Jinghong is the border town to South East Asia in Yunnan province of China. The city can be reached by long-distance sleeper bus from Kunming South Bus Station for around 250 RMB/person. The drive is during night time and you can sleep during the whole trip if you feel like it. It’ll take approximately 10 hours.
The next early morning you will arrive in a beautiful but sleepy city full of green palms and blue sky. My hostel was located on the side of the Mekong river which is also running through China, not far but it is still there which I thought was quite cool because I’d been sailing on it from Thailand to Laos as well.
When I researched online, it seemed like many foreign backpackers didn’t like this place because it was over-developed and with no charm. I totally disagree. I loved the laidback feeling which you usually get in the South East Asian countries mixed with a developed city center where everything can be bought and then it is all in Chinese of course. I don’t know about you but I really love my diet coke and oatmeal so I was happy when I ran out of those things that I could just walk down to Walmart.
Another great thing about this place is that there are several cafes with English menus. Those cafes are located just besides each other and are all definitely worth a visit. I checked out Meimei Café, Mekong Café and Banna Café and loved the chocolate pancakes, the South East Asian Pineapple Shrimp Rice and the Western Spaghetti Bolognese. This was for me a welcoming change from the dumplings I’m constantly eating in the north of China.
The first day in Jinghong, I just walked around to explore the neighbourhoods and get a feeling with the place and its people. It’s quite a small city so it’s easy to walk around. You can also rent a bike. Just ask in your hostel. I crossed the bridge for a stroll on the other side and walked straight into the Chinese tourist mekka. If you’re a sucker for historical authentic places, this is not a place to go but if you are just like me all in for the perfect photo, you should definitely have a look at 大金塔 (Da Jin Ta).
I walked around while the sun was going down and it was so beautiful. The tourists were few and the atmosphere was really nice and comfortable. The burning sun slowly disappeared and I could now breathe again. Thank God!
The second day I walked to Manting Park. I heard it was quite the place to go so I was walking through the massive colourful entrance with high expectations. Those were sadly not met when I had had a short look around. All the Chinese tourists are brought here to see the elephant show. I don’t like that. I read too many research papers about elephant tourism and moved on immediately when I saw what was going on but apart from the show, the park itself is stunning. The gardening is really well-done and the place is perfect for the best Facebook profile photo you have ever uploaded.
Inside the park, there are different buildings following the South East Asian architecture. I’m very sure those are all new and build for the Chinese tourists but they are still pretty so bring your best dress and have a look around for a good photo location.
The third day I went with the local bus to the nearby village called Menghan to visit the Dai minority village. I’ve written another more detailed post about that trip here.
I could’ve easily stayed in Jinghong for a week extra just to stare at the sunset on the Mekong river and I also would’ve loved to rent a bike and biked around to the smaller villages but this will be next time because one thing I know for sure is that I’ll be back again.