Jinghong On a BudgetLocated in the southernmost part of the Yunnan Province, Jinghong is a city that attracts visitors each year with its rich culture and folklore, Buddhist temples, and tropical rainforest scenery of palms and mango trees amongst others. It is also an area popular with backpackers as well as a waypoint for travelers passing between China and Laos.
SightsJinghong and the surrounding area is a place of tropical scenery. Travel around the countryside to get a closer look at the region's magnificent rainforests and other flora native to southern Yunnan. You might even want to take a ride to the Elephant Valley Nature Reserve about an hour north of town where visitors can see wild elephants and other wildlife, enclosures for reptiles and birds, and even have the opportunity to ride an elephant at the elephant school. If you prefer not to leave Jinghong, there is also a Tropical Flower Garden as well as a Botanical Garden which exhibit some of the local plants and flowers of the region. Both are located right within the city.
In regards to architecture, Xishuangbanna Buddhist Temple is a historic landmark that has been beautifully renovated and is located inside Manting Park. The park is divided into eight parts-the main entrance, the National Cultural Plaza, the Tropical Orchid Garden, the Peacock Garden, the Life-leaving Lake, the Buddhism Cultural Quarter, the Planting Memorial Quarter, and the Dai Cultural Teahouse. Mengle Temple is the largest temple in Xishuangbanna and is located in the southern part of Jinghong.
NeighborhoodsJust outside of Jinghong, the region is scattered with minority villages where many people live the traditional way of the life as well as minority villages that exhibit more of a reconstruction with song and dance performances for tourists. All can be explored by foot or on bike. The Dai Minority Park in Ganlanba is probably the most famous, made up of several small villages most conveniently seen by renting a bicycle. Jinghong itself has a few attractions that can be reached on foot, though tuk-tuks, or auto-rickshaws, are also available. Many restaurants are located on Menglong Road and Manting Road, and there are opportunities to shop for local souvenirs and handicrafts throughout the city and surrounding villages.
ActivitiesMost people are drawn to Jinghong to admire its tropical scenery and explore its surrounding cultural villages. The city itself has a handful of sights worth seeing with a few historic temples, spacious parks, and beautiful gardens as well as hundreds of restaurants to indulge in and a collection of shops for your souvenir needs. Jinghong is located on the Lancang (or Mekong) River, making the riverfront a popular place to walk and take in the scenery. If you are interested in more of a hike, Mekong Café located on Menglong Road can organize guided treks. Many of the villages stage traditional song and dance performances that are fun to see, though a more authentic celebration takes place during the Dai New Year with dragon boating, water fights, and other festivities.
Food and DiningJinghong is the seat of Xishuangbanna Dai Autonomous Prefecture, whose cuisine is largely influenced by the native Dai people. The region's fertility and agricultural abundance make fruits, vegetables, and grains a big part of cooking traditions. Chili peppers, cilantro, lime juice, lemongrass, soybeans, and a plethora of herbs also add to the flavor of Dai cuisine, which is predominantly spicy and sour. Some favorite dishes include the very spicy Ghost Chicken, stir-fried wild boar with spring onions and chili peppers, and Granny's potatoes which are very similar to mashed potatoes though made with either sour pickled vegetables or spicy peppers. Pineapple rice, served hot in a hollowed out pineapple, is made with pineapple chunks, peanuts, garlic, sesame seeds, and sticky rice (sometimes purple), while the Dai people also have a local salsa made with a kind of tree tomato roasted with garlic, and mashed up with loads of fresh chili pepper, lime juice, cilantro and salt. Within the city of Jinghong there are hundreds of dining options from local dishes to western fare.
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By bus, there are over a dozen sleeper buses from Kunming Southern bus station daily with a ride taking about 8 hours. There are also buses from smaller towns though the ride can often be on rough unpaved roads through mountains, rice terraces, banana plantations, and small villages. The ride is very scenic, but also not for the faint of heart.
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