Jingmai, Shui Alcohol, and a Princess

I got an email yesterday from a friend who asked me what had happened to the rest of the Yunnan Tour blog postings.  Well, I have been home just for a couple of days and am just starting to get back in the swing of things after recovering from killer jet lag. Better to post now than never. Besides, the minority peoples we met with provided us with such good adventures.

We were in Jingmai for two days. We had a great time as you can see from the photos. Jingmai is famous for the number of ancient tea trees, and there are two ethnic minorities that populate the area, the Bulong and the Dai. There is evidence that both have been in the area for thirteen hundred years. The tea that has been cultivated here has always been intended for the generations to come and is a very important tradition in Jingmai. The cultivation of the forests have always been tended in such a way as to honor the biodiversity of the forest, and they are very proud that when you view it from a mountain top all you can see is forest.

This is not true of the Jingmai area that is on the other side of the river. This part of Jingmai sits under the jurisdiction of Simao (Puer), where the ancient forests fall under the governance of Xishuanbanna. On the Simao side there are vast gardens of what is called Taidicha (terraced tea) where forest was cleared in the early seventies, and planted with tea by the government.  The roads are paved with asphalt and you must drive through this area to get the the old forest area. Once you get there everything changes. The road is paved with cobble stones to prevent the pollution that comes from asphalt. Driving up the mountain is amazing, and we were driving up towards the early evening when the light is so good. Down the mountain you can see Dashucha (big tree tea) in the forest. Such a contrast between the two sides of the river is startling.

We had a great dinner and took a walk through the local village. The setting sun faded away in the direction of the continuous range that would become the Himalayas in Northern Yunnan.  We finally made it to our hotel in  Bulong Zaizi (Bulong Village) called Bulong Gongzhu (Bulong Princess). The small inn was built according to the local architecture. There were a few problems with large bugs and lights that didn’t work, but we settled in comfortably. It was on the opposite end of the scale from the 5 Star hotel where we had spent our first couple of nights in while at Jinghong, but it was charming.

In the morning we hiked up the mountain to see the outdoor temple at the top where the Bulong say prayers to the mountain. We hiked through the tall forests with old tea trees everywhere, all many centuries old. In a project a couple of years ago, the people carried large stones up the mountain to build stairs to the mountain temple. The climb was steep in places and I had to marvel at the effort to bring the stones for the stairs.

After lunch we went to meet with the leader of the Bulong Minority Su Guowen, sometimes called Su Laoshi (Teacher Su).  Laoshi is a name of respect for a leader, authority, teacher, and respected elder. He invited people that wanted to buy tea that was authentic, to come and buy from him directly. He said that his experience was that middlemen were not being honest about the tea that they were claiming to be from the Jingmai Bulong, and that it was damaging the reputation of his people. The Bulong hold tea to be one of the essential elements of their spiritual beliefs, and he felt that people that were using photos of him and his people to sell tea was defaming their spiritual beliefs.

Later in the afternoon the group when to visit a Dai village further down the mountain. The Dai are a little bit more prosperous than the Bulong. They gave a quite a going away party. There was singing and dancing, that we all took part in and had a great time. There was plenty of beer and some dangerous local alcohol made from corn called shui, which means water, but no one was fooled by the name. The local toast is  Shui, shui, shui, shui, shui. There was sword dancing and even some fire walking. We all made to the Bulong Princess Hotel in one piece, though some of the pieces were in better shape that the others.

The next morning we awakened in the clouds that surrounded the mountains and the Bulong Princess. It was like waking up in heaven.