Yunnan is breathtaking. It is a land of diverse landscapes. Major river systems move through the province including the mighty Yangtze and Mekong rivers. Beautiful agricultural fields and terraces dot the valleys and the hillsides. Spectacular mountain ranges traverse much of the province.
The physical complexity of the land has likely promoted the diversity we see today among Yunnan’s people. More than half of China’s ethnic groups live in Yunnan. This diversity is reflected in the appearances of the people and the architecture of the homes. Rich traditional costumes are still worn. Babies are still carried on the backs of their mothers using traditional wraps. Woodcarvings and painted murals adorn homes and businesses. And I should mention that the people of Yunnan are the most relaxed and welcoming people we have met throughout our travels in China.
The diversity of the people is reflected in Yunnan’s incredible cuisine. Having no previous experience with Yunnan food, we were not prepared for its deliciousness and adventurousness. On a daily basis, we were introduced to and ate at least one completely new vegetable, many of them harvested from the wild. Yunnan’s local restaurants also offer a unique meal selection method. There were seldom menus. You decided what you were going to eat by walking over to the restaurant’s glass fronted fridge and/or bowls of ingredients on offer and selected what looked good to you. More often than not, the owner of the restaurant would tell you how the item could be prepared and if you agreed, the fresh hot dishes would appear at your table within minutes. The food was so delicious we overate at every single meal. I am beyond thrilled to know there are at least two Yunnan restaurants in Toronto so I can continue my love affair with overeating.
Yunnan is also the first province where we travelled by car. We have a particular fondness for road trips. It means getting a close up view of the land and stopping at passing scenic spots. For the kids, road trips also mean junk food snacks and occasional movies on the iPad. I would highly recommend hiring a car and driver to tour Yunnan. The driver comes in handy as they know the best authentic hotels to stay at and delicious restaurants where the locals eat. Without our host and driver, we would not have had such a thoroughly authentic experience.
You see what I mean? Yunnan is gorgeous right?
Despite its atrocious Internet connection (the reason why this post has come after our return to Guangzhou) and the sketchiest toilets in China (an impressive achievement in a country of disgusting toilets), Yunnan is the only part of China that we would not hesitate to return to. Stay tuned for posts on specific places we visited in Yunnan.