Ahh Yunnan province! This is a place I’ve dreamt about since my first trip to China those 4 long long years ago. Yunnan is the backpackers part of China. You can catch some of the chill Southeastern Asian vibes floating up from Vietnam, Laos , and Thailand. Picture nature , serene villages, incense , monks , giant hemp plants sprouting up everywhere ,ethnic minority groups dressed in colorful clothes, and Chinese with dreadlocks. I saw more Chinese dreadheads in Dali in one day than in 1.5 years of traveling in China , living in Tianjin, and Shanghai. Yunnan does have some of the typical Chinese gray cities but it’s really about nature ,from Erhai lake in Dali , to climbing through Tiger Leaping Gorge , to entering the Tibetan highlands.In addition to the majority Han Chinese Yunnan has the most minority ethnic groups in all of China. In other words I was in heaven! Oh yea and they grow awesome coffee!
The travels started out with a flight from Shanghai to the provincial capital of Kunming , then taking an overnight train to Dali, renting bicycles and circling Erhai lake, to a train ride to Lijiang , followed by a bumpy 8 hour bus ride to Lugu Lake on the border of Sichuan and Yunnan provinces , returning to Lijiang via the same bleh 8 hour bus ride , proceded by a bus ride to Tiger Leaping Gorge , then another bus ride to Zhongdian (aka Shangri-la) , an overnight bus ride back to Kunming , and then getting out of the country with a massive 26 hour bus ride to Luang Prabang in Laos!.
I’ve mapped out the route on photoshop (sorry for the mess) but you can follow the path : red to Kunming , blue to Dali , green to Lijiang , dark purple to Lugu Lake , orange to Tiger Leaping Gorge , a short aqua to Shangri-la, light purple back to Kunming and onwards to Laos.