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rkkwan's 6-day trip to Yunnan Province, China

rkkwan's 6-day trip to Yunnan Province, China

Nov 25th, 2006, 07:48 AM
  #21  
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thursdaysd - The area I went to (i.e. Lincang) have so little tourists that it's quite hard to get around with a car and driver. But if you want to visit the minority groups but don't want the commercial tourism of Dali, Lijiang and Shangri-La, you should consider going to Xishuangbanna in the SSW corner of Yunnan. There are flights from Kunming to Jinhong, its regional capital. Tourism is more developed there.
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Nov 25th, 2006, 07:54 AM
  #22  
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BTW, thursdaysd - are you the "thursday" who've been posting on Flyertalk?
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Nov 25th, 2006, 09:11 AM
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Hi rkkwan - no, different thursday altogether. I haven't spent time on flyertalk, although I (very) occasionally post on LP's thorntree. I did find Lijiang very touristy, although mostly Chinese tour groups. So much so, the second day I took the bus out to Dazu, at the far end of Tiger Leaping Gorge - after seven months traveling I didn't feel up to hiking it alone. The southern side of Kunming - Tonghai, Jianshui, Gejiu - seemed much less visited.
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Nov 25th, 2006, 01:56 PM
  #24  
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thursdaysd - Let me clarify one thing about public transportation. There are good coach service between Kunming and all of the county seats, with one exception. I see those beautifully looking sleeper coaches (it's a 10+ hour ride) on the highway all the time for Lincang, Yunxian, Kengma, etc. But the problem is what you do once you get there. I don't remember seeing any local bus in those areas. A taxi or two at Lincang perhaps. At some towns, the public transportation is a three-wheeled motorcycles, not unlike Bangkok some years ago. But you can't go to the villages or attractions outside of town on those.

And there are so few people going to/from Cangyuan that I don't remember seeing any coach on the one-and-only highway going to it from Kengma.

---

So after visiting the three students sponsored by Sowers Action, it's time for dinner, which is actually the "Wa King's Feast". We went to one of the Wa village still outside of the Cangyuan town, and at the very far end of the village is a little "countryclub". Which is basically one large bamboo/grass-straw hut that can fit 50-60 people under.

Inside was a long table about two feet off the ground, and we sat on little stools. Large banana leaves were the tablecloth and dishes all in one. Food is pretty simple - rice and sticky rice, roast chicken, roast pork and whole roast fish. Also some soup and picked vegetables and side dishes. While chopsticks and bowls were provided, the main courses would be eaten with hand.

The food was quite delicious, but soon after we started, we were interrupted non-stop by two guys, one girl (all in the twenties), as well the school teacher who've accompanied us all afternoon for traditional Wa drinking songs. They all wear traditional clothings, of course. And lots of the "water wine", plus a rice-liquor. And while they were singing to and drinking with others, the various local officials would come to drink with us too.

It was extremely festive and fun, and perhaps because I was the youngest one in our group from Hong Kong, and single; and perhaps I was most receptive of all to the alcohol, it seems like I was getting the most attention. Even Chen, the Yunnan worker for Sowers, wasn't supposed to drink while at work, and couldn't really drink, got a lot of "attention" too, from the two young Wa guys. All of them really have great singing voices.

Can't remember what time we finished dinner, but when we got out the moon was very very beautiful. [It was a few days before full moon.] The air is super super clean here, unlike Hong Kong; and there's virtually no light pollution. None of the other village houses show any bright light from them at all. Another incredible experience.

It was about a 20-minute ride to get to our hotel in Cangyuan. The singer girl at our banquet hitched a ride the VW Santana I was riding, and she was explaining to others that all three of them were actually a part-time teachers in Cangyuan. They also got to travel to other parts of China to promote Wa culture.

We checked into Washan Guesthouse, a new hotel that's one of only three hotels in all of Cangyuan county (not just the town) with a star rating. It's actually not bad, with decent-sized room; but it has three major problems. One is that they usually leave the lights off in the hallway, so the whole place was dark; while the only light switches in the room are between the beds. So, imagine the problem getting into our room at night. Second, the shower was a cocoon-like thing with many buttons and switches. I guess it was supposed to be really fancy, but it made taking a simple shower the work of a PhD. I'll talk about the third problem later.

It was still kind of early, and after having so much fun the light before at the KTV, our guide (the Communist Youth League official) brought us to a foot massage parlor just around the corner from our hotel.

(to be continued...)
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Nov 25th, 2006, 03:39 PM
  #25  
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7 of us walked into the foot massage parlor. We were split into two groups with the two drivers on their own, 5 of us in another (me, Mr. Yeung from Sowers Hong Kong, the Communist Youth League official, the deputy minister of education for all of Lincang, and the Kunming Daily reporter) to a room upstairs. Foot massage has become the latest fad in all of Asia, as place to relax and socialize; like snooker and karaoke before it. But it was the first time I did it.

Anyways, the place was empty when we walked in, and I wondered if and how they'd get 7 masseurs; but incredibly, after just waiting for about 5 minutes, 5 girls showed up. I then realized that it's a small town, and they could come right away from home or wherever!

Cost is 50RMB for 90 minutes. The first 30 minutes or so, the girl put my feet in a bucket of hot Chinese or Tibetan herbal medicine while she massaged my arm and neck. Then she cleaned off the feet and massaged those for about 50 minutes, and for the final ten, I turned around and she did my back. It was so comfortable that I almost fell asleep. [Also because everybody was chatting in Mandarin and I had a hard time following the conversations.]

About that 50RMB. That's about the same price you paid elsewhere in China, but that's a lot of money in a place like Cangyuan when a farmer earned just over 400RMB a year. I don't know how much the girls actually made out of the 50RMB, but it was definitely better and easier job than farming the fields. But none of those girls were Wa people. Instead, they were Dai (Thai) group who came elsewhere to work at the town. Apparently, the Wa people weren't interested in this form of work, even if that could earn them hard cash from visitors.

Very relaxed, I returned to the hotel to found out the 3rd problem. Well, there were perhaps a few KTVs in town, but because our hotel was basically the only place where businessmen/tourists would stay, they were right beside us, with loud music blaring. The windows weren't well sealed, and the music was very audible. But I was so tired from all the day's activities - I mean, it took me 3 days to describe that 16 hours! - that I had no problem falling asleep at all...
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Nov 26th, 2006, 06:37 AM
  #26  
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Day 4. Saturday, 11/4/06

A. Cangyuan

This was the day of the main event for our trip, the dedication ceremony of a middle school (Grade 7-12) in Cangyuan. We had a basic breakfast at a restaurant not far from hotel, and then it's a 2-minute drive to the school on the east side of the valley via a new road.

Like at Yunxian 2 days ago, kids from the whole school lined up along the two sides of the path. No drums and cymbals here in Wa territory, but they were chanting "Thank you, thank you for life" the whole way. Some of the girls were wearing traditional Wa dresses, but most in regular daily clothes. Some boys also wore the traditional sleeveless vest, but because it was a cool morning, they wore it over their daily clothes.

While we waited for the kids to get seated, we visited their classrooms in the new building. It's a 3-floor structure with 6 rooms on each floor. Probably have 2 classes for each grade, and then 6 rooms left for teachers, labs, library, etc. Again, the bathrooms were in a seperate building, and it was huge and clean.

Traditional bamboo-built huts of the Wa people have a "X" on top, with the main bamboos sticking out. These days, when they build new concrete houses, they all retain that "X" as a tradition. Our hotel has it, and so is this new school building. The structure looks simple, but decent. I believe the total cost was about 1 million RMB, or about US$130K.

The ceremony was the same as last time, with various officials speaking, then my mom, and then Mr. Yeung from Sowers Action. Finally, my dad and the major of Cangyuan unveiled the plaque. Over in 45 minutes. Right after, the kids carried the benches they were sitting on back to the classrooms. Only then I remembered there were no chairs or anything when we looked at the classrooms prior. And even though it was a Saturday, they continued to have classes.

For the next 30 minutes, about 40 or so kids, mostly older Grade 11-12 ones, stayed behind to chat with all of us, in groups. Since my Mandarin was so poor, I mainly eavesdropped on their conversations, and with them all sitting and standing still, I took lots of pictures of the faces, their clothings and the silver ornaments. They were sitting ducks!

Then we toured the old school buildings. The better-condition ones are now dorm buildings for the kids and the teachers, and the poorest ones - some were just bamboo huts with straw grass roof - were abandoned or torn down. Like other dorms we'd seen, they were are bunkbeds, and perhaps 3 kids would share two beds.

Most of the kids need boarding because they came from villages all over the county to attend middleschool here. [I don't know exactly how many middleschools they have in the whole county, but can't be that many.] Same with the teachers.

While I was walking around the old campus, I was accompanied by a maths teacher. He is actually from Shanghai, being sent (or maybe he volunteered, I don't know) to Cangyuan, as they seriously lacked maths, science and English teacher here. At the same time, some of the local teachers were sent to a Shanghai middleschool as exchange to improve their skills. He told me that he was really shocked when he first came to Cangyuan over a year ago to see the conditions here at that time, before they have the new building.

In fact, the previous principal of the school was also from Shanghai. It was him who really pushed hard to get funding to improve the conditions, and finally got the Communist Youth League to get donations from Hong Kong to help them out. Mr. Yeung had met this principal (who'd returned to Shanghai after his two-year tenure) many times during the funding/construction process, and really admired his resolve to help the kids in Cangyuan.
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Nov 26th, 2006, 07:29 AM
  #27  
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It was almost time for lunch, and we said goodbye to the teachers and students at the highschool. We drove by a new stadium in town, where Cangyuan held its annual Carnival. Turned out this was not a very old tradition, and only started a few years back to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the formation of the Cangyuan Wa Autonomous County, and to try get some tourists to come here. It's held in the spring time, and everybody there kept telling me to come back in May 2007 for it. No one actually told me what actually happens AT the festival.

So, only after I got home and did some research before I realized the main activity at the Carnival is something called "Touch You Black", where everybody went into a big field of special mud and then tried hard to make everybody else black! Hm... Okay... Anyways, it is indeed a Wa tradition to put mud on someone to drive away illness, etc; but the current festival sounds too much like mud wrestling to me.

We had lunch at a small resort area underneath the reservoir's main dam, a mile or two outside of town. We were only 2 miles from the Burmese border, which is at the hills behind the reservoir. The road distance is close to 4 miles because it's a small winding road. It's mostly local Wa villagers who cross the border, and it's not a major trade or commerce route.

All the ladies in our visiting group were presented with a cotton bag to wear across the shoulders - Wa people always wear it, even when they're dancing and drinking. And each of us also got a wood carving of an ox's head, which is the symbol of the Wa people and they were handmade by students at the highschool. I've been wearing mine often since.

Lunch was again filled with songs and drinks. Instead of the weak "water wine", I drank mostly "Nanlajiu", the local liquor. It's very smooth and while I could feel the alcohol, it didn't give me any headache. Couldn't remember how much I drank, but definitely quite a bit.

Finally, it was time to leave this amazing place, Cangyuan for the 4.5 hour drive back to Lincang. And the local officials gave each of us a gift box of their most famous export - beef jerky. [I had some later in Hong Kong, and it's really good. I like it a lot better than the Texas ones, being more moist and just as flavorful.]
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Nov 26th, 2006, 08:05 AM
  #28  
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4B. Lincang

I slept during most of the 4.5 hour ride back to Lincang, as it was the same route we came down. Also chatted a little with Chen, and I showed her some of my electronic gadgets I had, also pictures I had taken earlier in Hong Kong.

About an hour before Lincang, we stopped, and Mr. Yeung and Chen had to leave us for a few hours to visit school officials in another county. Those people had sent a car out to the main intersection to pick them up.

So, we got to Lincang, checked into a different hotel, also very nice 3* facility. We switched from the earlier one because the rooms at the Wasai were too smokey. This one has a funny name "L. Road Grand Hotel".

For dinner, we went to a new hot pot restaurant in the brand-new residential complex the Communist Youth League guy lived in. First about the apartments - he told us that his 1,000 sq feet unit it cost him about 180K RMB (~$25K), equipped. Still expensive even if you're a high government official. His salary is about 1,400RMB (US$200) a month. But he's doing very very well, as he belongs to the Yi minority group and his parents are farmers. So, it's not like he has a "good background" as kids of People Liberation Army or Communist Party officials.

Now, about the restaurant. First, it had lots of beautiful young girls as hostesses, who basically just stood around all night. They probably earn 400-500RMB a month. [Remember that's how much a farmer earns in a year.]

As for the food, it's a hotpot all-you-can-eat restaurant with a twist. The soup is made with "sour ants", which supposedly have medicinal purpose, is good for you, etc... But if you didn't tell me anything about it, I wouldn't know.

For us curious visitors, however, they brought us a dish of the ants they used to make the soup with. I tried a couple, and they were indeed sour. They told us that these ants live in trees, and don't come down to the ground. But the soft texture of them grossed me out a little.

A little later, they brought another dish of ants - this time they were stir-fried with various spices. Pretty crunchy, this dish tasted pretty good.

For the hotpot, there were various meat and vegetables. The soup was actually pretty good.

With the entourage disappeared, there were only 9 of us for dinner including the two drivers, and the bill was 240RMB ($31). Money goes very far in this part of the world.

We had an early flight the next morning back to Kunming, so we went to bed once we found that Mr. Yeung and Chen had arrived safely back from their other visit.
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Nov 26th, 2006, 08:53 AM
  #29  
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Day 5. Sunday 11/5/06

Kunming, Yiliang, Jiuxiang

We arrived at the airport at 8:30a for our 9:30a flight back to Kunming. Said goodbye to the locals, as well as Chen, who stayed behind to visit more schools and student families in the Lincang region.

You can see the incredible views from my window seat late in this gallery:

rkkwan.zenfolio.com/p476976649/

Flight report in this thread:

fodors.com/forums/threadselect.jsp?fid=126&tid=34899811

---

Mr. Yeung's god-daughter, Miss Xia, came to greet us at the Kunming airport, and the hotel van picked us up. Mr. Yeung has 4 sons, and recently got a god-daughter whom he knew from Lincang. She's now a school teacher near her home in Yiliang, about an hour east of Kunming.

She invited us to her home to lunch. Her brother-in-law cooked a great lunch for us, and he also bought a famous Yiliang roast duck, and we chatted with her parents, her sister and BIL. She also has a 3-year old niece.

After lunch, the girl, her sister, nephew, and dad came with us to visit the Jiuxiang Scenic Area, sort of a national park, with a river gorge and some limestone caves less than an hour east of Yiliang. On the way, we stopped the school where Xia taught.

I'd been to quite a few limestone caves in the world, and my parents had gone to even more. Still, there are two unique things here - one is a pretty large waterfall inside a cave, and second is a series of terraced pools formed by mineral deposits. They are similar to those in Huanglong in Sichuan, and other places like Yellowstone have some too, but we'd never seen them inside a limestone cave.

It's quite worthwhile to visit, and it was the first time in our trip we saw tour buses and foreign tourists. [The famous "Stone Forrest" is also not far away, but all of us had been there before (I went over 20 years ago as a kid).] One thing I was shocked to learn is the cost of visiting such attractions. Adult fare is 90RMB (US$12), but that wasn't it. After you got to the bottom of the canyon at the end, there was an optional "sedan chair" service to bring one up the 350 steps for 50RMB. My mom and my aunt used them. Then a ski-lift type cable car cost 15RMB to bring one back to the main entrance, or else it's a half-an-hour walk with ups and downs. These kind of prices are limiting visits to foreign tourists and the well-offs from the big cities, while locals really can't enjoy them. I know that the high fees are used to control crowds, but it just doesn't seem very fair to me. This isn't a commercial theme park.

We had dinner back in Yiliang. Decent restaurant, lots of food, and the cost for the 12 of us, including beer? 168RMB ($21) Unbelievable. Many dishes cost under US$1.
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Nov 26th, 2006, 09:07 AM
  #30  
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Day 6. Monday 11/6/06

Return to Hong Kong

Remember the first place we went to in Kunming? Yes, Wal-Mart. We went there again on this last day, on our way to the airport, so my uncle and aunts can buy the Xuanwei Ham. Wal-Mart really has a great selection with a whole wall of it of various sizes, various grades, in various gift boxes. I looked at their beer and wine selection and did find the Langcangjiang Beer and the Sigan-Lee papaya wine from Lincang that I had at the KTV few days ago. Those are pretty popular brands, at least in Kunming. This also show how much local Yunnan stuff they sell in this Wal-Mart. Smart business decision and no wonder they are successful in China.

The rest is routine - Shenzhen Airlines flight back to SZX, where we had lunch. Then my uncle had arranged a van to bring us back to the Huanggang border where Mr. Yeung, my dad and I headed back to Hong Kong. My mom, uncle and aunts then went to Panyu on their own.

---

Hope you enjoyed this lengthy report. Comments welcomed, though as I said in the beginning, I may not respond to stuff said about the Chinese government - it depends on what. I will post the link to the photos once I have them posted, besides those for that one school we visited in Fengqing, which is already up.
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Nov 28th, 2006, 04:34 AM
  #31  
 
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I really enjoyed reading your trip report, it was so informative, descriptive but not in any way judgemental, just open and honest reporting imo, thank you for posting. Also being able to see the photos made it all the more interesting, and your photos are outstanding, I'm very impressed.
thanks,
Pauline
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Nov 28th, 2006, 04:49 AM
  #32  
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Thanks for reading. I'm starting to post the many photos I took in Yunnan.

Day 1 is now posted, from Hong Kong to Kunming to Lincang:

rkkwan.zenfolio.com/p67944091/

Hope to have everything posted by this weekend.
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Dec 3rd, 2006, 06:49 PM
  #33  
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Big news! All ~800 pictures of the trip to Yunnan posted in the folder:

rkkwan.zenfolio.com/f334779450/

7 separate galleries, holding pictures for :

- The 4 domestic Chinese flights

- Day 1: Hong Kong to Shenzhen to Kunming to Lincang.

- Day 2: Yunxian school dedication, and other school visits. Also Fengqing.

- Day 3: Yunxian to Gengma (Kengma) to Cangyuan. Beautiful sceneries, visit 3 Wa homes, "King's Feast"

- Day 4: Cangyuan school dedication, lunch, back to Lincang

- Day 5 & 6: Kunming, Jiuxiang

- School in Fengqing we visited on Day 2. They are trying to get Sowers Action to help them finance a new building.
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Dec 4th, 2006, 07:39 AM
  #34  
 
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really enjoyed your photos of this trip, thanks for posting
Pauline
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Dec 5th, 2006, 04:59 AM
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Raymond:
Were you in Singh Singh on Saturday at about 11:45 am? We though we saw you there with friends/family?
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Dec 5th, 2006, 06:22 AM
  #36  
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Bill - YES! I was there. I wasn't looking, but you should have come by. My sister (Fodorite "yk") and my BIL came down from Dallas.

In fact, I ate there again last night. The place is owned by a relative of mine. Like the food, hate the cramped seating and lack of service.
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Dec 5th, 2006, 09:10 AM
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We thought that was you with your signature hat! But you had company so we thought we would not interrupt.
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Dec 5th, 2006, 09:42 AM
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Oh, Bill. That's Chinatown! Did I look like I was on a date? And so far, I am not quite a celebrity yet... Hahahah.

Next time, come on by!

Anyways. Everybody else, go look at the photos and read the review above!
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Mar 4th, 2008, 10:06 AM
  #39  
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I came by my old thread from over a year ago. Now that I find a way to input Chinese characters, I'll make this complete by adding some Chinese names here:

Sowers Action - 苗圃行动

Yunnan - 云南
Kunming - 昆明
Lincang - 临沧
Yunxian - 云县
Fenqing - 凤庆
Gengma - 耿马
Cangyuan - 沧源
Yiliang - 宜良
Jiuxiang - 九乡

Dai people - 傣族
Wa people - 佤族
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Mar 4th, 2008, 04:04 PM
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Very cool!
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