location of Stone Tribe,
at the western end of the street.
A Korean hotpot restaurant can
be seen on the right.
- Stone Forest (石林)
Whilst this place is famous amongst tourists, it receives
fairly tame reports and is fairly expensive (I think just the ticket is
circa 80元). I never made it to the park itself, though did manage to
see a good deal of similar formations on a bus ride to Honghe
prefecture, and a couple of train-rides through the region. One of
things some people love, and others love to miss.
- Jiuxiang (九乡)
The largest set of caves in Yunnan, or so the locals would
have you believe! These are east of the city, about as far as the Stone
Forest. There's a Chinese article about them here,
Many foreigners pass through Yuxi, but few explore it. Map of
Yuxi online at Yunnan
- Jiangchuan (江川)
In modern times, a fairly uninteresting town on the edge of
lake Xingyun (星云湖). Fortunately, it is spared by some interesting local
history. In the 1970s, a mountain called Lijiashan across the lake to
the northwest yielded 27 ancient Dian-era graves. Amongst the recovered
artifacts were a large number of weaving implements. Additional
excavations in 1991-1992 yielded 58 more graves, which have been dated
first century BC - first century AD.
Six of these, reported to have been
centrally located, were large,
wealthy one contained over 450 goods - and consisted of an inner and
outer coffin. The more than 2000 grave goods recovered from the 58
burials included a small number of Han style artefacts, along with a
whole range of Dian type bronzes such as human figurine(s), bell(s),
plaque(s), perforated mace(s), armour, drum(s) and cowrie shell
containers, the latter topped with cattle, weaving, and dancing scenes.
Of note were exquisite gold artefacts (scabbards, belts, bracelets,
animal style plaques) and seldom-seen jade, gold, agate and turquoise
beads and buttons meant to be sown on clothing (Anon. 1995). In 1994,
another burial was excavated at Lijiashan, although no report on this
find has yet been published. - 'The archaeology of Dian: Trends
and tradition', Francis Allard, Antiquity Vol. 73, No. 279, pp77-85.
Oxford, Mar 1999.
- Dongchuan City (东川市)
"Next day we were astir
early and soon after daylight we came suddenly to the brow of the
tableland overlooking the valley of Tongchuan. The compact little
city, with its whitewashed buildings glistening in the morning sun, lay
beyond the gleaming plats of the irrigated plain, snugly ensconced
rolling masses of hills, which rose at the far end of the valley to
lofty mountains covered with snow. All the plain is watered with
springs; large patches of it are under water all the year round, and,
rendered thus useless for cultivation, are employed by the Chinese for
the artificial rearing of fish and as breeding grounds for the wild
and the "faithful bird," the wild goose. A narrow dyke serpentining
across the plain leads into the pretty city, where, at the north-east
angle of the wall, I was charmed to find the cheerful home of the Bible
Christian Mission, consisting of Mr. and Mrs. Sam Pollard and two lady
assistants, one of whom is a countrywoman of my own. This is, I
the most charming spot for a mission station in all China." -
G.E. Morrison, An Australian in
of Qujing at Yunnan
"Cedars, held sacred, with
shrines in the shelter of their branches, dot the plain; peach-trees
pear-trees were now in full bloom; the harvest was ripening in the
fields. There were black-faced sheep in abundance, red cattle with
horns, and the ubiquitous water-buffalo. Over the level roads primitive
carts, drawn by red oxen, were rumbling in the dust. There were mud
villages, poor and falling into ruins; there were everywhere signs of
poverty and famine. Children ran about naked, or in rags. We passed the
likin-barrier, known by its white flag, and I was not even asked for my
visiting card, nor were my boxes looked into�they were as beggarly as
the district�but poor carriers were detained, and a few cash unjustly
wrung from them. At a crowded-teahouse, a few miles from the city, we
waited for the stragglers, while many wayfarers gathered in to see me."
- G.E. Morrison, An Australian in
- Zhaotong (照通市)
"Chaotong is a walled Fu
city with 40,000 inhabitants. Roman Catholics have been established
for many years, and the Bible Christian Mission, which is affiliated to
the China Inland Mission, has been working here since 1887."
- G.E. Morrison, An Australian in
Other than this description, Morrison paints a bleak picture of
Zhaotong, detailing the selling of children, famine, beggars and
suffering. He also mentions a sizeable moslem community in the town. As
Morrison's is the only account of the area that I have read, I wouldn't
mind an update!
- Jinsha (金沙)
The following passage regarding the history of Jinsha is
fascinating, if you consider that the Shang dynasty was based in the
opposite corner of China, had an extremely limited domain under its
direct control, and is considered to represent the dawn of
'civilisation' in China. The Shang dynasty saw the advent of writing,
complex society, walled cities, chariots, and the perfection of
bronzeworking (bronze being the first metal wrought).
The isotopic examination of 91 bronze articles unearthed from the Fuhao
Tomb [Lady Hao is the first known female military general of
China. Her tomb is located in Northern Hebei province, which is around
1500 kilometres away in north-east China.], dating back to the Shang Dynasty
(11st-16th century BC) how that some of the materials were made at
the Jinsha Factory located in today's Yongshan County. Because of the
rich reserves of copper in Yunnan, the ancient Dian Kingdom was
famous for its "bronze civilization." Isotopic examinations of the
bronze ware discovered in Shizhai Hill prove that the raw material for
the ancient articles unearthed came from within Yunnan. Archeological
discoveries of many ancient tombs located in Yunnan have shown that
bronze articles for daily use were already common in this area some
2,000 years ago. Articles unearthed range from kettles, bowls, plates,
tables, wine bottles, barrels, hatchets, bronze pillows to whole sets
tools for spinning and weaving, farming and fishing, and many weapons.
Note that judging by Chinese
maps, Jinsha appears to be a backwater these days. It's
accessible by travelling southwest 13km from Wanhe (万和) towards Daxing
(大兴), then turning south for 3km.
- Weixin County (威信县)
In 1999, the Hong Kong based China Exploration and Research Society
discovered a hanging-coffin site in Weixin. CERS subsequently studied
and dated the coffins to the Tang dynasty, making Weixin's
hanging-coffin site the oldest known.
These days primarily famous for it's tobacco production, Honghe
also sports scenic rice terraces along its major river, the Yuanjiang
(more commonly known to westerners as the 'Red River'), which flows in
to the Vietnamese capital Hanoi and then the South China Sea. Proper
name: Honghe Hani and Yi Ethnic
Minorities Autonomous Prefecture. The
1956-57 discovery of Kaiyuan Pithecus
at Little Dragon Pool (小龙潭 / Xiaolongtan)
in north-eastern Kaiyuan county put Honghe on the world archeological
map. Some fossilised teeth discovered were from Ramapithecus, an ancestor to modern
The western part of the Honghe region is visible on this Chinese map
of Simao. A general
map of the region is also online at Yunnan
- Mile City (弥勒市)
Mile is famous for its cigarette factory, one of the largest
in China, which produces the Red Pagoda (红塔) brand. Mile has recently
built a massive golden Buddha a little out of town, atop a hill. This
fella's pretty incredible, if you can climb the numerous steps to reach
- Gejiu City (个旧市)
|The tin capital of
Yunnan, Gejiu sits nearly-atop a mountain that has been mined for over
2000 years. The slight depression in which it sits has a large lake,
which is supposed to have been caused by an old tin-mine collapse. The
severe cliff to the east of the city is quite picturesque, though aside
from the scenery most travellers find the city boring. Bus stops are
to the north of town, as are cheaper hotels. There is a fairly good
bicycle shop in town, which can be located by crossing the road at the
southermost point of the lake, walking in to the 'parkland', and
right. There is a new road running from Gejiu down to the Honghe river
valley, which was nearing completion in April 2002. It is a great cycle
trip, descending all the way to the red river!
The so-called "capital of
tin" is Gejiu, capital of the Honghe Hani and Yi Ethnic Minorities
Autonomous Prefecture in Yunnan. The largest tin mine in China was
opened here. Its annual output accounts for 60 per cent of China's
tin requirements. Extraction of tin in the province dates back to
ancient times. Archeologists have discovered a number of ancient tombs
containing relics of tin articles. These relics show us that Gejiu tin
processors employed the smelting technique in as long ago as the Han
Dynasty. The local smeltery developed into an industry during the Ming
and Qing dynasties. By 1883, a state-run company had been established
manage the production and marketing of tin products. In 1909, the Gejiu
Tin Company imported some extremely expensive, and more advanced
production equipment from France, including washing and sorting
machines, smelting equipment, laboratory test equipment, cable
transporting systems and power production equipment. In 1938 tin
production in Gejiu reached its peak. In that year the total labor
force numbered over 100,000 and the annual output of refined tin
products reached 900 tons. As a result, China's tin output at that time
was fourth in the world's tin producing countries. - Source
- Swallow Cave
Halfway to Jianshui,
this massive karst cave sports an
underground river, and you can actually get boat trips through the
darkness for a few kilometers if you like. The cave is named after the
population of swallows that nest in its impressive portal. Nests are
collected by barehanded local climbers on a special day, who also leave
colourful signs at the top of the cave. Some climbers fall fatally.
|The Swallow Cave on the
between Jianshui and Gejiu.
there & away
|?元 / 7 hours
"If you leave Geijiu early morning, you should be
in time for the Hekou / Lao Cai border closing at 6 pm"
- chrisj, 2004-04-04
- Jianshui City (建水市)
Previously called 'Lin-an', this area used to be a very
important trading city, and offers many old buildings to explore. First
off there's the old city gate in the middle of town, then there's some
old family mansions (one inside of town, one out), an ancient bridge
west of town, a Confucian temple and attached school, fragments of the
old city wall, etc. At one point, the northern road to Tonghai offers
some spectacularly eroded hillsides. Halfway to Gejiu there's a famous
cave complex, where swallows are collected once a year by barehanded
locals. One attraction in Jianshui that I visited and would appreciate
reports on is the 'Zhilin temple'.
- Confucian Temple
A massive old temple, quite unlike anything else in
Yunnan. There's a very large pond, which takes up most of the space,
an 'inner sanctum' built up area where you can wander through a
carefully tended garden and see some old objects displayed. As the
second largest Confucian temple in China, it's definitely worth the 20元
- Zhu Family Garden
Right in the middle of Jianshui, is late Qing dynasty
estate was owned by the Zhu family. The Zhus were merchants that moved
to Jianshui from eastern China. They owned mines and stores, traded
goods and reading between the lines were successful criminals. The
family strengthened their position by passing imperial examinations,
however this did them no good come the cultural revolution! Though the
history inside the building is largely in Chinese, there are some
English displays. The interiors are fascinating and traditional, though
apparently a lot of the complex has been restored and is not original.
My friend Chen Xue, a miniature calligrapher/painter of quite some
repute, was working here when I visited. He produces fascinating
artifacts, and they're on sale inside the building.
- Double-Dragon Bridge
To the west of town an amazingly large Qing dynasty
bridge stands proudly in the middle of the fields. I suppose the river
moved, as there wasn't much call for a bridge of this one's size when I
passed by in 2002. Such ancient bridges are rare anywhere in China, and
this is the largest in Yunnan. It has seventeen sections, three
pagodas, and is 180 metres long!
- Zhang Family Estate
8km west of town, past the double-span bridge, the Zhang
family's estate is a fascinating collection of traditional Chinese
architecture dwellings and temples. Contemporaries of the Zhu, they
were so wealthy that stores filtered to the capital, Kunming, of the
Zhang family paying craftsmen the same weight in silver as they carved
in wood for the Zhang estate's interiors. The wooden carvings in this
area need to be seen to be believed. They're immensely think,
multiple-layered and feature a tangle of creatures, figures and plants.
There's great stone carvings too. Don't be a fool like me and get
caught without your camera. After a tour, you can stay for a meal and
some rice-wine in the courtyard of one of the traditional architecture
- Yuanyang (远阳)
Famous for its rice terraces, this area is one of the Hani
minority regions of Yunnan. Here is a crop from a shot taken July
2004 by an English bloke called Roland.
- Honghe City (红河市)
The confusingly named town of Honghe sits at the top of a
hill on the Yuanjiang (Red) river, in a naturally defensible location.
Try cycling up the hill (like I did!) and experience it for yourself.
During my visit I saw little of interest, though some old architecture
and winding cobbled backstreets reminded me a little of Macau's
Portugeuse charm. The dirt road to Yuanyang is prone to landslides,
though is most scenic for cycling! The road to Shiping (石平) is mostly
paved, and those parts that weren't when I passed through (April, 2002)
were being worked on. (There is little traffic in this
sometimes-dramatic river valley, and the climbing out to Shiping is -
bar the last leg - of a fairly constant grade). The road to Yuanjiang
(元江), which branches of the road to Shiping (石平), is small and easy to
- Shiping (石屏)
|Famous nowdays for
the smelly tofu brought by Mongol invaders at the dawn of the Yuan
dynasty, Shiping has long been an important settlement. The deadly flat
plain on which Shiping sits is pierced by two features - a massive
long used for fishing, and a significant hill to the east of town. Atop
of the hill stands a tall pagoda, from which you have an uninterrupted
view of the surrounding lands.
Shiping city from a
hill to the east, April 2002.
- Luxi County (泸西)
Famous for the Alu Ancient Caves (阿泸古洞), a
few kilometres northwest of town, Luxi is north-easternmost county in
- Mengzi County (蒙自)
Mengzi was a major Sino-European trading port, and after the
signing of a French trade agreement in 1887 even sported a French
This area, bordering Vietnam, is famous as the scene of some Chinese /
Vietnamese battles. There is a stylised Map
of Wenshan at Yunnan
"The drive up from Hekou to
Gejiu was great. It starts with rubber tree plantations, mangoes,
pineapples etc & the road then climbs up the range past many small
villages & waterfalls, & then the road climbs even higher, up a
pine tree forested ridge, sort of like a switch back, with gorgeous
views from both sides, to a plateau. It goes past a cave at one point.
The plateau was fairly flat & had lots of eucalyptus trees, butt
was still hilly in places. It reminded me of rural Victoria in
Australia. Hekou -> Kunming would take
9-11 hours." - chrisj, 2004-04-12
Often used simply as a transit-point by tourists, Simao lies on
a vast and relatively low mountain plain. For years it was a hotbed of
malaria, though it is fairly safe these days. Reported attractions,
of which I saw, are: Laiyanghe National Forest Reserve, Shimahe
Reservoir, Meizihu Park Sleeping Buddha. Reports, anyone?
A good Chinese map of Simao is online here.
A stylised general
map is also online.
- Simao City (思茅市)
Cheap hotel accomodation can be found on the western end of
town, near the truckstops.
The road near which we were camped was one
of the great trade routes into Tibet and over it caravans were
continually passing laden with tea or pork. Many of them had traveled
the entire length of Yün-nan to S'su-mao (Simao) on the Tonking (North Vietnamese) frontier where a special kind of tea is
grown (Pu'er Tea), and were hurrying northward to cross the
snow-covered passes which form the gateways to the "Forbidden Land."
- Roy Champan Andrews, Camps
and Trails in China, 1916-1917.
- Pu'er (普洱)
Famous for it's tea, the town of Pu'er still has some
interesting old architecture. There's a pagoda on the mountain that
overlooks Pu'er from the west, though I didn't climb it. The Pu'er bus
station, and the main north/south highway that runs from Kunming to Jinghong are on the
eastern edge of town. It appeared to me that these
days, most Pu'er tea is no longer grown in the immediate vicinity of
I bought a few stores, including
some excellent oatmeal and an annular cake of that compressed tea, the
"Puerh-cha," which is grown in the Shan States and is distributed as a
luxury all over China. It is in favour in the palace of the Emperor in
Peking itself; it is one of the finest teas in China, yet, to show how
jealous the rivalry now is between China tea and Indian, when I
submitted the remainder of this very cake to a well-known tea-taster in
Mangoe Lane Calcutta, and asked his expert opinion, he reported that
sample was "of undoubted value and of great interest, as showing what
muck can be called tea." - G.E. Morrison, An Australian in China, 1894.
A stylised general
map is online at Yunnan
- Jinghong City (景洪市)
Sitting south of the Mekong, this tropical city sports wide,
palm-lined boulevards and a laid-back atmosphere. Fruits such as
pineapple are sold on the street, and an array of public gardens
provides space to stretch out and relax. Tourist accomodation of all
classes abounds, with most of the backpacker accomodation and
foreign-oriented businesses located in the north-eastern part of
town. Many backpackers come here going to or coming from Laos.
- Around Town
- Mei Mei Cafe
Run by a woman called Orchid who hails from Dali with
excellent English, Mei Mei is generally considered the best travellers'
cafe in town.
there & away
You can fly to many locations in Yunnan and the
rest of mainland China thanks to the area's popular status amongst
Chinese tourists. You can also fly to Bangkok and Chiangmai,
|? / 15 hours
"I found it impossible to
find out how long the journey was going to be even at the bus station,
as I wanted to do it in stages by day. It took 15 hours (I was told 8
beforehand & there were no delays on the way!!) from Jinghong to
Lincang, so a break in Lancang after 7 hours would be best. It's then
another 8 hours to Lincang & then about 10 to Baoshan. The scenery
is great; very hilly & of course, it's very rural. There is a very
small village between Lincang & Baoshan that I earmarked to go back
to on my way through, but never did. It had a small zhaodaisuo. This
was a very mountainous area & the men walked around wearing animal
skins to keep warm! I stayed 2 days in Lincang, but didn't find
anything particularly interesting around there although the people were
very friendly & it was easy to find a cheap & very comfortable
place to stay. I was told there were 2 lao wai teachers living there
but I didn't meet them. Maybe they would know what there is to see in
the area. The
trip is very beautiful though pretty rough at times & worth doing
if you want to get off the track a bit." - londonroad, 2004-04-14
|152.50元 / 20 hours
"left jinhong at 12.30, from
long distance bus station. 152.50 yuan. got in at around 9 am to new
dali. take bus no. 4 from that bus station (right outside that bus
station) for 1 yuan, to outside south gate of old dali (18 km). easy
peasy. we had a brand new bus. very cool. approx 20 hours, but one of
the nicest long distance bus trips i've ever done..." -
"If you have time, stop off
in Ganlanba on your way from Jinghong to Mengla; nice area. Also, while
you're there, ask about access to the huge Mengla Forest Reserve that
the southern highway cuts alongside." - londonroad,
This city is fairly small, with only a couple of
banks and some hotels. It's main interest to travellers is as a
staging post for trips to Boten (the Lao border village) or, when
coming from Laos, getting a bus to Jinghong.
"Early morning bus from
Mengla gets you to border before noon (couple hr bus ride), cross the
border and get another bus. I made it from Mengla to Luang Prabang in a
day but there's lots to see and do in N Laos so don't hurry if you have
time." - jungmaria, 2004-04-04
"Mengla is not really worth
it, so spend time in Jinghong, take an early bus to Mengla and change
direct to a bus for the border, spend the night in Boten (the boarder
village), and cross early." - Nice_But__, 2004-04-05
- Crossing to Laos
According to the Lao
embassy, Bangkok, travellers can obtain visas for entry in to Laos
at the border. This has been confirmed by travellers.
See the Map
of Baoshan online at Yunnan
- Baoshan City (保山市)
Whilst Baoshan itself looked fairly boring out of the
bus-window, there are apparently some things to see outside the town.
It's pretty much a required transit point if are going up the Nujiang
canyon, and some travellers break land-journeys to Dehong here. Located
on the old silk-road, it's quite a historic area.
"Baoshan is worth a couple of hours to
wander up the Taibao Park (5RMB) and zoo and pool." - amtrakker,
"The area around Baoshan is
very interesting (try Pupiao's weekly market). Baoshan itself has
several markets & good places to stay if you look around &, as
ever, very friendly people." - londonroad, 2004-04-14
|160元 / 8 hours
"Getting a sleeper bus to Kunming
(told it's 8 hours) for 160RMB." - amtrakker, 2003/02
/ About 15 hours.
- Tengchong City (腾冲市)
Although this city used to be a bustling stop on the route
to Burma, the Burma road (built in the 1930s) took a more direct route
and bypassed it.
Binguan was clean, comfortable albeit
a bit noisy for 60RMB a night. Really enjoyed Tenchong and its
surrounding sights. The Volcano Park
(20RMB) could be combined with a
visit to Yunfeng Shan (also
20RMB) plus 50RMB for chairlift up and
Better to hitch a ride to Gudong from
the turnoff north of town rather
than wait for a couple of hours for a minibus at the new terminal on
ring road. Leifing Si and Dieshan waterfall were enjoyable
as was the visit to Heshun overseas
village. Still plenty of old wooden
houses and great to just to wander the markets. People very friendly,
particularly Li Bing of the Tenchong
Community Centre near the Cultural
Performance Centre. Really nice bloke and has a great map of the
and loads of info on what to see and do." - amtrakker, 2003/02
|41元 / 6 hours
"Buses for Ruili leave 6, 7, 8.30 and
10.20 and took 6 hours - road conditions good apart from one stretch
still being worked on." - amtrakker, 2003/02
See the Map
of Dehong online at Yunnan
- Ruili City (瑞丽市)
A den of prostitution, Burmese drug and gem trafficking,
karaoke and all around happening place. The city is largely nocturnal,
and the streets are often quite empty until midday or later. There are
some temples about town, as well as some big funky trees,
waterfalls, and Dai villages. The most popular attraction, a little out
of town, is the largely abandoned Dai construction called simply Golden
Pagoda (金塔). I visited Ruili with my family - we hired a taxis
rates to take us to far-flung sites, which proved to be quite
interesting. We went to Wanding and
back, many forests, villages, etc.
"Really liked Ruili, Limin Binguan was
comfortable and good value for 60RMB and old bike hire for 10RMB a day,
great way to visit Jiegao border zone as well as minority villages west
of the town." - amtrakker, 2003/02
|20元 / 1.5hrs
"Was told there were buses to Mangshi
at 7, 8 and 9 but only bus left at 9 when it got full. An easy ride of
1.5 hours for 20 RMB." - amtrakker, 2003/02
- Mangshi (芒市)
The airport for Dehong
is located here. It's fairly basic. Minibuses shuttle passengers from
outside the airport to various places in Dehong - we flew in from Kunming and took one
directly to Ruili, though some
people hang about for awhile.
"Mangshi was worth a day visiting the
many markets and temples/stupas around the area. The Mangshi Binguan
was as pleasant as described in LP for 60RMB a night. Could get a
to Kunming for 530RMB Mon to Fri. Chose bus to Baoshan (30RMB) and
magnificent views on RHS on good roads - took 4 hours." -
- Wanding (畹町)
Further east along the
border from Ruili, Wanding is
another crossing point to Myanmar. In the
old days, the Burma road passed through here. These days, it's a sleepy
backwater. The hill behind town has a large park, but it has become
overgrown. There's a few abandoned entertainment buildings in the
of the forest, and a large dam (unsuitable for swimming).
"Stayed at Ming Hua? hotel near the
bus station for 50RMB - not much to
do in Wanding, the State Forest park has been left for the jungle to
take it over and the zoo's no longer there. Pleasant Taoist temple on
the hillock with good views of Myanmar. Leaving Wanding is a bit
problematic, easier to return to Ruili and get bus to Mangshi from
These days Lincang is
little visited by tourists. Mostly it is used by those travelling
directly between Dali and Jinghong, or Jinghong and Dehong. See the Map
of Lincang online at Yunnan
- Yunxiang City (云县市)
A larger town in the northern part of Lincang. During
the the Yuan Dynasty in 1272 a
battle was fought here between the King of Burma and Bengal and one of
Kublai Khan's generals.
In the afternoon of January 21, we rode
down the mountain to the great Yung-chang (Yunxian) plain, and for two hours trotted over a
hard dirt road. The plain is eighteen miles long by six miles wide and
except for its scattered villages, is almost entirely devoted to paddy
fields. The city itself includes about five thousand houses. It is
exceedingly picturesque and is remarkable for its long, straight, and
fairly clean streets which contrast strongly with those of the usual
Chinese town. At the west, but still within the city walls, is a
picturesque wooded hill occupied almost exclusively by temples.
We ourselves camped
between two ponds in the courtyard of a large and exceptionally clean
temple just outside the south gate of the city.
Yung-chang (Yunxian) appears to be almost entirely inhabited
by Chinese and in no part of the province did we see foot-binding more
in evidence. Practically every woman and girl, young or old, regardless
of her station in life was crippled in this brutal way. The women wear
long full coats with flaring skirts which hang straight from their
shoulders to their knees. When the trousers are tightly wrapped about
their shrunken ankles, they look in a side view exactly like huge
One day we visited a cave thirty li north of the city where we hoped to
find new bats. A beautiful little temple has been built over the
entrance to the cavern which does not extend more than forty or fifty
feet into the rock. But twenty li south of Yung-chang (Yunxian), just beyond the village of A-shih-wo,
there is an enormous cave which is reported to extend entirely through
the hill. Whether or not this is true we can not say for although we
explored it in part we did not reach the end. The central corridor is
about thirty feet wide and at least sixty or seventy high. We followed
the main gallery for a long distance, and turned back at a branch which
led off at a sharp angle. We were not equipped with sufficient candles
to pursue the exploration more extensively and did not have time to
visit it again. The cave contained some beautiful stalactites of
considerable size, but the limestone was a dull lead color. We found
only one bat and these animals appear not to have used it extensively
since there was little sign upon the floor.
At Yuang-chang (Yunxian) we saw water buffaloes for the first time
in Yün-nan but found them to be in universal use farther to the south
and west. The huge brutes are as docile as a kitten in the hands of the
smallest native child but they do not like foreigners and discretion is
the better part of valor where they are concerned.
Water buffaloes are only employed for work in the rice fields but
Chinese cows are used as burden bearers in this part of the province.
Such caravans travel much more slowly than do mule trains although the
animals are not loaded as heavily. Two or three of the leading cows
usually carry upon their backs large bells hung in wooden frameworks
and the music is by no means unmelodious when heard at a distance.
- Roy Champan Andrews, Camps
and Trails in China, 1916-1917.
Entry from Laos
When entering China from Laos, you arrive via the Boten border point. From
there, catch a bus up to the nearest town, Mengla. From Mengla,
most travellers head straight to Jinghong
or Kunming. There are
other border points, but they are not open to foreigners.
Chinese visas can be obtained from the Chinese Consulate at 40C Tran Phu, Hanoi. It's open
8:30-11AM, so arrive
before 10:30. It takes 3
working days, though you can get it same day if you are willing to pay.
You will need a couple of passport photos when applying and US$20 when
up. You must pay in USD - they will not accept RMB or Dong. The
visa is valid for entry to China within the next three months. After
entry you will have 30 days unless you have requested longer. You will
also receive a single entry visa unless you request (and pay) for more.
Crossing to Laos
Get a bus to Mengla from Jinghong, then change buses to the
Boten border point.
Visas can be obtained on arrival at the border. There are no other
border points open
There have been various reports regarding the possibility of
crossing here. Generally, it's considered illegal to cross by
land, meaning that flights from Kunming are the main option. I
personally saw a European cross from Burma back in to China with
a local, without a bag. It may be possible to take short day
trips across the border, though this is probably illegal. Many
Burmese illegally cross the border daily. It is easy for Chinese
to apply for a permit to cross, and many traders cross throughout the
day. If you do somehow manage to cross, there's a good
map online of Shan State that might be worth looking at.
Crossing to Vietnam
You can cross to Vietnam from Hekou.
Visas are not available at the border, and must be obtained from the
Vietnamese consulate in the Camellia
Hotel, Kunming. There is a railroad which runs from Kunming to Hekou and onward to Hanoi.
The following excerpt is from Camps
and Trails in China by Roy Champan Andrews of
the Asiatic Zoölogical Expedition of the American Museum of Natural
time before our arrival a tunnel on the railroad from Hanoi to Yün-nan
had caved in and for
almost a month trains had not been running. It
was now in operation, however, but all luggage had to be transferred by
hand at the broken tunnel and consequently must not exceed eighty-five
pounds in weight. This meant repacking our entire equipment and three
days of hard work. M. Dupontés arranged to have our 4000 pounds of
baggage put in a special third class carriage with our "boys" in
attendance and in this way saved the expedition a considerable amount
of money. He personally went with us to the station to arrange for our
comfort with the chef de gare, telegraphed ahead at every station upon
the railroad, and gave us an open letter to all officials; in fact
there was nothing which he left undone.
The railroad is a remarkable
engineering achievement for it was constructed in great haste through a
difficult mountainous range. Yün-nan is an exceedingly rich province
and the French were quick to see the advantages of drawing its vast
trade to their own seaports. The British were already making surveys to
construct a railroad from Bhamo on the headwaters of the Irawadi River
across Yün-nan to connect with the Yangtze, and the French were anxious
to have their road in operation some time before the rival line could
Owing to its hasty
construction and the heavy rainfall, or perhaps to both, the tunnels
and bridges frequently cave in or are washed away and the railroad is
chiefly remarkable for the number of days in the year in which it does
not operate; nevertheless the French deserve great credit for their
enterprise in extending their line to Yün-nan Fu (Kunming) over the mountains
where there is a tunnel or bridge almost every mile of the way. While
it was being built through the fever-stricken jungles of Tonking the
coolies died like flies, and it was necessary to suspend all work
during the summer months.
The scenery along the railroad
is marvelous and the traveling is by no means uncomfortable, but the
hotels in which one stops at night are wretched."
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