Xishuangbanna is a county in Yunnan, South West China. It is located at the border with Burma and Laos, just a few hundred kilometers away from the golden triangle.
This area is very unique in China, there is a smell of banana in the air, a perfume of adventure. Theravada Buddhism is strongly established and is mixed with the ancient animist cultures.
Ask any Chinese about Xishuangbanna and he will tell you that it is the homeland of the Dai people. Despite its size, this county is very famous and attracts many tourists, especially during the water splash festival in early Spring.
The Han, the real chinese, only represent one third of the population. One third of the people belong to the Dai ethnic group and the last third is made of Hani, Lahu, Bulang, Jinuo, Yi, Yao... Most often, the Han live in the cities, the Dai occupy the plains and the others are hill tribes.
The landscape is made of steep hills, banana plantations, hevea trees, dense rainforests, golden temples and, of course, tea plantations. Xishuangbanna is one of the three main region producing Pu-erh tea, along with Lincang and Simao. Of the three, it is the most prestigious one, with teas incredibly high priced.
The geography of Banna is quite tricky, there are mountains here, jungle there... it creates a lot of micro-climates, this partly explains the diversity among Pu-erh tea. The Mekong river divides Banna, we often refer to the six tea mountains on the east bank (Yiwu, Yibang, Youle, Gedeng, Mangzhi, Manzhuan) and the six tea mountains of the west (Nannuo, Mengsong, Pasha, Bulang, Bada, Xiding). In reality, the western mountains, surrounding Menghai, produce much more tea than the eastern ones. In the east, Rubber tree plantations have supplanted tea cultivation.
Jinghong is the capital of Xishuangbanna, it is a very touristic city with a ''Dai'' architecture made in a typical Chinese style... Menghai is arguably the capital of Pu-erh tea production, not less than 300 tea factories have settled in this town, including the famous Dayi (aka Menghai tea factory) and Haiwan tea factory.
Thanks to the tropical climate, Xishuangbanna is one of the most successful county in Yunnan. Everything grows: bananas, sugar cane, rubber trees, rice and tea. If you take a walk in the hills, you might run into goats, buffaloes, snakes and spiders (they love to weave their nets between the tea trees). No tiger though, not anymore, they went extinct because of over-hunting. There are still elephants and monkeys but rarely in unprotected area. Hopefully, the several natural reserves in xishuangbanna will protect the endangered species.
Now, do you have any reason not to visit this little piece of paradise on earth? Whether you come from Thailand on a boat, from Laos on a bike, or from Shanghai on a plane, at your arrival, the magic environment will seize you and you will stay there forever.