Pieter Neele - Guide to New Destinations in China

Dai monk





Mekong tributary


Shuangjiang Han


Yunnan's Southwest

to Yunnan's Southeast
to  Yunnan's Northwest
to  Sichuan and Qinghai: Kham
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Ethnic minorities in this region bordering Myanmar are abundant in places like Menglian, and very different from those near the Vietnamese border. Plus the Mekong cuts through these mountainous parts.


The main attraction of this town is its buddhist Dai temple, and the main attraction of the temple are the two grand old trees in front, their roots so impossibly entangled with stupa's that it makes one wonder what was first, tree or stupa? Locally it is aptly called “magical stupa-wrapping-tree tree-wrapping-stupa”.


This town makes for an excellent stop because of the barbecued delicacies at the nightly food market, the thousands of birds that set upon the town centre after sunset and the square full of local people who chat, dance and simply get together in the evening. You may find yourself here if for example you are travelling between Dali and Xishuangbanna. At market days you will run into the Wa, Lahu, Bulang and Dai.

Mekong in South Yunnan

No boats or roads run along the river here. But Mekong hopping is still possible. Several east-west roads cross the river and briefly follow it, until it forces itself into the next gorge. Examples are the roads between Simao and Menglian, and National Highway (but dirt road nonetheless) no. 323 that links Jinggu and Shuangjiang.

Cangyuan and Ximeng

These are administratively ‘Autonomous Counties of the Wa Minority’. Dark, tall and of strong build they are some of the most exotic and ‘un-Chinese’ people in China. Reportedly they were headhunters as late as the 1960’s.These days they are most welcoming. Many Wa live across the border in Myanmar too, where intriguingly they seem to run their own affairs.



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