Xishuangbanna Living, Parts 1, 2 & 3

CHINATRAVEL.net asked me to do a series of special posts on what it’s like to live in Xishuangbanna, Yunnan Province, China as a Jamaican nomadpreneur vegan minimalist. So, did!

CHINATRAVEL.NET INTRO: In this first of a three-part series, Jamaican in China Walt Goodridge moves from chilly Beijing to China’s sunny south and the balmy warmth of Xishuangbanna. A tropical paradise more usually experienced as a backpacker stop en route to neighboring Myanmar, Laos or Thailand, Walt invites us to join him in getting away from the tourist trail and living from a local perspective, as he sets up home in the capital Jinghong. Over to you, Walt! >>>

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  • PART 1 (Nov 17, 2010)
  • PART 2 (Nov 24, 2010)
  • PART 3 (Dec 3, 2010)
  • Bye Bye, Kunming!

    From: walt@jamaicaninchina.com

    Subject: Jamaican in China! –Bye, Bye Kunming!

    Date: November 13, 2010 1:06:35 PM GMT+08:00

    Things have been moving fast, but before we go any further, I’d like to express my sincere thanks to some Beijing friends I made during my two months there:

    – To Susan, my couchsurfing guide, who helped find one of the cheapest hotels in Beijing and has a book’s worth of money-saving tips for anyone living and visiting the city! Thank you!

    – To Shang Mei, one of the first people I met outside the Apple Store, who was just so sweet and friendly and who helped me look for apartments in Sanlitun. Thank you!

    – And, thanks to Ben, whose Chinese language skills I envy, and whose insights into the Chinese female mind made for great conversation…(oops, sorry, Ben, was I not supposed to say that in public?)

    ****

    Now, those of you who know me know that, for healthy lifestyle reasons, I NEVER use air conditioners. The air is unnatural and often toxic, and I love heat! I’ve lived in Jamaica in the tropics, New York during hot summers, and Saipan for four years, and never used one. I mean never. So much so, in fact, that I didn’t know you could get warm air from an air conditioner until Cong told me during my last days in Beijing!

    However, since I’m told that the heat in China doesn’t get turned on until November 15, I had to make an exception and use one to blow warm air into my room!

    So, once I arrived in Kunming, and once I realized it was still a bit too cool for me here, and once I discovered that the hotel I was staying didn’t have an air conditioner for me to use to warm the place, I switched after one day to another hotel (thanks, again to Cong!)

    This one was called the Dock Inns–a set of modified studio apartments on several floors of an apartment complex a bit outside of the city center. The daily charge was only 129RMB.

    Dock Inns. Second home in Kunming
    the Dock Inns front desk
    Great room, nice view, and an air conditioner for warmth.
    The view from my window

    So, things are improving. I’m starting to feel more alive. There’s sunshine streaming through my window. That can only mean one thing: Time to eat!

    Thanks to HappyCow.net, I had discovered there’s a vegan restaurant in Kunming. It’s called Yu Quan http://www.happycow.net/reviews.php?id=10372 Chinese Name: 昆明玉泉斋素食餐厅 Chinese Address: 昆明平政街88号圆通寺大光明酒店二楼

    I knew I was in the right place, when shortly after I entered, a troop of Buddhist monks entered and went upstairs to the special dining room.

    Okay….play it cool…try not to be too obvious that you’re taking their photo. Keep the camera on the table.

    No chopsticks, you ask? I told you, when I’m really hungry, I go with the fork. I can get more in my mouth that way! 🙂

    However, even though I’d visited it on two occasions, Yu Quan restaurant was an expensive 30RMB taxi ride from my hotel. However, Su Qun (aka Michael), the manager of the hotel, was nice enough to drive me there for my third visit, while showing me the bus route I’d need to take to get there on my own in the future.

    Su Qun (aka Michael), manager of the Dock Inns. (Lest you think I only meet and take photos with women here in China) Please note the colors of my scarf–the colors of the Jamaican flag–as there will be the customary test for extra credit.

    So, yeah. Kunming is pretty cool, but it tuns out, as I said, it isn’t as warm–temperature-wise– as I thought it would be. When I chose Kunming as a place to run to escape the cold of Beijing, what I failed to include in my calculations was the elevation of the city. If I had paid more attention in geography class, I would have recalled that it’s not just the latitude that determines the climate of a region. The higher a spot is, the further from the warmth of the earth, and thus the cooler it is. Why didn’t anyone remind me????

    So, just for your edification, perhaps, and for mine, I’ll share what I discovered. Here are a few elevations and latitudes of some relevant cities for comparison. (higher elevation means higher up; lower Latitude number means further south)

  • Jamaica’s elevation is 9 meters (30ft) above sea level (Lat: 18 degrees North (N) )
  • Saipan’s elevation is 474 meters (1554 feet) above sea level (Lat: 15 degrees N)
  • Kunming’s elevation is 1,900 meters (6,200 feet) above sea level. (Lat: 25 degrees N)
  • Jinghong, Xishuangbanna: 490 meters (1,600 feet). (Lat: 22 degrees N)

    See? Kunming is pretty high up there in elevation, so even though it is 25 degrees N latitude, the weather is still too cool–at least this time of year–for my taste. It’s just not my dish.

    On the other hand, while Jinhong isn’t as far south as Saipan (where the temperature is ideal), and is just a BIT further south than Kunming, it’s got about the same elevation as Saipan, and thus should be a bit warmer!

    Did you follow all that? Anyway, the point is: It’s time to say, “Goodbye, Kunming!!”

    See you in Jinghong!

  • My aunt called me a chicken, but Myrna Chen is now my friend!

    From: walt@jamaicaninchina.com
    Subject: Jamaican in China!–My aunt called me a chicken, but Myrna Chen is now my friend!
    Date: November 10, 2010 11:35:48 AM GMT+08:00

    Big Tings a Gwan!:

    In Jamaica “Big tings a gwan!” means “Big Things are Going on!

    1. Aspiring journalist, and new friend, Gao Ying (aka Nicole) in Beijing, found me online and was inspired to write an article about me in Chinese for the Chinese version of Jamaican in China! (Check out the right hand column with a photo of Nicole)

    2. I was recently interviewed by Aimee Groom of ChinaTravel.net*, the sister site to Ctrip.com (the largest online travel service provider in China), and my story, “A Jamaican in China and Nomadpreneur Lives His Dream!” has just been featured in their China Blogger Profile on the site!

    [*

    ChinaTravel.net is a travel resource providing up-to-date, quality content and information on destinations, attractions, news and events for people traveling in, or planning to travel to China.]

    Wow! With articles in Chinese, ChinaTravel.net’s thousands of visitors, their 50,000 subscribers, facebook page, and twitter feed…..um, I’m thinking you’d better make nice with me now before I get too famous and have no time for the small people! I’m just sayin’! You know how these things happen.

    Or, as they would say about me in Jamaica, “‘im get rich and switch!”

    ********************************

    Now, a little review and geography lesson, especially if you’re new to the adventure!

    The story so far: I’m Jamaican. I’m in China.

    http://www.sacu.org/provmap.html

    I am chicken, hear me run!

    In my ongoing nomadpreneur escape from the rat race, I left the tropical paradise of Saipan to see and experience China! I was in Beijing for the past two months. (See “B” on map above.)

    Things were great, but as the weather got colder, I found myself spending more and more time indoors, retreating to bed and the warmth of the covers earlier and earlier every day. That was no way for a sun worshipper to live. So I decided to jet!

    In my previous post, I mentioned that I was escaping the cold weather of Beijing, to head to south to Kunming, and then to Jinghong. (See Yunnan Province, east of Myanmar, on map) to where it’s warmer.

    Well, my Aunt Nye, who lives in Canada (think frozen tundra, and obscenely cold winters), and whose milestone birthday celebration I chronicled in Jamaican on Saipan (my escape from America), replied: Dear nephew, Well! My first thought was “chicken – he is actually running from the cold”, but then I said, “who wouldn’t, if it were possible?” So, it’s good luck to you and I hope all goes well as you follow the sun in Jinghong! –Aunt Nye

    Well, for those of you who might be thinking the same thing. I’ll share my response to my aunt:

    LOL! Chicken??? Absolutely! See my feathers? Yes, just as a real chicken would run from a pot of boiling water, this Jamaican chicken runs from cold weather as fast my little legs will carry me! (and, fortunately, as you know, we Jamaicans have the sprinting genes for it). Yes, I have no shame in admitting in my distaste of cold weather! And, for the record, that’s “MISTER Chicken” to you, madam!

    p.s. The funny thing about this is….remember the “That’s MISTER Milk to you, madam” blog post from a a while before? Well, I actually adapted that line from a friend of mine (Erroll P., a very funny guy). Years ago, when we were driving in Maryland, we passed a Mexican restaurant in Silver Spring called Señor Chicken.

    He’s got a great wit, and after reading the sign, turned to me and said, offhandedly with a tone feigning icy contempt, “That’s MISTER Chicken to you, buddy!” and we died laughing. Anyway, now that my aunt has called me a chicken, I finally get to use the line the way it was originally “performed!” That makes my day!

    Kunming

    Myrna, YunYun, me, and Michael

    While dining, I discover that Myrna is also co-author of The Buddhist Healing Touch, and she’s had a desire to publish more books–this time independently–something I know a little about, and have promised to help her with! Check out the book on Amazon!

    After breakfast, we meet up again so I can share some self-publishing tips, and I got to meet a special young lady in Myrna’s life and current mission.

    According to Myrna:

    “Je Lan finished high school through a scholarship from the Peach Foundation. She had trouble getting into the college and was despondent. She started to call me in the States. I kept close contact with her, explain her options and encouraged her to study hard and try again. She did, and finally got into an occupational(?) college which she’s happy with. I’m so proud of her, and know that she can apply herself when she graduates!”

    Je-Lan, “Lucky Orchid,” Myrna and Me. There’s value in an education, Je-lan!

    Michael and Myrna head back to the US, where they’ve lived since 1966.
    So, yes, my aunt called me a chicken, but Myrna Chen is now my friend!