Unique Yunnan

Chinese charm

Unique Yunnan

Breathtaking landscapes, sumptuous cuisine and amazing natural sights — the Yunnan province in China has left Abhay Kumar spellbound and craving for more

Ten minutes before my flight was to land at Kunming, the capital of Yunnan province in China, I, traversing through meandering clouds, took in an aerial view from my window seat. From a height of several thousand feet, I could make out the place, renowned for its perennially pleasant weather, was surrounded by lush green hills, rivers, dense forests, steep mountain peaks and deep canyons. No wonder, Kunming, at an altitude of 1,895 metres above sea level, is called ‘the Spring City.’

Yunnan literally means “south of rosy clouds”. Located in south-west China, it shares borders with Vietnam and Myanmar, and is China’s important gateway to Southeast Asia and South Asia.

My host, not very fluent in English, had a disarming smile, and was there to receive me at the sprawling airport. After a long, tiring air travel of nearly 34 hours from Patna to Delhi to Guangzhau to Kunming, all I wanted after reaching my hotel was to have a shower.

Best food forward

Food was the next thing on my mind after the back-breaking journey. When my host took me for a buffet dinner, I saw journalists from nine other countries who had arrived there to cover the First China South Asia Exposition-Kunming Fair, binging on delicious Chinese dishes, which included Doumuge spicy braised chicken, Tangdian barbecued fish, tofu, lotus root filled with sticky rice, brewed pork, bird’s nest conjee, rice noodles with pork, dried beef, purple yam broth, Hai chicken dipped in sauce, shepherds’ purse herb salad and a sumptuous chocolate cake. Liquor flowed like water. So, for those who relished non-vegetarian food (of all shapes and sizes), it was a real treat. For vegetarians, it was time to rue their fate. Anyway, the thought that in the next couple of days we will be in the picturesque Honghe distracted me from the food.

Driving on smooth roads and after crossing numerous tunnels (some even two kilometres long), we reached Honghe the next day. Honghe, just an hour’s drive from Vietnam, is famous for Hani terraces and the breathtaking rustic scenery.

Hani terraces are a result of locals’ unceasing sculpting and farming on mountains for generations in the past 1,300 years. No matter how high the mountain is and how long the river runs, the Hani terraces still stretch far. The snaky terraces look like ladders to heaven. More than 10,00,000 acres of Hani terraces spread across Yuanyang, Honghe, Jinping and Luchun, becoming a significant global agriculture heritage.

Fruit for thought

The next day, after a good night’s rest, we were taken to a pomegranate orchard in Mengzi, the capital of Honghe. The annual sales revenue of Mengzi pomegranate has seen a 20-time increase in the last eight years. Mengzi pomegranate was awarded the title of ‘First Prize Fruit for Beijing Olympic Games’. On the way to the orchard, we also saw Honghe University spread over a huge campus. My host informed me that 90 per cent of the students here were Vietnamese.

But the best was saved for the last. Swallow Cave, about which I had only heard and read about, was the prime attraction of my China tour. A national key scenic spot and an AAAA-grade tourist area, Swallow Cave is located in a mountain gorge near Jianshui.
Jianshui Swallow Cave is known as the grandest cave in Asia because of thousands of swallows making it their home, suspending stalactite plaque and the stunts of birds’ nest gatherers. The cave comprises two parts: the upper dry cave and the bottom water cave.

One can find flocks of swallows flying in and out of the cave, performing a concert of the twitters and the crystal sound of running water. The Bird’s Nest Gathering Festival is held in August, when skillful gatherers climb hundreds of high stalactite clusters to gather nests. The shape of the dry cave is like a huge natural bridge, letting light into in on both ends. The dry cave is home to around 100 pieces of cliff inscription from the Qing dynasty era. The water cave is a five kilometre ground stream of the Lujiang river, with the visiting area of more than 50,000 square metres. The landscape is grand with stalactites of various shapes that are the essence of the scenic area.

For those who get tired after walking through the cave area spread over 18.85 hectares, there is a Dream Hall, where you can shop till you drop and have the best of Chinese cuisine. And while getting back to the city, don’t forget to take a motorboat ride — the most thrilling experience in the long tunnel in the natural woodland.

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