Budget Tours of Yunnan China
Yunnan is one of the most popular travel destinations for Baktrax, and with good reason too. Come with us and we'll show you why.
First and foremost is the spectacular scenery which greets you much of the time. The highlight of this highlight is Tiger Leaping Gorge. One of the biggest and most spectacular gorges in the world. Sip beer and sup pizza half way up the gorge at tiny Walnut Garden. Both below and above you is a massive wall of rock starting at the Yangzi river 2,000 metres below and finishing another 2,000 metres above your head. Snow capped mountains peak over that again. It all adds up to be one of the most inspirational destinations on the planet, and most people have never even heard of it meaning it is still a reasonably chilled out Baktrax destination.
Dali is simply a wonderful old town where visitors with no time constraints often stay longer than they planned. The mountain vistas, Erhai lake and the availability of cappucchinos and other homesick food makes it the perfect destination.
Dali is very easy to navigate on foot with its narrow streets and alleys lined with old stone houses, quaint shops and other interesting buildings. Now on many travellers itineraries it is well geared up for the tourists of today. Luckily if you close your eyes to the tourists the town looks much the same as it did a century or more ago. Walk down one of the back lanes and it is indeed like going back in time.
Again a well deserved highlight.
If you thought Dali was great then Unesco World Heritage listed Lijiang moves up to another level again. Still like a medieival town of a yestermillenium Lijiang is a maze of cobblestoned alleys and walkways with no motorised vehicles allowed.
Canals wind around old stone and wooden buildings which today serve up modern accommodation choices, great restaurants and shopping opportunities to the many tourists both domestic and international. The entire Old Town as it's known is only a ten minute walk from the the more recently built and modern New Town but that short walk to the Old Town really is like going back in time as you leisurely stroll and probably get lost in the maze at some stage. Just one of the minorities people you will see strolling around also will be the Naxi, the main minority people in the area. Naxi shops and restaurants will be another chance for something different again. Very little english if any at all will be found as you go so practice your charades and a fun time will be had.
Far more so than Dali, Lijiang is now often overrun by large groups of Chinese Han tourists often following after a guide carrying a flag above his head on a stick so they can easilly follow him. So unlike Dali the streets can get busy from time to time but still as yet a not to be missed destination.
The Gorge, Dali and Lijiang are all super highlights and it's rare to get three super highlights on one tour. Head down to Laos and you get another one in Luang Prabang also.
Lots of other lesser highlights also like experiencing more modern China in Kunming, Jinghong and Mengla with the latter being a good chance to see the locals without the tourists.
It seems everything is made in China these days so that's a lot to choose from. Modern depatment stores for good cheap clothing to markets for souvenirs. Dali and even more so Lijiang have some fabulous art and craft shops in particular for really good quality merchandise.
Chinese food is world reknown already but you will still get to sample new delights along the way also. Groups of Chinese in restaurants ordering far more than they can eat is not incommon. They like to try as many different things as they can. Single servings are often more than enough anyway. Chop sticks are the weapons of choice for nearly all eating. If you can pick up one peanut you will survive easily, two and you knew how to use them before you arrived. Pick up three at once and you may have at least a bit of local blood in you.
For beginners you will know you have a problem if you continually cross them. it is not the done thing to try and spear your food either.
That said, tables manners overall are largely non existent in regards to western ways. You may even see people spitting fish bones onto the floor during a large group dinner. Consumption of more rice wine will only see things degrade even further. Chinese tea is usually served with most meals so is a far better way to go.
Food will never be a problem as burgers, pizza and other western food is readily available in most places even if they are generic substitutes from time to time.
The one must try dish while in Yunnan is the famous Across the Bridge Noodles. Another verson of Asian noodle soup. Served up in sometimes massive amounts, if Beerlao is the best beer in the region then Across the Bridge probably gets the vote for best noodle soup. There is a saying that the Chinese will eat anything with legs except the table but you are unlikely to see anything that you may have heard about prior. So don't expect to see anything other than normal food.
Vegetarian dishes can easily be found also
Drinks in Yunnan
If Chinese tea is the most popular drink then beer is a close second as like numerous other countries the locals enjoy a beer.
Tsingtao is the most common and again it's a fine brew. Many other regional beers also. Local wine is still in its infancy and imported wine is very expensive as are international brand spirits. Like many other countries in the region when the locals talk about wine they usually mean rice wine which is more often than not a good substitute for gasoline. Drinker beware is the only advice as some of it really is fire water. Possibly the fireiest in the region. The usual array of soft drinks are always on hand as are many varieties of tea. It is almost certain green tea will be served with most meals.
The people of Yunnan
As elsewhere in the Baktrax sphere the locals are as friendly as ever. Alas not much English is spoken once you leave your accommodation or tourist restaurant. A phrase book with Chinse characters is a good investment unless you are an expert in charades.
Either way a fun time will usually be had as the locals try to decipherer what you want. At non tourist restaurants you may be guided into a restaurant kitchen to point at what you want with sometimes hillarious results being served up. One customers tried to get a chicken and vegetable stir fry so went in and pointed to half a dozen things only to be confronted with huge plates of all the different things they pointed to before a huge plate of chicken served up in the local way in small pieces which are just hacked up with all the bones together.
Expect the unexpected come meal time in a local restaurant.
Toilets in Yunnan deserve a mention as when you are in rural area public ones you must pack your sense of humour to begin with as there is no such thing as privacy. These are rightly called public toilets. BYO paper and leave your vanity at home. Very impolite to take photo's either. And in one restaurant we saw a sign in english "Peeing only - no pooing".
While all accommodation toilets are western and clean most rural Yunnan toilets take on a totally new dimension for first time visitors. Say W.C. when looking for one if you can't master the Chinese word.
Baktrax Tours to Yunnan
Gorgeous China & Laos
This China & Laos small group tour combines the best of South West China and Laos. The Thailand to China part of this small group tour takes in some history... Continue reading →
Our reputation for travelling at a relaxed pace amid great scenery comes to a peak in Yunnan Province with Tiger Leaping Gorge, one of the world’s largest and most beautiful gorges. Add Dali and the... Continue reading →
Baktrax tours in Yunnan
BAKTRAX small group tours originally had no plans for travel in China and unlike the other five countries we travel in we make no claim to having much travel knowledge of anywhere else in China other than Yunnan.
So it would seem we got lucky as most expert China travellers say Yunnan is about as good as it gets. If you have only one lifetime trip to China then it would seem that Yunnan would be a great choice.
Adding Laos to it only makes it better.
Lastly: While all the region is relatively safe pick pockets are not totally unheard of in tourist areas. Nothing to really worry about unless you make yourself a target.