Xishuangbanna and Lot of Pineapples

Posted by on Oct 30, 2004 in China | No Comments

After a bumpy 12-hour night bus from Kunming to Jinghong I had finally arrived in my last destination in China–the Xishuangbanna Region. My main reason for coming here was to see the ethnic minorities in the smaller towns. Jinghong, a ?modern? Chinese city, was my base since most buses originate from there. It?s streets are lined with palm trees and Dai women with headscarves selling grilled bamboo and pineapples. I decided that a traditional market would be a good place to catch a glimpse of the minorities that live up in the hills, since they only come into town on market days. Two buses and a lot of bumpy roads later I found myself in a little town called Xiding for it?s Thursday market. Because there are only two buses a day to Xiding I went Wednesday night and stayed at the only hotel in town attached to the bus station. A Belgian couple joined me, bringing the total number of tourists to three.

The night was very dark and completely still, we had to hunt down instant noodles for dinner at 7pm because all of the restaurants had shut down. Thursday morning we were jarred from sleep by loudspeakers that had been installed on the hilltop overlooking town. What I can only assume was propaganda continued for two hours. When I finally walked down the road to the public toilet I was surrounded by women in red and white headscarves and blue aprons–the market was in full swing.

Breakfast was a bowl of noodle soup across from an old Hani woman with no front teeth. Keeping it down was difficult when I stepped out into the meat section of the market where blood splattered the street and pig heads littered the tables. The market was entirely local, full of things locals need like shoes, vegetables, Chinese pop CDs and toilet paper. I walked around, noting the different groups of women with different costumes. The most surprising thing to me was that these woman were not dressed up for tourists, they regularly wore large, elaborately decorated headdresses to market. I took some wonderful pictures of the costumes and most people didn?t make a fuss about me if they noticed me at all. The women didn?t object to me drawing them but seemed unaffected when I showed them the end result.

It was refreshing to see the locals in their own environment, interacting with each other and having a good time. Traveling across China I have encountered large areas where the indigenous people are not Han Chinese. It?s sad to see how Beijing has ?colonized? these areas by injecting Chinese-style tile housing and tearing down all of their religious structures during the Cultural Revolution only to rebuild them for Han tourists now. I only foresee this forced integration getting worse in years to come as China continues it?s mad dash to become the next superpower.