Getting back to China: an intro to Yunnan

It’s our last night in Melbourne. Tomorrow we start a new chapter in Australia as we get away from city life and start exploring a bit of the great outdoors in a camper van! I’ve never traveled by RV before and I’m ridiculously excited about it. I have had romantic notions about gypsy life since I was a girl, and this is probably as close as I’ll ever come to living out of the brightly painted, horse-drawn caravan.

Before we switch travel gears though, I want to get back on track with this blog and pick up where I left off ages ago with China.

Last China post, we were experiencing golden fall afternoons in the mountain village of Dazhai. The fact that the weather here in Melbourne has turned down right cold the past couple of days is making the little bit of Spring we experienced in the States, not to mention those lovely Autumn days in China, feel even further away than normal.

Our next stop in China, after Dazhai, was the Yunnan Province. Wikitravel has a blurb that does an so-so job summarizing a province that is as multi-faceted as it is beautiful (in my humble opinion anyhow :-)):

Its name literally means south of the clouds. The province is one of the most diverse in China… The province is famed for its multitude of ethnic groups, whose diverse customs can still be seen today. Of China’s fifty-five officially recognized ethnic minorities, twenty-five can be found in Yunnan: about one-third of the population is not ethnic Han-Chinese.

Certainly one of my favorite aspects of all of China and definitely Yunnan IS the diversity of its people. Yunnan has that and more going for it. Its landscapes and climates are multifarious and gorgeous (pun intended…).

The dramatic Tiger Leaping Gorge

Lonely Planet give this overview:

Then there’s the hugely varied splendor of the land… In one week you can sweat in the tropics and freeze in the Himalayas, and in between check out ancient towns… However long you’ve given yourself in Yunnan, double it.

Unfortunately, due to our visa situation and how much we wanted to see, we really had to be thrifty with our days in China.

Lantern-lit village pathways at Shuhe

In the West and South, Yunnan is bordered by Myanmar, Laos and Vietnam. It even is dissected by the Mekong River, which we got plenty familiar with in Laos. Since we’d spent loads of time in those three countries, we didn’t feel too bad skipping tropical Yunnan and heading instead into its mountains.

Tibetan prayer flags and a stupa lit up at night in Zhongdian

We only had one week in this amazing place, but we managed to pack in a lot. Here’s our itinerary:

Day 1: Arrive late at night in Lijiang/Shuhe
Day 2: One full day in Lijiang/Shuhe
Day 3: Early morning van to Tiger Leaping Gorge. Day one of hiking and an overnight in the mountains
Day 4: Second half of the gorge hike and another van ride to Zhongdian, also known as Shangri-la
Day 5: One full day in Zhongdian
Day 6: A morning in Zhongdian, a long bus ride back to Lijiang/Shuhe
Day 7: A morning’s recovery and then an afternoon/evening checking out Shuhe
Day 8: One final breakfast in Shuhe and then it was already time to fly on to Beijing

Details of these days to come in future posts. Watch this space! 🙂

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2 thoughts on “Getting back to China: an intro to Yunnan

    • Thanks so much Deborah! The details are what’s driving me – I want to be able to remember them in how ever many years’ time when I’ve “settled down” and this trip is ancient history. 🙂

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