Jinghong (景洪; Jǐnghóng) is the capital of Xishuangbanna in southern Yunnan. It is a hub for Chinese package tourists as well as for travellers passing between China and Laos. A prime area for backpackers, it is an interesting alternative to Laos or northern Thailand. It is an easy overland trip from Laos and it is also possible to get there by boat from Thailand without obtaining a Lao visa.
Chinese citizens can easily and quickly obtain a Lao visa at the consulate here (same day option: if you arrive early in the morning, pick-up in the afternoon costs 240 yuan. Immediate delivery costs 330 yuan. ~150 yuan for several-day option)
Jinghong's recently updated airport (IATA: JHG) fields daily flights from Kunming and a few other cities in China such as Chengdu, Changsha and Shanghai. Currently China Eastern flies twice weekly between Bangkok (IATA: BKK) and Jinghong. Note that when booking a plane ticket to Jinghong, if it is not listed as "Jinghong" it may be listed as "Xishuangbanna".
There are over a dozen sleeper buses from Kunming Southern bus station daily, from around 9am to 10pm (four buses leave between 9pm and 10pm, making it an easy overnight trip). They cost ¥220-260, depending on the coach quality. The bus takes around 8 hours, and will travel over some bumpy dirt roads. Note that it may be a "sleeper bus" (lying down) even during the day.
From Yuanyang coming down to Jinghong used to be tricky. As of Dec 2014 there is a direct bus leaving from Nansha at 4pm and arriving at ~11pm (~150yuan).
Another option is from Xinjie or Nansha you backtrack to Jianshui (3-4 hours) and take a sleeper bus to Jinghong from there (¥177, 12 hours, at 1330 and 1630). Another option, again from Xinjie city you can take a bus to Luchun (¥38, 5 hours), spent the night there and catch the one and only Luchun to Jinghong bus at 8.00am the next morning (¥120, 12 hours). Be aware that this option will take you through very bumpy, rough and many times unpaved roads crossing endless mountains, rice terraces, banana plantations and little villages so its not for the fainthearted but the scenery is stunning. Landslides are often and many times small streams go through the unpaved road so its not recommended during the rainy reason, you might get stuck in the middle of nowhere due to a blocked road. Furthermore there will be a few police checkpoints where your passport will be checked but its very fast and hassle free.
From Ruili there is a direct bus at 10:00 AM arriving the next day at about 7:30 AM. It is a sleeper bus, and travels through a mountainous area with much scenic terracing and tea plantings. The road is paved and good condition, and there are several checkpoints.
This is the first big city for travelers coming from Laos. This is the first place with banks that accept foreign cards, but most travelers will have to change buses in Mengla to get here. A direct bus from the border town of Mohan takes 3 hours. There ate also direct buses from Luang Namtha and Vientiane.
Ferry trips along the Mekong to Chiang Saen (on Thailand's side of the Golden Triangle) are around ¥800, although these are currently suspended due to the Thai military incident on the Mekong in October 2011, where the discovery of murdered Chinese nationals on a boat with amphetamine tablets has irritated the Chinese government. No Laos/Myanmar visa necessary, but very irregular, leaving only several times a month as of early November 2010. They leave around 7am and take a full day (see http://www.maekhongtravel.com/en/). Slower 3-4 day trips on cargo boats may be available but are currently limited to just two passengers per boat.
The few limited interesting parts of town are definitely walkable.
There is a system of public buses for ¥1 trip.
Jinghong has plenty of tuk-tuks or auto-ricksaws about. Hire these as a slightly cheaper way to get between places, but more than a kilometer or two and your butt might be sore all day.
Taxis run about ¥5-15 to places in town.
Down by the Lancang jiang (or Mekong river) it may be possible to hire a boat for a bit of river cruising.
Most hostels and guesthouses rent out mountain bikes to visit nearby villages for around 30¥/day (July 2013). To be honest, they are not worth this as they are typically not well maintained and no extras (helmet etc.) are provided. These bikes are unlikely to suffice for any keen cyclists.
You can hire good quality, well-kept mountain bikes a little way out of town at Trinx Industrial for 30¥/day. The staff are extremely helpful and will provide you with any other accessories you may require (pump, repair kit, helmet, gloves, mud guards, lights etc.), the only downside being they require a 500¥ deposit (July 2013). Tel: 157 5236 0049. Address: 景洪巿中景明城1–103(沃尔玛斜对面)
- Minority villages. Scattered outside town are both minority villages and "minority villages". The ones in quotes are stylized reconstructions featuring song-and-dance numbers for Chinese package tourists. Approach with caution. The Dai Minority Park 傣族园 in Ganlanba (橄榄坝）(aka Menghan 勐罕) is the most famous of all. Is comprises several small villages and it is better to explore it on bike. Lonely Planet year 2006 book claims that you can rent a bike near the entrance, but this place doesn't exist anymore (Feb 2013) ¥100 - full-price ticket ; students enjoy half-price discount. Water-splashing festival is held twice a day and is really popular with Chinese tourists. Except for a few beautiful temples inside, there is not much to see -- it just feels like the rest of Southern China. edit
- Tropical Flower Garden (西双版纳热带花卉园), 99 Xuanwei Avenue, Jinghong, ☎ +86 691 214 7097. Beautiful tropical botanic garden in the city of Jinghong ￥40. edit
- Xishuangbanna Buddhist Temple (西双版纳总佛寺), Baji Road, Jinghong. beautifully renovated historical Theravāda Buddhist temple. Behind Manting Park. Can be accessed directly via Baji Road, or alternatively via Manting Park if one already entered the Park. free. edit
- Botanical Garden, Menglun (Take a bus from Jinghong or cycle the 70km old road to Menglun). -1800. Mixed reviews from foreign tourists, but admired by Chinese tourists entrance ticket-¥104, discounted price for students -- ¥52 (July 2013). edit
- Elephant Valley Nature Reserve. This nature reserve is about an hour's bus ride from the main bus station in the north of town, although buses back may be harder to find and a taxi or hitchhiking may be necessary. The site consists of a walkway and cable car over the reserve itself, where wild elephants and other wildlife may be observed, alongside zoo-like enclosures for reptiles and birds and an "elephant school" where elephants may be ridden/photos taken for ¥30 each (or merely approached for free). ¥65 (50% student discount with ID). edit
- Mengle Temple, Nanlianshan Mountain. The biggest temple in Xishuangbanna. In the southern area in Jionghong, you can hire bicycle to go there. One should note that this newly contructed place in recent years is more commercial than religious or cultural. ¥120. edit
- Peacock Lake Park, crossroads of Mengle Dadao and Xuanwei Dadao. A pleasant "park" with an artificial lake and a fountain. If its not raining, during the evening check the corner just outside the park on the roundabout, locals gather and dance on the open for many hours. FREE. edit
- Manting Park, No.35 Manting Road (on the southeast of the city, around 1km from the center), ☎ 06912161451, . 7.30am-5.30pm. Another pleasant park which is divided in eight parts, the main entrance, the National Cultural Plaza, the Tropical Orchid Garden, the Peacock Garden, the Life-leaving Lake, the Buddhism Cultural Quarter, the Planting Memorial Quarter and the Dai Cultural Teahouse. There are extra performances of singing, dancing and fire (which cost extra as well), check with the counter in the entrance for times and fees. ¥40 entrance to the park, performances extra. edit
- Rainforest and Scenery. Travel around the Jinghong area to see some magnificent scenery and rainforest, although sadly this is fast disappearing with rubber plantations. The best way to get off the beaten track it to hire a bike (see the 'Getting Around' section above) and head off into the hills. One particularly spectacular route is the old road from Mengyang to Jinghong (it is recommended travel to Jinghong from Mengyang otherwise it is a long and difficult uphill struggle). Other recommendations include cycling to Ganlanba and/or Menglun. free. edit
- Dai Newyear. If one is in the town during the Thai (Dai in that area) New year there is a massive celebration with Dragon boating and capped off with a massive city wide water fight on the final day of celebration. edit
- Riverfront Walks. The town is on the Lancang River, to most Westerners better known as the Mekong. There is excellent walking along the riverfront. edit
Note that the Mekong Cafe (see eat section) can organize treks.
Bank of China with 24 hours ATM is available a few minutes walk from the bus terminal. Cross the road and turn right as you leave the terminal. There are other banks in the area as well.
The usual Chinese tourist gimmicks, somehow more here than anywhere else in China. Local Dai produced items also available.
- Night market Xishuangbanna Park, On the righ side of the New Bridge. Every night there is a big night market in Xishuangbanna Park just on the right of the New Bridge. You can buy almost anything here and there are endless street food stalls. edit
- Thailand Avenue (Tai Guo Jie). A newly built large open market and Thai themed stores centered around a stage. There are at least two bars on premise. Free live music at night at around 7 pm. edit
Litereally hundreds of restaurants throughout the city.
- Mekong Cafe, F1-104 Menglong Road, ☎ +86 691 21622395. Cafe with terrace and serving western and chinese dishes. The cafe can organize guides and tickets. Ask for the Mei Mei cafe to any driver, it is next to it. edit
- Mantingxiaozhai BBQ, Manting Road. There are many BBQ restaurant here. Special food, very delicious. edit
- Banna Cafe, 1 Manting Road, ☎ +86 691 2160970. This friendly cafe is a cafe where you can sit and watch life on the streets of Jinghong. They offer Western and Dai foods. They also provide guides for tours and treks. edit
- Mei Mei Cafe, F1-102 Menglong Road, ☎ +86 691 13988109372. Most famous western cafe in the region. This long-running cafe overseen by sisters Orchid and A-chun has a large outdoor terrace where you can enjoy local Dai or the highly rated pizzas, along with other western dishes. Their desserts are delicious. They can provide useful information or guides. edit
- San Guo Wei Restaurant (Taste of Three Kingdoms), Mannongfeng District (next to Mengle Temple by the south hill), ☎ +86 13608784042. Nice and pleasant restaurant, in a Burmese style house with a nice garden. Owned and operated by enthnic Dai family with strong ties to Myanmar. Serving authentic Thai and Myanmar dishes. ￥40 per person. edit
- Cai Chun Qing Thai (财春青), Manting Road (across from Mei Mei Cafe), ☎ +86 691 216 1758. A Thai food cafe reportedly operated by Myanmar people. A casual and clean setting. Served by pretty Myanmar Shan girls. ￥20 per person. edit
- taste of Dai dishes in a Dai home (曼弄匡村寨), Mannongkuang Village (next to Xishuangbanna Buddhist Temple behind Manting Park). There are several restaurants in the Dai village in Jinghong. Owned and operated by Dai people. Settings are all in traditional style Dai homes (newly renovated though). Dishes are authentic Dai. edit
There are many nice bars by the Mekong river on the left side of the New Bridge, a bit expensive but beautiful at night, they are worth a stroll even if you don't go inside for a drink.
- Mountain Cafe, (It's moved - now in the 'new' part of JH). They focus on coffee, but also serve quesadillas and pizza, plus do custom baking. It is located about 10 minutes outside of town. edit
As of end of 2014, there can be a few hundred hotels (large and small) in the city. There has been a hotel boom in the past few years. Many nicely decorated new private hotels would charge about ￥100 (hot season rates may be multiple times that). There are also a few Home Inns in the city.
There are a number of O.K. options near the bus station, with the cheapest starting at ¥15 a night. For other, more expensive options, try the reservation booth at the bus station. They'll steer you to the city's four and five star options at a discount.
- Manytrees International Youth Hostel. Pretty close to the bana and north bus stations (~600-800m), convenient if you arrive with the late bus from Yuanyang. Comfortable typical YHA hostel. Dorms, private rooms etc.
- Mekong River International Youth Hostel. Located right in the heart if the city, comfortable typical YHA hostel. 10m from the backpacker "Mekong Cafe". Dorms and private rooms.
- Traveler's Hotel. Just south of the bus station is a great option. Rooms here start at ¥60 for a double with air conditioning and attached bathroom. edit
- North Bank International Youth Hostel, D9 Yijingwan, Jingliang Road，Jinghong City（景洪市景亮路怡景湾D9） (email@example.com), ☎ +86 691 2219177, . The 2011 built Hostel is a quiet villa area on the north side of the Mekong River. Dorm beds are plywood with a couple centimeters of padding but the showers and bathrooms are acceptable. It is on the north bank and near the port. The environment is lovely quiet, green and there are plenty of foodstalls on the street. But service is poor, don't expect them to clean your room when staying longer - you have to ask and put out your bins. Double rooms ensuite are 100 yuan and have fairly good beds. edit
- Jinglan Hotel, R. 106 JingLanGuoJi Building, JingDe Street, ☎ +0086-691-8930588. New hotel with very clean and nicely furbished rooms. Comfortable beds, TV, large bathroom. Friendly staff speaks some english. An absolute bargain, in three months in China we never had a better price-performance ratio. 128 RMB. (22.001449,100.799477) edit
- Caffy&Ken Backpackers' Youth Hostel (西双版纳背包客国际青年旅舍), NO.20,Mengzhe Rd,(behind Xiaocaiguan,close to JIndu Hotel) Jinghong, 666100, China 勐遮路20号 (景洪, 666100), ☎ +866912581119. Dorm ¥38, other options available. Clean. WIFI. Hot shower. English may be limited. There is an interior courtyard with tables. edit
- Holiday Inn Crown Plaza, Mannongfeng District, . A resort located in the southeast section, by the hillside, about 4km from center of the city. Somewhat isolated from the activities of the city, albeit next to two big construction sites along the hill. edit
- Sheraton Xishuangbanna Hotel, Gasa Town, ☎ +86 691 8991111, . A resort newly opened at the end of 2014. Situated next to a tiny Dai village in the center of Gasa, about 15km from the city of Jinghong, about 5km from Xishuangbanna Airport. edit
- Ramada Plaza Xishuangbanna, Mannongfeng District, ☎ +86 691 256 8888, . Directly south of the city, in the newly developed distrcit of Mannongfeng. edit
- Villages - Jinghong is the getway to Yunnan's Xishuangbanna Region. This is China's part of Southeast Asia, with several minority groups that are in many respects more Thai or Lao than Chinese. The city is quite close to a number of Dai Villages, which can be reached by local bus or through myriad tours available here or in Kunming. Note these villages are highly commercialised, and will disappoint many looking for an authentic experience.
- Kunming - Sleeper buses take 8-9 hours and cost ¥235. First bus early morning and last bus 22:20. There's a military and police inspection points on the way where all passengers get off the bus and bags are unprofessionally inspected. They arrive at Kunming's new Southern Bus Terminal and from there to the city center you can take bus C71 (¥5) or walk to 3 minutes to reach a local bus terminal where bus 154 (¥2) will take you for about half an hour where you can change to bus 90 (¥1) that will take you to Jinbi Lu. Make sure you have EXACT change for the bus.
- Mengla - the second last town (Mohan is the last, right on the border) before Laos, is five hours away. Buses leave from the Banna Bus Station two times an hour for ¥42 (April 2012). The station is across the street and about 100 meters south of the long-distance station. From Mengla there is one bus daily at 9 a.m. to Luang Nam Tha, the first town in Laos.
- Vietnam - getting from Jinghong to Vietnam can prove to be a bit of a problem, with two imperfect solutions. The obvious one is to go back to Kunming and start from there. This can cause problems in that you may have to wait for a day or two to get a train or bus ticket to the border. The second, marginally preferable option is to take a sleeper bus from the North bus station to Mengzi. These leave every day at 2pm, cost ¥170 and arrive at Mengzi at 6am the following day. A taxi will be ready to take you to the town's second bus station where a minibus leaves for the border town of Hekou at 6:50AM and gets there at 11A. From there you can cross over the bridge into the Vietnamese town of Lao Cai. Alternatively one can enter Vietnam via Laos.
1. Luang Namtha: there is a direct bus to Luang Nam Tha. Get tickets at the new-ish northern bus station the day before. Leaves at 10:40AM. Cost is ¥70. It takes 8 hours, arriving in Luang Namtha just before dark (around 6PM). Be prepared for stops along the way. Best is that the bus crosses the border too, so you do not have to unload anything. Very comfortable ride.
2.Huai Xai: direct bus to the Laos-Thailand border at 6:40AM, 120Y.