Southwest China : Yunnan : Northwestern Yunnan : Benzilan
Benzilan (奔子栏) is a small town in extreme northwestern Yunnan Province. It lies along a stretch of the Jinsha River (a major headwater stream of the Yangtze River) that forms the border with Sichuan Province, roughly halfway along the road from Zhongdian to Deqin.
The town, as seen out the window of a bus passing along the Zhongdian-Deqin route, might not seem different from many other small Chinese towns one merely passes through, but get off here and you will be well rewarded. For one, given that it lies on the bank of the Jinsha River, it is at the lowest altitude in the area and is considerably warmer than Deqin or Zhongdian in winter. Stray from the typical modern Chinese architecture of the main road and head down the hill to the river and you will pass many charming traditional houses, friendly locals and yapping guard dogs.
All of the buses from Zhongdian to Deqin pass through the town. In fact the mid-point lunch stop is often taken a mere five minutes south of Benzilan. Tickets can be bought at Zhongdian bus station for ¥15. For some reason no tickets to Benzilan are sold in Deqin, though if you stand just outside the station and get on a bus headed to Zhongdian you should be able to get there for ¥30 or so.
The town has one main road with a fork down towards the river.
There are several shops along the main road selling the same silverware and materials that are found elsewhere in the region.
Most of the restaurants along the main road serve good food. The dishes on offer are the same as can be found in most places in northwest Yunnan.
There are a whole bunch of hotels along the main road. A double en-suite should set you back ¥60-80.
There is a bus (though it might be a microvan) that leaves for Zhongdian at 7:30AM. If that does not take your fancy, stand by the side of the road and flag down any of the buses that pass from morning to mid-afternoon.