Buses from Jinghong usually take around 2.5 to 3 hours. Buses leave Jinghong between 7AM and 6PM and cost ¥42 (April 2012).
This is the first big town/city for travelers arriving from Laos. Buses from Luang Namtha in Laos take around 4 hours. You will usually need at least an hour at the Chinese/Laos border to deal with visa issues etc.
It would be wise to have some local currency before-hand. There is a Laotian bank about 800m from the border on the Laotian side that exchanges Laotian Kip to RMB at normal rates, but the Luang Namtha bus does not stop there. The ladies who convert Kip around the Chinese border don't give a good rate, Banks in Mengla exchange currency at market rates, but there is no ATM for international bank cards. Bank of China, will re-open there Mengla branch late Nov 2010
When you arrive by bus you may be taken to a depot. There is a ticketing station across the road, perhaps 200m north.
There are taxis and tuk-tuks that will take you around town for 6 yuan. The local busses cost 2 yuan.
Mengla is the southern gateway to Xishuangbanna, surrounded by untouched rainforest good for trekking. Local Dai ethnic villages are within 10 km of the town that are untouched by commercial tourism if you have the time and are not in a hurry to leave they are worth visiting. New Bupan Aerial Skyway Park. The park gets its name from the skyway in the clouds attraction. Visitors literally walk through the canopy of the key rainforest species, Paraforestea, a tall, straight-trunked tree... You walk supported by cable-supported rope transoms that permit you to step along among the higher branches of the forest. It gives you a new perspective on the rainforest. Overall the park is easily accessed, clean and unique. Yiwu,The Hometown Of Pu'er Tea Yiwu Town is situated in the north of Mengla County, Xishuangbanna Prefecture. It is the hometown of Pu’er Tea as well as the starting point of the Ancient Tea-Horse Trail (Road). In old times, Yiwu was known as a commercial city. It serves as the linkage between China and Laos and an important gateway to the Southeast Asia.
Mengla is a fast growing border area town. There are several markets in the morning that run parallel behind the main streets. The place is quite surreal so you might be interested in simply walking around the place for a couple of hours.
Tours – Village visits/overnight stays and trekking trips to pristine rainforest are available with the local guide, Peter Lee – +86-186-0881-1499 – Very friendly, fluent English. You can find him at Coco Café these days, his new restaurant/café. When you exit the south bus station, walk 50 meters to the left and the café is on your left side. If you're lucky, Peter even invites you for lunch with his friends! http://menglaadventures.zapd.net/
There are at least two well stocked supermarkets in town. If you are in need of a Chinese SIM card there are several China Mobile and China Unicom outlets. Locally made items are also available at reasonable prices if your bargaining skills are good.
There are some restaurants in the main shopping area in town. The restaurants all sell Yunnan and typical Chinese dishes but don't expect a very high standard. Meals should cost around 30-40 Yuan per person.
There is a splendid noodle restaurant on the right side, 10 shops south of the north bus station ticket office. Here noodles are made right in front of you when you order them. A meal is 7 to 14 Yuan, you might even get a discount if you ask for the meat to be excluded. Staff is helpful and friendly.
There is also a night market, only 2 blocks from the new (south) bus station.
There is a new developed bar area down by the river close to the centre of town, behind the DICO’s chicken western food outlet.
METOO: A good sized bar, with live music from 9pm, dance floor, not to loud and a good place to mix with locals.
The Wine Barrel Bar: As you walk towards dico’s turn right, large wine barrel above the entrance. This small bar serves cold beer, and is a relaxing place to sit and have a drink with its water feature and fish pond.
Coco Cafe: Probably one of the few cafes where they speak some English. Peter, the own, speaks English very, very well and always willing to help out with your travelquestions. He sells nice beer at a pretty decent place and wifi is free. He's not always there though but they have and English menu so you should be fine.
There are many hotels and guest houses in Mengla. But if you want to get a feel for the town, try to stay closer to the center. The north bus station is in the sticks, and the south bus station is in a brand new part of the city that feels like a ghost town.
Some options are: Jin Qiao Hotel (金桥大酒店): Right inside the north bus station with good rooms. Rooms go for ¥60 with A/C or ¥40 for fan rooms; larger rooms with telephone are ¥80. Free domestic calls can be made at the reception and third floor.
Na La Bin Guan: Is a good option, quite clean with A/C for ¥40. The rooms are quite large with an area for washing and hanging clothes, closer to the shops, restaurants and bar area of town. Turn right as you leave the north bus station, and it is about 1 km down towards the centre of town (5 Yuan taxi fare) turn left at the Spider King shop and it is located 10-15m on the left.
Cheaper, as you leave the north bus station and turn right, walk approx 50 meters and there is a guest house on the right hand side near the Forest Cafe. This place has no English name but is a pretty run down establishment. They have rooms for around 20/25 Yuan per night.
Again, there are many, many places to stay. The highest concentration is on the main street between the main shopping square (where Dico's is) and the north bus station. Just look for places with 宾馆 in the name, though a few of the cheapies use the characters 旅社 instead. Nicer places use the characters 酒店. Also look for signs on the sidewalk saying 住宿登记 (lodging registration) and 今日有房 (rooms available).
The best contact in town is the local guide, Peter Lee – 18608811499 – a fluent English speaker he can offer advice on places to stay, eat and drink. As you get off the bus in Mengla (at the NEW bus station!) walk 50 meters to the left and his cafe, Coco cafe, should be on your left side).
In front of the bus station there is also a helpful man who will exchange money and also offer advice on accommodation, help you with directions and even offer his daughter to you (if you are single, male and western). He obviously takes a commission from places so be very specific about what you want and how much you want to pay. His exchange rates are poor but if you are in need of some Laos Kip just to be safe, it is worth exchanging some euros/dollars/Thai baht or anything else if you need to. He has a very wide range of currencies and is keen to show them off. His exchange rate 4th of September 2011 was ¥1 to 1200 Laos Kip (Forex exchange rate same date: 1 to 1258). His English is also pretty good compared to most locals.
Busses depart to Luang Namtha in Laos at around 9AM and take around 4 hours. The bus to Luang Namtha doesn't go on sundays. If you've missed the bus in the morning, you can also ask if there is room on an afternoonbus that passes Mengla around 2pm. The border crossing takes around an hour. Expect a bumpy and hair raising journey during the rainy season. Cost is around 40 Yuan.
The bus for Oudomxai, that leaves Jinghong early in the morning, stops at the southern bus station somewhere around 10 in the morning.
There are loads of buses to Jinghong, the capital of Xishuangbanna. Cost is around 40 Yuan. There are also 4 or 5 buses a day that leave for Kunming. Cost is about 250 Yuan and it takes 9 to 10 hours. Nowdays you can go to Yuangyang Terrace from Mengla by bus instead of going to kunming directly,it is cheaper and less tiring. There are several busses daily to Mohan.