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.
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
onto the local ferry to take us across the Mekong River, and paid the transport fee.
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
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
Returning to Ganlanba by ferry, we headed back to Jinghong.
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
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
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,
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