Jinghong is located on the west bank of the Mekong River (known as Lancang here) and even as we crossed the suspension bridge over the river late at night, we noticed that this city cared heavily about its public places. Beautiful street lamps that glowed neon colors, heavy contour lighting of bridges and buildings, the whole city was lit up beautifully!
After procuring bus tickets to Luang Namtha (Laos) for the next day, and having a final Chinese meal of spicy noodle soup for lunch, we explored the streets of Jinghong and saw more evidence supporting our initial impression - wide streets, spacious sidewalks with shade giving trees (critical for this part of the country where the heat can beat down heavily in summer), ornamental plants and flowers, and a wide array of interesting sculptures graced many of the streets in the center of town. The elephant is a favorite theme for public art and there literally are hundreds of elephant sculptures at street intersections and public buildings around the city. The city's location just below the Tropic of Cancer is evidenced by presence of coconut trees, hibiscus and bougainvillea shrubs, and other tropical foliage, carefully watered and groomed. You start noticing tropical fruits like Jack fruit, lychee, mango, dragon fruit and passion fruit in the fruit stalls everywhere. The foliage is so thick that a walk along some of the main streets feels like walking through paths in a botanical garden!
Jinghong, is the capital of the capital of Xishuangbanna Dai Autonomous Prefecture in the extreme southern trip of Yunnan Province (bordering Burma and Laos) and it was our stepping off point from China. But we could very well have been out of China already. All street signs and shop names include a Lao or Thai version along with Chinese.
Besides other ethnic minorities, you begin to recognize Lao features and spot the odd sarong. We were definitely at the fringes of the Middle Kingdom. In the evening, we walked over the bridge for a panoramic view of the Mekong river. The river here is quite shallow and was flowing quite sedately. We noticed a few swimmers but most people were simply hanging around along the banks. Several cars were getting washed at the water's edge. Some passersby stopped to stare at us, some laughing, reminding us that we were still in China. Our previous encounter with the Mekong was in December 2009, further down the river at the Golden Triangle in Thailand where we took a boat ride at the tri-border between Thailand, Myanmar and Laos.
We waited until it grew a little darker so we could see the lit-up skyline again. That did not happen on cue, but as if to compensate, the sky turned to shocking pink and we witnessed a stunning sunset. We retreated back to the hostel hoping to catch the Wimbledon men's finals on TV.
Wait another 10 years and even the frontier will look exactly like the heart of Zhongguo. Harmonisation, you see, is the buzz word these days. From, on Jul 12, 2012 at 07:40AM