We arrive in Jinghong, Southern Yunnan, prepare our bikes and go for a first 20 km ride around the city.
Yesterday all of our group have arrived well in Jinghong, Southern Yunnan. The city, also called Xishuangbanna – remeniscent of the historic Thai kingdom of Sipsongpanna – is often referred to as „China‘s Gate to South East Asia“. While the city with its Dai (Chinese term for the Thai people) architecture and subtropic plants certainly reminds us of Thailand, we still get a real Chinese experience on the first day of our journey through the Golden Triangle!
On our bikes, we discover the outskirts and inner city of Jinghong and we are simply stunned by the development taking place here. As the domestic Chinese tourism booms, the development of tourist destinations happens at a breathtaking pace. Our hotel is located right next to a new quarter of the city designed in a mixture of traditional Thai architecture and modern luxury.
On our way through the area we learn that the whole complex was financed and built by a single private company and built within the last 5 years. Strolling through the lively bustling illuminated streets at night-time; climbing the stairs of a huge fake Thai temple in the company of many fashionable young Chinese tourists we get the impression of being in a big theme park. Even though things look a bit like Laos and Thailand, we feel the vibe of modern China. Knowing that we will be spared from all the noise and commerce on the days to come, we let ourselves drift through the crowd and enjoy the scenery.
How different was our visit to the big market in the old downtown of Jinghong earlier that day!
We spent more than one hour exploring the market, trying some of the delicious local fruit, chatting up with some of the market ladies and figuring out what all the things we saw actually were: We found banana buds for cooking, 1000 year old eggs, many different kinds of tofu, gelly made of potato starch and live frogs, toads and hornet larves. Even though the bustle in both places is similar, they clearly contrast each other: One place representing traditional rural China and one representing the new rich luxury and crazy pace of development of this country. This was certainly an impressive beginning of our trip, which gave us a glimpse of urban China before we head south towards tranquil and still largely undeveloped Laos.