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In 1991 Billy and Akaisha Kaderli retired at the age of 38. Now, into their 4th decade of this financially independent lifestyle, they invite you to take advantage of their wisdom and experience.

Mekong Memories

Ganlanba, China

Billy and Akaisha Kaderli

Social interaction was limited. 

We had been in Jinghong, China for one week already, and daily, dealing with the language barrier became easier. Basically, we could scarcely communicate with anyone! One fortunate exception was the two sisters who owned Mei Mei café, Orchid and Aktuin. Eating there regularly, we looked forward to our informative chats.

Aktuin and Orchid in front of their restaurant, Jinghong, China

Aktuin and Orchid in front of their restaurant

It was from them that we learned of a nearby village named Ganlanba. 

A day trip from Jinghong, this was an easy opportunity to see some of the Chinese countryside along the Mekong River. Since by bus this trip would have taken most of the morning to arrive, we inquired about renting a taxi. Orchid placed a phone call and quoted us 100 Yuan ($12.50 US ) for the 50 kilometer, four hour tour. Seemed reasonable to us, but wait!  How would the taxi driver know where and what we wanted to see? Orchid assured us that she would take care of it, and arrangements for an excursion were made for the following morning.





After eating breakfast at Mei Mei’s, the taxi pulled up precisely at 9:00 AM. Aktuin and Mr. Li, only an arms length apart, began shouting at one another in in typical Chinese fashion. One moment they were hollering at each other, and the next moment, Aktuin, in a smooth voice laden with honey, would explain to us what was said, verifying the price, driving time, and confirming any requirements we had. The disparity between this noisy and seemingly rude custom confused us, as we did not know if they were having an argument and we were the cause, or if this was just normal interaction. At any rate, we thanked Aktuin for her much needed help, and our driver, Mr. Li, sped off with us inside his taxi.

Although we were hoping for a exquisitely sunny day, we viewed low mist lifting off the mountains around the Mekong River, creating a mysterious and timeless atmosphere. It gave the sensation of being in ancient China, which, of course, we were!

The road was quite winding, and astounding vistas raced past us. Should we stop every few minutes or just enjoy the ride? Light rain and morning fog accented the natural surroundings, with the colors of moss, rock, leaves, and tree bark coming alive.

Twenty-five kilometers later, we arrived at a simple village named Ganlanba. Our first stop was a native craft market, with some unusual offerings.  Preserved butterflies of every exotic variety were eye-catching beauty under glass. Some were presented whole on postcards. 

Mystical morning fog on the Mekong River

Mystical morning fog over the Mekong River

Leaving the market, we threaded through town for a while, taking photographs here and there. Compared to our busy western lifestyles, this town seemed ages away in its simplicity. 





Next stop was the neighboring village of Jing Han.  Mr. Li drove right up onto the local ferry to take us across the Mekong River, and paid the transport fee.

Our ferry crossing the Mekong River

Our ferry on the Mekong River

Upon entering this small village, a middle aged woman invited us into her gated living area. Friendly and open, she pulled out some short stools, and poured 2 tiny plastic teacups of rice whiskey for us to try. A little early in the morning for this type of thing...well, maybe one?  We snapped photos of them, and asked that they take our picture as well. A small half liter bottle of this home made brew was selling for 1 yuan (about 15 cents). We declined and thanked her for her hospitality nonetheless. 

Akaisha and Billy Sampling the homemade hootch, Ganlanba, China

Sampling the homemade hootch

Turning left from her house we walked down a bumpy dirt path into thick brush along the hillside meeting villagers along the way. Dressed in local costume with hair swept neatly up, there were women tending small children, or carrying their wares. We met a cheerful older man casually eating an apple.  Each were amused and pleased to see their faces in the camera display when we took their photos. The women blushed, the children were gleeful, and the older man's eyes danced. Such simple pleasures, human to human, half a world apart.

Returning to Ganlanba by ferry, we headed back to Jinghong. 

On our way into town, we saw countless trees in rows with the sap being taken from them. Wondering what it could be, and knowing they were not maple trees, we were stumped as to what was going on here.

We asked Mr. Li, who was proud and happy to demonstrate to us that it was latex from rubber trees. To communicate this idea, he used hand signals and pointed at his car tires. Pulling some dried, chewy string from a bowl on the ground, he showed us that it was just like a rubber band! All the trees that we had seen coming in by plane, in the sculptured, terraced, and manicured highlands - if they were not pineapple, or rice fields, were these rubber trees. Millions of them, over hundreds of square miles of hills.

Thousands of rubber trees, all in rows, Ganlanba, China

Thousands of rubber trees, all in rows

Now that Mr. Li had done his best, he hit the road ferociously on our way back to Jinghong. It was horrendous! Tightly weaving around the hillsides, Mr Li took the road's turns like a bat out of hell. He was on his way home, and like a horse returning to the barn, he was ready! However, our stomachs were churning as we were thrown from side to side inside the taxi. 

Arriving safely in Jinghong from this white-knuckled ride, he dropped us off again at Mei Mei's Cafe for lunch. We tipped him grandly, and thanked him profusely for his service. 

\For this and other tours, check in with Orchid and Aktuin at their cafe. You will find them most accommodating.

For more stories and photos on China, click here

About the Authors

Billy and Akaisha Kaderli are recognized retirement experts and internationally published authors on topics of finance, medical tourism and world travel. With the wealth of information they share on their award winning website, they have been helping people achieve their own retirement dreams since 1991. They wrote the popular books, The Adventurer’s Guide to Early Retirement and Your Retirement Dream IS Possible available on their website bookstore or on

Retire Early Lifestyle appeals to a different kind of person – the person who prizes their independence, values their time, and who doesn’t want to mindlessly follow the crowd.

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