Tuesday, 24 January 2017

“South of the Clouds”: Ten Insights into old world Yunnan

While the word “China” often conjures images of Beijing or Shanghai, the south western province of Yunnan offers one of the most stunning and diverse landscapes in the country. A land of snow-capped peaks, fluttering prayer flags, traditional tea houses and ornate pagodas, it’s also home to more than 25 minorities.

Asia specialists Insider Journeys have compiled their top 10 reasons to visit this corner of old world China that has so much to discover:

1. A glimpse into ‘traditional’ China

Yunnan is a province of quaint villages, peaceful temples, cobbled streets and authentic tea houses - a glimpse of old-world China a world away from the commotion of its major cities.

2. Incredible natural scenery

Snow-capped mountains, undulating rice terraces, shimmering lakes, vast gorges and the foothills of the Himalayas: Yunnan has no shortage of natural wonders to explore.

3. Tiger Leaping Gorge

No trip to Yunnan is complete without traversing Tiger Leaping Gorge, one of the deepest canyons in the world, on the Jinsha River just north of Lijiang.

4. Charming Lijiang

Cobbled lanes, traditional timber houses, quaint market squares: the charming ‘UNESCO World Heritage Site’ of Lijiang is like nowhere else in China, and a must-visit while in Yunnan. Breath-taking views over the old town are available to those who climb Lion Hill. 

5, The Bai People of Dali

Not only is the walled city of Dali incredibly beautiful, it is also home to the Bai people. The Bai are one of 56 recognised minorities in China, and are responsible for building the iconic Three Pagodas.

6. Naxi Culture

Lijiang is the perfect place to absorb another of Yunnan’s many ethnic minorities, traditional Naxi culture. Wandering the market square often provides the chance to catch a traditional music performance.

7. Tibetan Culture

A taste of Tibet is available to those who head to Shangri-La (Zhongdian). Perched high in the mountains, this hillside town is a predominantly Tibetan community, complete with strings of prayer flags, Buddhist monasteries and traditional wooden dwellings.

8. Yak Butter Tea

Shangri-La is the perfect place to try a Tibetan delicacy – yak butter tea, and for some lucky travellers, the chance to sit down with a Tibetan family to try this traditional drink with the locals.

9. Sample Yunnan’s unique cuisine

Yunnan’s best known dish is Guoqiao, or ‘crossing the bridge noodles’. It is a rice noodle soup similar to Vietnamese Pho – not surprising as Yunnan shares a border with Vietnam.

10. ‘The Spring City’, Kunming

Kunming is the modern capital city of Yunnan Province. Its spring-like climate makes it ideal to explore its many museums or wander Green Lake Park (Cuihu Park). With its picturesque bridges, pavilions and abundant lush vegetation, Kunming is heaven for photographers.
Insider Journeys offers an 8 day Mountains & Monasteries private itinerary that includes Dali, Xizhou, Lijiang and Zhongdian (‘Shangri-La’). For details, visit: www.insiderjourneys.com.au or call 1300 365 355.

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