In the far south of the Yunnan Province is Jinghong, where several nationalities live together in a mixing pot population of ethnic minorities. Many visitors come here to enjoy the diverse flora and fauna from butterflies and elephants to flowers and palm trees.
It is a somewhat sleepy capital with a unique culture especially within the Dai culture. Many Dai men have expressive tattoos generally of flowers and animals woven together with geometric shapes. These traditional tattoos are mainly seen in the more rural areas as tattooing as a rite of passage has largely stopped in the mainstream centres. The Dai women still wear traditional dress of a long skirt, bodice and a coat with decorative hair pieces usually covered with flowers.
The landscape is one of palm fringed streets and rather dull looking concrete architecture. For a bit of colour, head to the markets in the rural areas where you will not only find colourful products, you will also find that the markets are also a sociable experience for the locals on Mondays when they travel from far and wide to get together and gossip.
First on your sightseeing list should be the Manting Wat, the largest Buddhist temple in the Xishuangbanna area. What is fascinating about this temple is that it is made completely of wood and sits on stilts. Next, wonder behind the temple to find Chunhuan Park, used as quarters for royal slaves in the past.
For a taste of Jinghong’s nature, head to the Tropical Flower and Plant Garden. Here you can indulge in the diverse range of tropical plants with over 1,000 species to inspect.
After satisfying your interest in the flora at the gardens, head out to experience the fauna. Just 50km north of Jinghong is where you will find a wild herd of elephants. You will need to travel with a guide so it pays to organise this outing prior to your trip. You will be able to take a chairlift above the herd for an exciting bird’s-eye perspective. Before you leave, pop in to the bird and butterfly zoo located here also.
Two cultural experiences you will want to enjoy is a tour that entertains you with the traditional Dai dance, and being in Jinghong during the Water Splashing Festival usually held between April 13th and 16th.