In February 1991 our bus from Kunming pulled into the dilapidated bus station of Xishuangbanna’s capital Jinghong. It had taken 3 long and uncomfortable days to get there. The bus was old and worn out; its seats broken and on their last legs, with sharp metal edges digging painfully into our sore thighs. In spite of the length and discomfort of the journey, most passengers, a mix of gloomy backpackers and Chinese officials, seemed unwilling to engage in conversation and no spirit of group solidarity had sprung up among us; something that usually happened (and still does) on long trips in China. Only we and a gaggle of youngHong Kongers seemed to be enjoying the tropical scenery and the gradual rise of temperatures. The main relief was provided by the nightly stops in extremely basic, but surprisingly clean road-side hotels and the decent food along the way.
One of the highlights of the seemingly-endless journey was an early encounter with one of Xishuangbanna’s many minorities. It happened during a toilet stop near Simao, when a pair of shaven-headed Lahu girls, who were walking by the side of the road, started screaming and pelted for cover in the jungle as soon as they saw Margie and I disembark. And we hadn’t even started peeing…
On arrival, we had the satisfaction of beating our unsociable fellow travellers to the reception desk of the Xishuangbanna Binguan (or Banna Binguan) where we managed to grab the last cheap room in the old wing and settled down to a cold beer and a shower of the same temperature.
In the next few weeks we’ll be posting texts on Xishuangbanna in China’s South-west Yunnan province. The articles will compare Jinghong, Xishuangbanna’s capital, from when we first visited in 1991 to this summer 2008 when we revisited.
We also write about the wonderful Tropical Botanical Garden in Menglun.
A few posts below we have already put up an article about the Thursday Market at Xiding near Menghai.
Thailand to China by Boat: This service has for the moment been discontinued. Our account is historical rather than travel advice.
Thailand to China by Boat is a once in a lifetime trip. Sailing up one of the remotest and most striking stretches of the Mekong River with Laos on the right and Myanmar (Burma) on the left is a great way to enter China. The trip takes about a day and a half and is (was) easy to organise.
The Boat leaves the Northern Thai town of Chiang Saen on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. Boats return to Thailand from the Chinese city of Jinghong on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays.
Thailand to China by Boat: Getting Tickets
We got our tickets by ringing Gin’s Guest House ( 0 5365 0847 / 1023) in Chiang Saen in advance and making a reservation. You might be able to get your own tickets at the office of the Xishuangbanna Tianda Tourism and Shipping Company in Chiang Saen.
The office is by the Mekong, a little way South, down Th. Rimkhong, though the telephone number 0 5365 1136, quoted by Lonely Planet, was no longer in use .