A month in Southern Yunnan - advice
Replies: 23 - Last Post: Oct 24, 2012 2:53 AM Last Post By: yaktraveller
Oct 5, 2012 7:21 AM
A month in Southern Yunnan - adviceHi!
I'll be traveling to Yunnan next year in March / April and I'm currently looking at what to do. So far, this is what I came up with:
D1: Arrival in Kunming late at night
D2: Kunming - night bus to Funing (in Wenshan county)
D4&5: Bamei & market in Guangnan - night bus back to Kunming
D6: Kunming - night bus to Dali
D7-9: Dali, Erhai... - night bus to Fugong
D10-14: Bingzhongluo + Dulongjiang - bus to Liuku (from Gongshan or Fugong)
D15&16: Tengchong - Bus to Santaishan near Mangshi
D17: Flower picking festival in Santaishan
D18: Poking around - flight in the evening to Kunming
D19-21: ??? (need to end up in Ximeng)
D22: Ximeng, wooden drum carrying festival
D23: Menglian, Holy fish day
D25-27: Menglian, watersplashing festival - Need to be back to Jinghong the last evening
D28: Bus to Jiangcheng
D29&30: Rice terraces - bus to Jianshui
D31: Jianshui - Bus to Kunming in the afternoon/evening
D32: Kunming - flight home in the afternoon.
This already quite a lot, and I don't have much time in Kunming (only some time "in-between"), plus I've heard of other places that seem quite interesting. There are still a few days left open and the itinerary can be modified, so I'm looking for suggestions.
A few (a lot of) questions first:
1) Is Kunming worth spending more time in, knowing that I'm not really into crowded modern cities (I know, this is China, but still...)? The places I wanted to see appear to have been destroyed in 2006 (Muslim street, old town...)
2) I've heard about Puzhehei and a lake and a park in / near Wenshan. Are they worth 1 or 2 additional days in Wenshan county? They would need to be quite amazing to be memorable given the rest of the trip.
3) Shilin: overcrowded, overpriced touristic trap or really extraordinary scenary worth the detour? I've heard both so far... There seem to be some Karst peaks in Babao, do they compare?
4) Are Babao and Bamei still nice to visit or have they too turn into resorts for Chinese tourists?
5) Dulong jiang: will the road be fixed by the time I get there or will it still be closed to foreigners?
6) Bingzhongluo: Should I go to Bingzhongluo or rather spend more time going down the Nujiang (i.e. leaving a day earlier and stopping in a village along the way)?
7) Buses: Do they still run during local festivals? Is there some kind of official website (Chinese is fine) to check the departure times?
8) Any input on the festivals I plan to attend? A better location? Some custom to bear in mind? Any comment?
9) Watersplashing festival: I read the watersplashing actually only occured during the second day, what about the first and the third day? Should I attend these too?
10) Samaba/Baohua rice terraces: some people seem to recommend heading there instead of Yuanyang, any comment? Is it possible to get there from Lüchun (a small road seems to go there through the terraces for about 80km, maybe it is possible to hire a driver)?
11) Bamei: I read that women should not cross the cave alone. Will I be able to join some people easily? Or is there nothing to worry about?
12) Xishuangbanna: Jinuo shan, Bulang shan, Damenglong, Menglun's botanical parc... Any recommandation?
13) Tea: I love tea, drink it all the time (actually got the habit during a previous stay in China)... Which local tea should I absolutely try, beside Pu'er?
14) Food: Any specialty you'd recommend?
15) Book: Do you know a good guide about Yunnan specifically? There aren't any available in France so I need to order from the internet... Book suggestions on minorities, customs... are also welcomed.
16) Anything else? I'm sure I'll come up with something later ^^
Oct 5, 2012 7:31 AM
1Oh, by the way, you'll probably have noticed that I'm not going anywhere near Lijiang / Xianggelila. This is on purpose as I'll get there on the next trip I have in mind (along with Sichuan). Beside, I feared some trouble due to the local Tibetan celebrations...
There it is! I knew I had forgotten something! Should I expect any trouble (closed areas) in Bingzhongluo / Dulong Jiang due to the March' Tibetan celebrations? Will the Tibetans be back home at the time I get there (March, 29th - April, 2nd)?
Thanks for any help / advice you can give me!
Oct 5, 2012 7:10 PM
2It is quite a lot. I would give a miss to Puzhahei and definitely avoid staying in Kunming. Nothing interesting left there and you can reach Xishuangbanna directly from Dali or Manshi. Check the Xishuangbanna forum entry for an itinerary by a Czech traveller-blogger who visited last Spring. Buses run at any time, planes too but can get expensive around holidays. Shilin is in my view worth a visit.
Oct 5, 2012 8:31 PM
Oct 5, 2012 11:27 PM
4Thanks for the quick replies!
I'll still have some time in Kunming, about 2 1/2 ~ 3 days, but only one night at the end of the trip... And the first day will probably be spent buying some much needed stuff: a local cellphone, maps, checking timetables again... Well, I guess I can do the last part from a cafe or sitting by the lake ^^. I was more asking about the things to see that are close to Kunming, but not inside the city proper, or that take a long time to see (Dianchi lake for example).
#1: Yes, I saw this post and even in my 2008 China guide (which has a very small chapter on Yunnan) they say Jingrong is a boring town with nothing to see and Galanba is like Disney land: worth a trip if you are very short on time and can't see a real water splashing festival but not otherwise. I'm hoping to reach some more remote place, trekking or cycling, I don't know yet. Even if they have electricity now, I hope to catch sight of a more traditional lifestyle or at least find people with real cultural knowledge...
#3: I tried to check for flights from Mangshi to Jingrong and came up blank. Did I miss something? The two planes I mentioned are in my budget (I'm not on a tight budget, not really, I just like to travel "local", meaning cheap most of the time). I looked for buses first, but from what I understand, the bus from Ruili takes 26 hours to get to Jingrong, starting early morning. Unless the sight is spectacular, I'm not sure I'm up to it. I've never taken a bus trip longer than 12 hours (night buses) and even that was... long. I checked the "checi" website for available buses, but I think it is missing a few connections and not all departure stations are available...
I have not planed to go to Luoping so far...Perhaps it could be done just after Bamei. There doesn"t seem to be a bus running directly from Guangnan to Luoping but there are from Xilin. I think I read somewhere that it was possible to enter/exit Bamei on both end but I'll have to check again. There is a bus running between Guangnan and Xilin anyway, which probably goes through Badaxiang (north of Bamei) so I should be able to catch it which ever way I exit. Is end of March the time when the flowers are blooming there, making it look golden like in the pictures? Won't it be swarming with tourists?
Maybe it is possible to stop in Shilin after Luoping and before reaching Kunming? Would you recommend trying to spend the night in Shilin? I hear it's quite beautiful (and more peaceful) then because they lit up the park making it look more magical...
Thanks again for your help!
Oct 6, 2012 3:23 AM
5One place worth seeing around Kunming if you have not yet been ther is Xishan-Longmen. Around the Dianchi: there is now a motorway running on the west side of the lake with good views. Near Jinning you can get uphill to Panglong Si for good views. Also Qionzhu Si is by some held as interesting for the sculptures of the 500 Arhat.
- Banna. Yes first get a local bus to Menghai and then onwards. And then back and another to Damenglong.
#You are right there is no flight from Mangshi to Jinghong but there are from Dali and Tengchong. You may consider a diversion to either, BTW Tengchong is now conveniently linked to Mangshi and is quite interesting itself.
#I suppose no problem with buses to Luoping from Xilin and Guangnan, but do check if you can. End of March may be the right time but please check if it is not too late. Defintly it would be convenient to take a train from Luoping to Shilin, just about 2 hours. Every train stops at both places. It is advisable to spend the night at Shilin and visit with some ease. But the hotel may be rather expensive.
Oct 6, 2012 5:30 AM
6I found a flight by Lucky Air between Tengchong and Jinghong at a suitable time (evening) but... I can't seem to locate Tengchong's airport! It's not showing in Google maps and all wikipedia provided was a name of a village (Tuofeng) which doesn't show up either...
The coordinate provided (24°59′29″N 98°29′45″E) are those of Tengchong while the airport is supposed to be some 12 km away...
Oct 6, 2012 7:32 AM
Oct 6, 2012 3:43 PM
8I do not know exactly when the rapeseed fields bloom, and nature isn't always so punctual. If I were there that time of year, it would be a priority for me, but I guess not for everyone. The idea of swarming crowds (like at Jiuzhaigou in the summer), seems a bit alarmist for such a remote and mostly unheralded place, but I suppose it's a possibility.
Oct 6, 2012 8:21 PM
9"13) Tea: I love tea, drink it all the time (actually got the habit during a previous stay in China)... Which local tea should I absolutely try, beside Pu'er?"
Try Dianhong tea. It is locally and regionally famous, though not heavily exported to the west as such (some is exported for blending.) This is a red tea (would be called a "black tea" in the west.) One of Yunnan's best brews. Comes from the south of the province in the same areas which produce Pu'er, except it grows on tea bushes instead of tea trees.
In Chinese it's 滇红茶. The year's best is picked before Qingming Jie (Tomb Sweeping Festival.) That's April 5th next year (2013) so your timing is right. Tea sellers will usually designate it as 清明前, (sometimes abbreviated to 请前, both mean "before Qingming"） so you can ask about it when you are here. Much more aromatic than Fall or Winter harvest.
Medium grades are inexpensive, meaning you can buy a big bag of it, about 100 grams, for 20 or 25 Yuan. Higher grades cost more, but none are astronomical. Quality is partly determined by configuration of the picked part. Look for tea that is one or two small leaves plus one terminal bud.
You should expect to comparison taste if free of charge in the teashop before buying. That's standard procedure here. The ultimate test of course is how it tastes to you, not how it looks. I drink it a lot.
Oct 7, 2012 2:23 AM
10#cauaiu: You're right, it's not exactly a problem, only if no one can find the airport ^^. I believe I'll have to book in advance though because seats might be hard to get, this close to the water splashing festival...
#shelemm: I'll try to fit it into the trip then, and see when I get there... It's hard to know how crowded a place will be in China as things change quickly: I went to the great wall at the Mujianyu site in july 2006 and honestly, it was almost empty. A year later, it was almost as bad as Badaling...
#bai3feng1: Thanks for the tip! I'll definitely try it! And it might make a perfect present as I converted most of my family and friends to drinking tea: tasty, light-weighted and inexpensive ^^. I might not be able to see the harvest though as the Flower picking festival in Santaishan falls the same day as the Tomb sweeping festival (I tried to avoid it, I'd really feel like an intruder then).
Oct 7, 2012 2:47 AM
11#11 -- Tea harvesting goes on all year round, it's just that sometimes the leaves have more flavor. The Pre-Qingming Jie tea picking goes on over the course of several weeks. It's not a special event that needs to be seen.
All of which just means that mid April is a good time to buy. Generally speaking, better than a month earlier.
Oct 7, 2012 3:05 AM
12Thanks Bai3feng1, that's nice to know. I can't even recall which types of tea I drank in Beijing, jasmine for sure but which type? As for others, I have absolutely no idea. In Paris, I mostly buy Indian or Russian teas (easier to find and cheaper). Though I managed to get some "white Pu'er" (not sure how genuine it was, but it tasted great) in Spain last week.
Oct 7, 2012 3:16 AM
13Probably best to stay away from jasmine down here (Yunnan.) Easy to get a sub-par product if you don't know your source. The better jasmine teas are made by a labor intensive process (involving the layering of tea leaves and flowers while curing. That way the flavors can blend.)
Some tea merchants rush the process and try to mask or cover inferior green tea with the overly strong flavor of the flowers. They just mix the flowers and the tea leaves together after processing each component separately. The result is not balanced.
Easy to get "burned" with bad jasmine tea in Yunnan (maybe elsewhere in China as well.)
Oct 7, 2012 10:02 PM
14If you like green tea you may buy good quality bilu chun. There used to be a big market in front of Shuanglong Shanchang (ie behind Kunhu Fandian on Beijing Lu) but it looks to have disappeared...
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