gallery YUNNAN XISHUANGBANNA | Is it really China?

In Thailand, but not quite …this was the feeling Xishuangbanna gave me when I first stepped into this lush tropical region in China. Located in southern Yunnan, Xishuangbanna is unique in landscape – its lush, tropical rainforest contrasts sharply with the alpine meadows and snow-capped mountains in northern Yunnan. Besides the rainforests, Xishuangbanna is also well-known for its exotic plants, Pu-er tea, delicious tropical fruits and most of all, its colorful ethnic minority people.

Most visitors’ first contact with Xishuangbanna is its provincial capital, Jinghong. Bordering Myanmar, Thailand and Laos, Jinghong is an important gateway city for trade with other Southeast Asian cities. It is a typical Chinese city and there is not much to see and do here. However, it is a good place to base yourself as day trips to the many surrounding countryside can be taken from here. Better accommodation can also be found in Jinghong.

Many well-known highlights near Jinghong include Menghai for its Pu-er tea plantations, Menglun for its famous botanical gardens (arguably one of the richest and best on the world) and Damenlong for its Buddhist pagodas.

But the highlight of my trip was visiting the many ethnic minority villages. Xishuangbanna is home to a cultural mix of almost one million people – Dai, Han, Hani, Bulang being the larger ethnic groups. Each group has their own customs which makes Xishuangbanna a very colorful and fascinating destination to visit.

Our trip coincided with the annual water-splashing festival or New Year’s Day of the Dai Minority people. Held in mid-April, the festival’s purpose is to wash away the bad luck of the old year and welcome the new. It lasts a few days and like all festivals, it was a visual treat. Parades, fairs, song, dance and boat races are held during the first few days. It culminates in crazed water splashing on the final day and everyone, tourists included, are welcomed to take part. It was all very good fun as well as a photographer’s delight (but do watch the water on your cameras!)

The best part of my visit to Xishuangbanna was that with a little more organization and effort, we could visit many villages that were not on the standard tourist route. Being in Xishuangbanna did not feel like being in China. The locals were dressed in long skirts like the Thai, had the complexion of the Burmese and the grace and gentleness of the Laotians. Agriculture is still the main livelihood and most live in wooden huts with thatched roofs. We spent time exploring the villages on our own and interacting with the locals. What truly captured my attention was the simplicity of life, the friendly, warm smiles on the faces of the locals and their sincerity.

Would I visit Xishuangbanna again? The answer is a definite yes. Not so much for the purpose of escaping the hustle and bustle of Shanghai. Rather, it is for the simple reason of getting back to basics and learning again how to enjoy the simple things in life.

TRAVEL TIPS
• Weather – Xishuangbanna has a mild climate year-round and can be visited anytime. It has two seasons: wet and dry. The wet season coincides with the summer months of June to August, where heavy rain can be expected almost daily. But summer is also the time where you can enjoy eating many delicious tropical fruits. The dry season lasts from November to April and is the best time to visit with cooler temperatures. Many festivals are also held in Spring (Mar-Apr)
• Accommodation – Unless you are game for a rustic experience with the locals, it is best to stay in Jinghong as hotels of a reasonable standard can be found here. However, hotels are basic at best, so do lower your expectations.
• Packing Essentials – Sunscreen, lots of water, insect repellant and your camera!
• Tongue-twisters – In Dai language, ‘Xishuang’ means twelve; ‘Banna’ means a thousand pieces of land. ‘Xishuangbanna’ therefore means twelve thousand pieces of land. How then does one remember such a tongue-twister of a name? Well, think of ‘Twelve Bananas’ ie. Xishuang+Banna. No offence to this lovely area or its people, but this sure helped me!

Written By: Sharon Heng
Trip organized by Country Holidays.
To learn more about tours and packages, please email enquiries@countryholidays.com.cn or call (021) 3222-0616 and log onto: www.countryholidays.com.cn.

云南西双版纳——这真的是在中国吗?
作者:Sharon Heng

在泰国,但是又不太像……但是当我第一次踏足这片草木茂盛的热带地区——中国西双版纳时,我的感觉就是这样的。西双版纳位于云南南部,风景独特——郁郁葱葱的热带雨林与云南北部的高寒草甸和皑皑雪山形成鲜明的对比。除了热带雨林外,西双版纳也因其奇花异草、普洱茶、可口的热带水果以及最特别的是,其丰富的少数民族而出名。

大部分游客首次接触西双版纳傣族自治州的首府景洪市。景洪市与缅甸、泰国和老挝接壤,是与其他东南亚城市贸易的重要门户城市。这是一个典型的中式城市,没有太多可看的风景,也没有太多可做的事情。但是,这里是你作为出行据点的好地方,因为你每日前往其他周边乡村地区都可以从这里启程。在景洪市,你也可以找到较好的住宿地方。

景洪市附近的许多知名景点包括因普洱茶种植园而闻名的勐海、因植物园而知名的勐仑(可以说是世界上品种最丰富、最好的植物园之一)以及因其佛教宝塔而著名的大勐龙。

但是我旅途最精彩的部分莫过于参观少数民族村落了。西双版纳是近一百万人的文化混合体之乡——傣族、汉族、哈尼族、布朗族是较大的民族。每一个民族都有其各自的风俗习惯,这使得西双版纳成为了一个丰富多彩、引人入胜的旅行目的地。

我们的旅行正好赶上了一年一度的泼水节或者说是傣族人民的新年。这个节日在四月中旬举行,其目的在于洗掉过去一年的坏运气,来迎接新的一年。这个节日持续数天,就像所有节日一样,它是一次视觉盛宴。前面数天举行盛装游行、集会、歌舞表演和赛船。最后一天疯狂的泼水活动则达到高潮,欢迎包括游客在内的所有人参加。这个节日十分有趣,同时也是摄影师的乐事(但是要注意你的相机可不能被水泼到哦)。

对我来说,西双版纳的最精彩的部分在于只要我们多一点规划组织就可以游遍非标准旅游线上的许多村落。在西双版纳的感觉并不像是在中国。当地居民身穿像泰国一样的长裙,有着缅甸人的肤色和老挝人的优雅温和。当地居民仍然以农业为生,且大部分居民居住在茅草屋顶的木制小屋中。我们把时间花在自行探索村庄和与当地人互动交流之中。真正吸引我的是这里简单的生活、当地人洋溢着的热情友好的笑容以及他们的真诚。

我下次还会再来西双版纳吗?答案是肯定的。目的不单单是逃离上海的纷扰喧嚣,而仅仅是为了返璞归真,再一次学习如何享受生命中的简单小事。

旅行贴士
• 天气——西双版纳全年气候温和,可随时至此旅游。它有两种季节:雨季和旱季。雨季与六月至八月的夏季月份相吻合,这期间几乎每天都会有大雨。但是在夏季,你能吃到许多美味的热带水果。旱季则从十一月持续至来年四月,气温凉爽,也是旅游的最佳时间。许多节日也在春季举行(3月至4月)。
• 住宿——如果您不愿意体验当地的乡间风味的话,那最好还是住在景洪市吧,因为那里有标准的酒店。但是,最好的酒店也是基础酒店,所以要降低你的期望哦。
• 必备行李——太阳镜、水(大量)、驱虫剂和您的相机!
• 绕口令——在傣语中,“西双”意为十二,“版纳”意为一千片土地。因此,“西双版纳”意为一万两千片土地。大家怎么来记住这么一个关于名字的绕口令呢?那么,想一下“十二个香蕉”,那就是西双+版纳。无意冒犯这个可爱的地方和当地人民,但这样做确实帮助我记住了这个地方!

作者:Sharon Heng
由Country Holidays组织的旅行
请发送邮件至enquiries@countryholidays.com.cn,致电(021) 3222-0616或登陆www.countryholidays.com.cn了解更多关于旅行和报价旅游的信息。

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