Here’s a guest post by Jon from Jonistravelling, who’s giving us five reasons to visit the wonderful province of Yunnan in Southern China. Get ready for some seriously stunning photography!
Yubeng is probably my favourite place in Asia, and I only heard about it a few days before I went there. It’s a tiny village (actually more like 2 villages separated by a short walk) set in a green valley filled with birds and butterflies, which is flanked by snow covered mountains bordering the mythical land of Tibet. There are no roads leading to Yubeng, so be prepared for a gruelling few hours as you head up a very steep hill and then down the other side. Yubeng hasn’t been discovered by mass market Chinese tourism yet, but it’s only a matter of time! To get there you need to make your way to Shangri-la and then take a 4 hour bus ride to Deqin, where you can get a minivan to the start of the trek.
There are plenty of options for trekking in Yunnan, with Tiger Leaping Gorge being the most well known. It’s a great trek, and even though it’s popular you’ll still walk for hours at a time without seeing another traveller. The scenery is amazing but the best part for me was staying in the small, family run guesthouses along the way. They were set amongst some of the most impressive scenery in Yunnan and were friendly, clean and cheap. There are also some great day treks from Yubeng and some nice walks around Dali. Yunnan is huge though, and there are so many places that I didn’t get a chance to visit!
I love taking overnight trains and the ones in China are not only comfortable but they’re usually cheaper than taking the bus. I took 2 overnight trains in Yunnan and they both left right on time and arrived as advertised. I also met some interesting people and caught some awesome scenery along the way. Remember to take plenty of food with you if you’re on a long trip, I didn’t see any dining cars and all of the local travellers bought their own noodles, biscuits and fruit.
Yunnan, and China in general, is home to lots of perfectly preserved old towns. Lijiang is the most popular old town in Yunnan (for local tourists at least) and it is nice, but it’s a little too well restored and has lost some of its charm – the thousands of tourists that cram the streets don’t help either. Dali is much more laid back, while Shangri-La’s old town was almost completely destroyed by a fire earlier in the year. The popular old towns in Yunnan tend to be very commercialised, but there are so many in the area that are more off the beaten path – so if you have the time I’d recommend exploring them!
Chinese tourists are a far different breed to their western cousins. They love a good photo op and will pose next to (or in front of) almost anything. In tourist towns there are people dressed in traditional costumes whose main job is to appear in local tourists’ photos. If you’re lucky you might even see people posing with alpacas! Some people get annoyed with Chinese tourists, but it’s all part of the fun of travelling in China!
Yunnan is a great place to travel if you’re into trekking, visiting old towns and seeing amazing scenery, then you will definitely enjoy your Yunnan tour. I spent 3 weeks there and didn’t come close to seeing everything I wanted to; I’ll definitely be back one day.