Travels with Dick and Karen

CHINA Spring 2012

Part 4

china detail map
We had the choice of taking a nine-hour bus ride from Kunming to Jinghong, or a one hour flight. We chose the flight. At Jinghong we hopped in a taxi for a quick shuttle into town to the long-haul bus station. There we caught a two-hour bus ride to the Xishuangbanna Tropical Botanical Garden located adjacent to the small town of Menglun. Jinghong is located very close to the border between Burma and Laos, and the architecture has distinctive Thai-like attributes. taxi
Elephant motifs are everywhere, including as cartoon characters in the "don't drive while drunk" highway signs. elephants
The highway wound up out of Jinghong's valley, and then wove between (and tunneled through) forested areas. Some of the "forests" were vast groves of rubber trees. rubber trees
The bus dropped us off in the middle of the road at the main entrance to the Tropical Gardens. In 90 degree hazy sun we trudged to the massive tour-bus-capable entry station. From there we had a mile walk to the on-site hotel. When the wheel on Dick's roll-aboard melted then jammed, the "lug" of luggage became a significant factor. He welcomed the off-road path that led into this shady grove of bamboo. bamboo
We finally reached the hotel. This is a government-run facility, with (unusual for China) no apparent way to book it remotely. We'd finally secured a room by having a tour guide contact the manager and book it for us. hotel
The hotel was built in the 1960s as part of the Chinese Acadamey of Science's development of the Xishuangbanna Tropical Botanical Garden under the direction of the botanist Cai Xitao. room
Lacking the sterile atmosphere of modern hotels, colonies of small spiders enjoyed the insect-rich habitat around the coving of our room. We moved our pillows to the "foot" end of the bed to avoid unwanted facial visitors during the night. BUGS
... but the views out of the window more than compensated for any minor failings of the hotel. VIEW
Vines had fully colonized the bridge joining the hotel to the adjacent dining-and-meeting building. moth
Dawn would arrive with the surrounding garden shrouded in mist and fog which cleared within an hour or two. mist
Breakfast was served in the student/staff cafeteria... bowls of rice gruel (congee) and rice noodles, topped with a wide variety of dip-your-own toppings... all of which Karen couldn't eat due to the prescence of peppers or legumes in everything. Dick had no problems eating both his and hers breakfasts. The camera makes the room look MUCH brighter than it really was. breakfast
The other face of the hotel (our room was in the back, overlooking the narrow parking lot and the "back" of one of the garden's collections). The pool, like every one we met during our trip, was empty. hotel
Hey! It's another map! The Garden area is on a "peninsula" formed by a long loop of the Luosuo River. The "Garden" is the "Western Area", and the "Tropical Rainforest" pathway is totally covered by the circled letter N in the Eastern Area. The rest of the Eastern Area is pretty much untrammeled forest. We had walked in from the "Main Entrance" on the left. The Western Area square is about 1.5 miles across. map
The next day, sans luggage, we wandered through the Western Area. Karen was in hog, er, tropical plant heaven. Here's a Pandanus tree. plants
From Karen's scouring of the Internet, we had "met" and engaged Sara, the owner/operator of the Forest Cafe in Jinghong and an accomplished tour guide. She came out on the morning bus and led us through the garden for the day. Although not a trained botanist, she had local knowledge of many of the plant's uses and edibility of seeds. And she could translate the signs. She did a great job of making sure we saw everything with a minimal amout of backtracking. guide
The Garden is a research and training institute. Sprinkled around the grounds we'd come across students learning to look at plants by sketching them. artist
A Fan Palm fan palm
Bottle Palms palms
A Bo Tree (ficus religiosa, also Bodhi).. the drapings and offerings are due to its being viewed as a sacred tree in Hindu, Jain and Buddhist religions. Buddha achieved enlightenment while sitting under one in Bodh Gaya, India fig
Cycads (and a banana). This and the following several images are to share Karen's delight in the tropical plants we saw (if that isn't your thing, page down). cycads
A cycad's new bunch of leaves cycads
A young Golden Banana golden banana
Torch ginger ginger
Jackfruit jackfruit
Passion flowers like the ones Karen grows inside at home. passion flower
A tapped rubber tree without rubber flowing (for that we had to wait till Jinghong) rubber
Another banyan with lots of aerial prop roots banyan
Near the main entrance is a large area given over to shallow ponds, fountains, walkways and pavilions. water
We sat in a pavilion and watched some dragonflies competing for the attention of females and occasionally winning the chance to mate dragonflies
Near the center of the Garden was a lotus pond... water
..., with a few bunches of Victoria water lillies. victoria waterlilies
A shady pavilion located near the Ethnobotanical Garden pavillon
The paths led up to a ridge overlooking the large ponds near the front gate (the large building in the right distance). view
At the center top of the Western Area was a pedestrian-only suspension bridge across the Luosuo River, leading to the town of Menglun itself. bridge
Sara led us through town searching for a good lunch spot. town
We were in a rubber tree planation area... the black plastic items are the channels and collecting arrangements for the trees. town
Long story: Sara had stopped here first for lunch... but we were well past the normal lunch hour, so they'd stopped serving. Thus we went on to another restaurant where Sara brought Karen into the kitchen to select what she could eat to be made into a dish or two. Then she asked Dick if he was "adventurous" and ordered Ma Po Bean Curd... a spicy dish loaded with peppers that he was actually quite familiar with. The next day we returned to town during the lunch hour and stopped at Sara's first choice. This time we asked a bunch of teen-agers if any spoke English. One girl was pushed out by the crowd and served as an interpreter with the owner. The result was another very good meal that Karen could eat. lunch
Back across the river to the Garden. Banana plantations are another major feature of the area river
The quiet Luosuo River river
The next day, without Sara since she'd gone back to Jinghong the night before, we went over to the Eastern area's tropical rainforest pathways. rainforest
This was a couple of kilometers walkway up a river valley and up onto a ridge. forest
Lush vegetation throughout... and (probably due to the season) very few insects. leaf
Epiphytes and orchids covered whatever treeor vine they could grab. epiphytes
Buttressed trees were the monarchs of this forest... tree
...until strangler figs sprouting in their branches grew roots down to the ground. The fig eventually surrounded and killed the original tree, leaving the fig roots standing around the vacated core. banyan
The path led past various research areas.. some had pipes bored into trunks, some were roofed areas controlling and trapping rainfall and leaf litter. The path led up to less-dense areas as we rose above the riverbed. walk
Near the entry of the Rainforest path was a more developed tranquil lake. With pavilion (and fishermen) water
Back in the Western Area was a museum. Among the exhibits was a catfish that can be caught in the Luosuo museum
Here the museum's lobby has an excellent example of the strangler fig's aerial roots formed around a tree. museum
In the Ethnic Traditions section of the museum was this parasol with pressed leaves in the paper. Karen was drooling over it but we never saw one for sale. museum
The next morning we left as the haze cleared, crossed the suspension bridge and walked to the town's one bus station. palms
Then it was back on the bus to return to Jinghong. Our last glimpse of the town of Menglun was of the populace blithely crossing the street in front of it. The blue characters in the window announce the bus' route as Jinghong to/from Menglun, highlighting the Tropical Garden as part of the destination. bus

Next Stop: Jinghong

Hong Kong Kunming Shilin Menglun Jinghong Yangshuo Hong Kong (again)


all text and images copyright Karen and Dick Seymour 2012,
and may not be reproduced without written permission

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