My room at Many Trees was the largest I’d enjoyed in China. The prices for everything in Jinghong were the cheapest I’d seen. The sun was always shining. The people were relaxed and friendly. But none approached me to sell me postcards or even a taxi ride. Shouts of “Hello! Hello!” were not from salespeople but from children who seemed to be playing a game called “How do you get a laowai to say hello?”
Why so different from other cities? It was no less beautiful, even more so. I felt like I was in another country. Perhaps this was a taste of Thailand, or Laos? Things moved at a slower pace. Here one could cross the street without fear of death.
And the weather. Steve 2’s prediction did not disappoint. I walked around in a t-shirt as opposed to Shanghai and Guilin’s five layers.
With time on my hands, I took Lonely Planet to heart in Jinghong, sampling its suggested tourist attractions and culinary recommendations. Though I did note that curiously enough its suggested restaurants were empty compared to those around them.
I wandered through the Botanical Gardens, but got a better sense of the city from Minzu, a free park where families picnicked.
My few minutes in Kunming were spent trying to get my mobile phone to work. I’d wandered into every shop with a “China Mobile” banner above it. None, it turned out, were China Mobile stores. Here in Jinghong, I chanced upon a bonafide China Mobile store, where two salesladies were able to help me. They didn’t speak any more English than I spoke Chinese (ie, none) but after about 20 minutes they got my phone working again—all but for the gps feature, which they explained didn’t work well in Yunnan Province. I tried to tip them for all their time, but they refused to take it.
Half the storefronts in Jinghong sold wooden elephants. The other half were hair salons. Jinghong was the first and only place in China where I saw not-so-subtle billboards and posters openly advertising breast enlargement surgery. And I couldn’t be certain these ads were geared toward women. There was much I did not understand about Jinghong, but I wouldn’t complain. Everything was cheap and friendly and warm, and my only regret was that because of the eight-hour sleeper bus ride just to get to Kunming, I would never in a million years live here.
I soaked in the Jinghong sun for three glorious days. Maybe I should stay longer, I thought. I might not have it so good again...
But a place called Yuanyang beckoned, home of some of the most beautiful rice terraces in the world. Because of the weather in Guanxi Province, I hadn’t made it to the Dragon’s Back Rice Terraces near Guilin. So I would make this one little detour on way back to Kunming…