Dai Villages and Fresh Pineapples

2009/02/07: Another Day off for Chris
We spent a second very quiet day near the Xishuangbanna Tropical Botanical Garden, because Chris’s insides were not ready to cycle on. In fact they were so bad that he began a course of intestinal antibiotics. We try not to rush to take these, but we we knew that if we didn’t reach Jinhong soon, we’d have serious cash flow problems. It’s only the ATMs in larger centres that connect to the wider world.

The waiguoren grapevine tells us that you never know your luck, so we were trying any machine we could find with any card we had. The risk is having a small town machine swallow your card, and we just heard of that happening to someone here. I envision a scenario of having to wait several days till a small town bank reopens.

2009/02/08: Jinhong 76 km
Today was a leisurely ride along the old road, without too much much climbing. Thank heavens for this, because Chris was mostly coasting behind me rather than charging ahead as per usual. We rode through areas of banana and pineapple production. The banana fruit clusters and flowers are bagged in what I think is an attempt to prevent cross-pollination. The pineapples are grown between rows of trees, but I’m not sure of the trees’ species. We bought a pineapple, which the seller peeled and served to us in spears. We sat just across the road to eat it beside the Mekong, which we’d just rejoined.

Chris eating pineapple by the Mekong River
Dai Village Gate

We continued through many Dai villages. Traffic increased as we neared Jinhong. I could see an ad for a rafting adventure, but we’ve had quite enough Mekong adventures. I was feeling a bit fed up with the Hallllooooo, the smoking, the spitting, the honking, the garbage, and a few very greasy meals as we entered Jinhong, not to mention a very stupid driver.

Jinhong is a pleasant and efficient place that has done well to restore us this afternoon and this evening. People were very helpful in directing us to an optician, computer shop, and cell phone place, where problems were efficiently solved. Bank machines that work for us are everywhere. We even found socks big enough for Chris’s larger-than-Asian feet. A good meal was had, and in the park that is lit with coloured lights we listened to a concert of traditional music. We wished the amplified singers had been turned down so as to better hear the fellow playing a wooden stringed instrument that looked rather like a banjo neck attached to an hourglass-shaped bongo drum which he rested on his knee.

The woman who sells ice cream here by our guest house was practicing a wooden wind instrument when not selling; something that looked like a cross between a recorder and a hookah. As we walked, we passed a building where a whole group of people were playing these. The Dai traditional instruments are all made from tropical woods found in the local forest, we learned at the ethno-botany museum in the botanical garden.

Jinhong is the capital of the Dai “Autonomous” Region. There is clearly a pride of place, but I guess it is as “autonomous” as Tibet or Xinjiang. Off north tomorrow. We need time off, but would rather take it where it is cooler.


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