With its amazing geography, Yunnan functions as a throughway for major rivers like the Salween, Mekong, Yangzi and Pearl rivers. Neither of these are real “Yunnanese”. That role is reserved for the Red River. From just south of Dali, this waterway cuts its way ferociously straight all the way to Hanoi and cuts the 2000-meter-high Yunnan-Guizhou plateau off to make way for a complex network of subtropical valleys blending into the countryside of the Southeast Asian neighbors. This itinerary takes us to the Red River area. First on the program are the historic towns of Jianshui and Shiping. After this we’ll descend into the hot and humid river valley, only to climb up the mountains at the other side and explore the amazing formations of rice terraces built by the native Hani people over the centuries.
Day 1 – Mile – Mengzi – Jianshui – “Cross the Bridge Rice Noodles”
After our stay in a lovely boutique guesthouse in the mountains just outside of Mile, we have few interesting options to explore. We can go to the famous hot springs close by, and spend a very relaxing morning here. This is especially attractive on a cycling or more active trip, to keep our muscles nice and relaxed. After the hot springs, there is an option to visit the Yunnan Red vineyards and have lunch here. Another option is to have lunch in the prefectural capital called Mengzi, the origin grounds of the most famous dish in Yunnan: “The Cross the Bridge Rice Noodles”. We’ll go and have this dish in the most famous restaurant of Mengzi, and we’ll have to brace ourselves for probably the most serious bowl of noodles we’ve ever had in our lives.
When we hit the road again, in southwestern direction, we’ll pass by the biggest mosque of Yunnan. In the afternoon, we’ll be arriving in the old town of Jianshui and check into our historic boutique hotel. Then, we’ll explore this old town by visiting the second to largest Confucian temple in China. After this, we’ll take you on a comprehensive tour of the ancient rich family courtyard to discover the interesting stories.
We’ll have dinner in the best restaurant and get a historic impression by visiting an exhibition of antique photographs in the old town’s gate.
Day 2 – Jianshui – Honghe – “The French Connection”
When we make our way out of town, we first visit the Double Dragon Bridge. Then, we’ll travel along the old narrow-gauge railway to a village called Shiping, which has beautiful courtyards built by a rich mining family from out of the province, which are now (after the communist revolution) inhabited by farmers. In Shiping, we’ll go to a very local place for lunch where they serve BBQ tofu 24 hours a day.
In the afternoon we’ll make our way to Honghe. Here, we settle into our hotel, make a walk to explore the unique town, which is perched right on top of a hill. We will get to know a local friend who makes his own traditional instruments and is a talented musician. In the evening, we’ll go for some one of a kind street food, the most (in) famous street side restaurant of Honghe, which used to operate out of a garage box, has recently moved into an official location.
Day 3 – Honghe – Baohua Day Trip – “The Terrace Builders”
Today is a big day on the itinerary. We’ll drive up into the Ailao Mountains to a few incredibly scenic spots. These mountains are inhabited by Hani people, who are an animist Tibeto-Burmese speaking ethnic group. These Hani people have traditionally been cut off from lots of developments in the rest of the country so most of them speak Hani language and dress in Hani tribal costumes. They have built the most amazing panoramic structures of rice terraces against the steep hills. We’ll have a nice fresh lunch in one of the mountain townships and view out over the largest panoramic stretch of rice terraces of Yunnan.
We’ll have dinner in another price-winning local restaurant.
Day 4 – Honghe – Kunming
Transfer to Kunming. We’ll try to break up this trip to visit tropical fruit orchards, markets, etc. But that depends on timing.