November 22nd marked the beginning of our X-phase. After 5 days of living in tropical Xishuangbanna alongside Dai minority people in a small village called Manzhang, we ended our time with a large home-cooked meal with our homestay families. Elly and Laureen got up early and drove with Nainai’s grandson to the neighboring village of Mengyang to buy ingredients to cook for our portion of the meal (a delicious eggplant dish that the cooking ISP has mastered). It was a festive and bittersweet goodbye to our warm and hospitable families. A very special Dragons connection introduced us to this magnificent little corner of the world. She is living in a nearby village on a Fulbright studying tourism and considered this very village for her focus, but chose a village with a more developed tourism business. She explained that Manzhang is unique because, per the village’s consent, the government began plans for it to become a “model tourist village” which would allow them to progress and expand more or less at their own pace. She further explained that most tourism villages in the region, as well as in other of parts of China, are developed either by the government or by a company, like Golden Peacock. Both methods have their advantages and disadvantages, but Manzhang’s young, government funded style allowed us to interact intimately with the culture of the village. We watched a cow get slaughtered, worked in the corn fields, picked tea, hacked down a small portion of the forest with machetes alongside our spirited village-Nainai (grandmother), bought out the town’s ice cream supply, and ate lots of good Southeast Asian food.
And now, X-phase! Planning has been tough and has truly proven the strength of our relationships. It’s been really fun working together to combine interests into a comprehensive trip plan (with very few limitations). We could write an entire post just about the dynamics and strategies of our planning process – maybe just ask us. We started by reading through individual copies of the Lonely Planet and compiling a list of things we absolutely didn’t want to miss. We narrowed it down to 14 different sites in Yunnan alone, totally doable in 10 days… Or, maybe not.
Check out our final plan:
22nd – Leave for Jinghong after homestay family lunch and celebration
Get lost in Jinghong looking for Gaozhuang night market
Find Gaozhuang night market
Sleep over at the Menggonghe hotel
23rd – Bus from Jinghong to Dali (15 hours) – actually 21 hours!!
Leave at 5:30PM
24th – Arrive at 9AM in Dali (actually 3 pm)
Sleep in Dali at the Five Elements hotel, celebrate Elly’s bday with Karaoke
25th – Spend morning in Dali
2PM bus to Tengchong
Arrive in Tengchong around 9PM
Spend night in TengChong
26th, 27th, 28th- Do fun things in Tengchong
29th – morning bus/mini-bus to coffee plantation (CP) in Nujiang Valley
Night at CP
30th – CP
1st – CP
2nd – Morning bus to Liu Ku, then to Dali
11:30PM overnight train to from Dali to Kunming
3rd – Arrive in the morning to Kunming, begin Transference! SO many emotions.
We will hopefully see volcanoes, hot springs, waterfalls, lakes, jade markets, plant or harvest coffee, and be in climates from the tropics to snowy mountain tops.