Tag Archives: Xishuangbanna

Xishuangbanna Summer Afternoon

Sounds like the name of a song, doesn’t it? Here’s how I spent many a sunny, summer afternoon while I was in Xishuangbanna, Yunnan Province, People’s Republic of China. I would visit one of the jade shops on the main thoroughfare and hang out with my friend, Rohanna. Rohanna is from Myanmar, and he introduced me to some great music including the track playing in the background. It’s entitled “Kabhi Alvida Naa Kehna,” which means Never Say Goodbye, from a famous Bollywood film. I love that song! Now, every time I hear it, it sends me back in time to those sweet Xishuangbanna Summer days! It’s just a video of me and Rohanna and friend sitting around the shop…pretty laid back…

P.S. My external hard drive crashed shortly after returning from China, so I never got around to editing and compiling the videos I shot while there. I got an intuitive urge to plug one of them in and see if I could fix it, and lo and behold, after working a little magic, I was able to access one of the drives and locate a few videos. There are still more videos on the other hard drive, but I have been unable to fix this one. I have been asking friends for local companies, similar to DriveSavers, who offer external hard drive data recovery so if you know one please feel free to let me know in the comments. Regardless, please enjoy this video trip down memory lane!


Xishuangbanna Music Memories

The name of the song is “Kabhi Alvida Naa Kehna” (Don’t Ever Leave). When I was hanging out with Rohana and Sultan, my friends from Myanmar who ran a jewelry shop in Xishuangbanna, this was the song we listened to to pass the time.


Myanmar in Xishuangbanna
Practically all the jade stores in Jinghong city are owned by Myanmar nationals.

Myanmar in Xishuangbanna
I miss Xishuangbanna!

Myanmar in Xishuangbanna
Sultan, Rohana and me…Last hour in Xishuangbanna

Dollar-a-day Nomad

For those of you who think it’s expensive to do what I do, here’s a little info:

As I do my travels to various cities in China, I’m able to establish a routine, norms and requirements for my happiness and comfort. Depending upon how “furnished” my accommodations are, I may need to purchase a few items at each destination. At my first villa in Xishuangbanna I didn’t have to purchase much. However, the second place I stayed was an empty hotel room which the owner equipped with a single-burner stove, a small gas-tank to allow me to cook, so I had to buy everything else except toilet tissue.

Here’s what I ended up buying, and which now constitutes my standard shopping list for new nomad destinations.


sponges 1.20 0.17
bleach 13.00 1.91
mop 29.00 4.26
plastic wash basin 22.00 3.23
hooks 8.97 1.32
manual water pump 15.00 2.22
dustpan/broom 9.00 1.32
dish washing liquid 9.00 1.32
hangers(12) 5.90 0.87
stove adjustor 2.90 0.42
small pot (rice) 9.95 1.46
bulbs (3@0.97each) 2.91 0.42
cutting board 9.95 1.46
3 floor mats 15.00 2.20

Total cost in US $23.31!

See? It’s not that expensive at all–particularly if you’re on a US-based/derived income. Of course it helps if you’re low maintenance minimalist, willing to shop where the local people shop, but the fact is, your dollar can go much further in many destinations overseas.


– I get a mop and broom as I prefer to clean my own room (have you seen the mops and dirty bucket water in most hotels?)

– the “stove adjustor” is that metal ring that sets atop the stove burner for accommodating smaller pots

– the “hooks” are a paste-on 5-hook thingy on which I can place utensils (spoon, strainer, etc.) that I use for cooking

cost of living in China, china hotels
all the purchases in my Xishuangbanna mansion

cost of living in China, china hotels

I’ll compare the above prices to those on Hainan in a future post (rumor has it things are much more expensive here)
So, my point is, when you think to yourself that traveling around the world is something you could never do, remember the dollar-a-day nomad and Jamaican in China!

Yes! I’m still here!

I’ve been holding off on making a new post for a very specific reason which I’ll explain in a short while! :-) Meanwhile, for those of you who are asking: YES! I’m still Jamaican in China! Here’s a little something to whet your appetite until the next post!


Chinese girl basketball team in Xishuangbanna

And, if you’re new to my adventures, you can check out Who is Walt? to say hello! And, since it seems the voting is still going on, don’t forget to vote for me for “Best Overseas Jamaican Blog” in the Jamaica Blog Awards

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Did you say Wild Elephants?!!!

When I was growing up in New York, I used to watch Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom on television every Sunday. (I’m dating myself, I know). Like many children, I was fascinated by animals. So, these days, while I’m not much into paying to see man-made structures and gardens as a tourist adventure, I WILL go see some wild animals if I get the opportunity! And, I’ve heard that Xishuangbanna is famous for its wild elephant sanctuary!

 So, off I went! It’s a 50-minute bus ride from Jinghong City–where I’m staying–to the Elephant spot.

on the bus to Xishuangbanna

High spirits!
We’re off to see the wizard….oops, wrong lyrics…same tune
We’re off to see the wild elephants
The wild elephants of Xishuangbanna!

My first real touristy outing in Xishuangbanna. Look at the mountains! Breathe in that fresh air! It’s so exciting. Isn’t it, guys? Um, guys?

What the…? Hey, you guys! Wake up! You’re missing all the great scenery zipping by!

Elephants at the gate! Dwellers at the threshold

Well, we got to the spot. I think I was the only one on the bus who got off. Everyone else was on their way elsewhere. I paid my admission fee and joined the throngs of people heading to the see the elephants. In the middle of the compound there were elephants tethered to posts for photo opportunities. 20 yuan to have a photo taken. I was sort of expecting to trek through dense forest, on hidden pathways to sneak glimpses of rare elephants in their natural habitat while a seasoned wild elephant expert (the Marlin Perkins of Jinghong) engages us (albeit in Chinese) to help us understand all the mystery of these amazing creatures.

 It’s possible I might have missed that part it since I can’t read the signs and opted not to take the Chinese-language guided tour.

Not quite “in the wild,” but, I can now say I rode on an elephant. Hope I’m not too heavy for you, big fella.

DISCLAIMER: On a very serious note, it’s important for me to say here that I don’t condone keeping wild animals in captivity. Mankind commits many thoughtless acts and atrocities against sentient beings in the name of food, entertainment, clothing and ultimately, financial reward. For a very revealing documentary on many aspects of this, see EarthLings The Movie (also viewable on youtube or other sites.)

And then, the usual fun started. As I made my away around the compound, I started to get requests from people who wanted to take photos with me.

Sometimes, if they’re too shy to ask me to take a photo with them, what the girls will do is: one will pose for the camera while I’m approaching, and the other will snap a photo just as I walk by in the frame. I’ve seen this strategy a few times, so I decided to be nice(r) this time, and just walk deliberately into the shot and put my arm around friend #1. Upon seeing this, friend number 2 gave the camera to a passer-by and joined us in the shot!

photo opp

Upon seeing THIS, a monk gave HIS camera to someone else and joined me in a shot of his own! All this is done with just smiles and gestures. No words.

(I now make it a point to give MY camera to whoever is taking photos of me, so I can get a copy, too, ’cause you wouldn’t believe me if I simply told you what happens!)

 If I stayed there any longer, a line would have formed. Yes! Can you see it?! A booth! A sign! I’m charging 10 yuan a head!

 “Step right up! Young and old! Come take your photo with the Jamaican in China! Only 10 yuan!”

Business is great!


I felt bad for the elephants.

So, I stopped.

…closed the booth.

…tossed the sign.


…kept the money.

So, anyway, after fulfilling my obligatory quota of daily shots for strangers, I decided to stroll around the grounds and get some shots of my own…

Jamaican in China. “Up in the hills, somewhere…” (photo by Parasol Girl)

I think this is a guest house on the premises. Now THIS would be a cool place to live..if it wasn’t for the smell of elephant dung wafting through the kitchen every so often.

 Then, I got down to business.

Through the forest

I started trekking through the dense forest, and on hidden pathways to sneak glimpses of rare elegance in its natural habitat, and like a seasoned expert (Call me Marlin Perkins), I engaged them (albeit, in the little Chinese I know) to help me discover all the mystery of these lovely creatures. Fortunately, I was able to grab some great shots! Wanna see ’em?

 Not sure exactly what her job was, but she was simply out standing in a field (get it?) (literally) with her parasol, so I asked her if I could take her photo. Perhaps her job is simply to look elegant so that intrigued Jamaicans will ask to take her photo. Well, it worked.

The Massage Girls and me….


Zhang Li, at the front gate. She organizes the guided tours

Yes, it was a great experience. And, after a few hours out, I headed back home.

14 yuan for the bus ticket to the Elephant Spot ($2US)
65 yuan admission fee ($9US)
14 yuan for the ride back ($2US)

Not bad for a day’s outing, some cool memories and photos, and a bunch of QQ numbers.

 Oh! Did I mention that I now have a QQ number? What’s a QQ number????? Hold up.

Did you just ask me, “What’s a QQ number??”?? Come on now, get with the program, will you! Here in China, the second most asked question I get after “Where are you from?” is “You have QQ?”

Practically everyone in China has a QQ number.

You can’t be officially Chinese without QQ. So, now I’m on QQ. So now it’s official.

I’m Chinese.

I may not be able to SPEAK fluently in Putonghua YET, but, with the help of the “Google translate” software, I can now CHAT in Chinese with all my new friends via QQ. I won’t publish my QQ number here. Things could get out of hand.

Today I thwarted a pickpocket

thwart: to oppose successfully; prevent from accomplishing a purpose. (That part of my vocabulary comes from reading too many comic books growing up.)

Since I’ve been in Jinghong City, Xishuangbanna, I’ve seen two pickpocket attempts. Now, that doesn’t necessarily mean there are more pickpockets here. The fact that I never saw any such activity in Beijing might simply mean that THESE guys here are just not that good at it! (i.e. easy to spot)

Both times I saw it, in fact, it was at the same bus stop, at about 2 or 3 in the afternoon as I was waiting for the #4 bus, to go back home.

So, it works like this.

The “perp” (short for perpetrator) will hang around at the bus stop as if he, too, is waiting for a bus. As the bus pulls in to pick up passengers, the crowd of people waiting will rush towards the door. The perp also rushes in with the crowd. Using the chaos, single-minded focus, and distraction of people pushing and shoving attempting to board the bus, the perp will swoop up behind his “mark,” (victim) employ a “slash” or a “grab and run.”

I think what I saw the first time was a bag slashing. Having watched where his mark places her purse, the perp will walk up, and use a blade to slash the bottom of the handbag and the purse will slide out. He rushed up, then did a quick “about face” and walked away hiding something under his shirt.

To the casual observer, it would appear that he rushed up to the door of the bus, like everybody else, then simply changed his mind and walked away. To those of us ex-New Yorkers who can spot suspicious behavior a mile away, we know something bad just happened.

I caught on to what he was doing just a split second AFTER he made the grab, so I didn’t actually see it happen. I knew for a fact what he had done–a guilt confirmed by his abrupt departure from the scene, and the hiding of his hands–but I hadn’t actually seen it. By the time another bystander alerted others boarding the bus that a pickpocket had just struck, he was gone.

I felt bad for the rest of the day. I should have done something. I should have chased him down, retreived the purse and brought it back to the victim. I thought about that for the rest of the day.

So, this time, I did something. Today, when I saw the same scenario about to play itself out again, I was ready.

While waiting for the bus at the same stop (I’m always now more vigilant at that specific stop since the first incident), I noticed a lurker. Different fellow, this time, but he was easy to spot.

Perhaps living in New York most of my life has given me a survivor’s vigilance, “street smarts,” as they say, or simply heightened paranoia.

(There’s an old joke that goes: I had to move to new York for health reasons. I’m extremely paranoid, and New York is the only place my fears are justified.)

In any event, keeping a watchful eye means I always know who is around me at any given moment. I’m never lost in a moment such that I’m oblivious to who is in front of, behind, or to my side when I walk, when I play and when I drive.

So, the moment I arrived at the bus stop, out of ingrained habit, I scanned the scene to note who was there. And there HE was. He was just sort of drifting aimlessly back and forth, just waiting– but not for a bus. People waiting for a bus have a different body language. So I kept conscious of where he was at all times.

Sure enough, as the bus approached. I saw him make his move. And this time, so did I. As he rushed up to the crowd of boarders, I, too, moved quickly towards HIM.

As he moved into the crowd seemingly to board the bus, I could see his eyes darting furtively among the unguarded bags and possessions looking for a mark. As he was just about to make his move I practically body-blocked him by forcing my way in-between him and a young lady who was boarding the bus, and whose bag he was reaching for. Everybody else had their backs to him as they, too, were boarding. I, however, was facing him, and like a basketball guard, preventing him from striking. He backed off. My own actions must have looked kind of strange to anyone looking. But I wasn’t trying to hide what I was doing. I wanted him to know that I was being deliberate.

I kept my eyes glued to him. With my own laptop and sidebag firmly in my grip, I stared at him letting him know that I KNEW what he was doing. He back off some more, having given up on that attempt, but he lingered a bit more until a second bus appeared….I kept my eyes on him….he looked at me. Then slowly, he moved out of my field of vision–behind a tree—and soon disappeared.

I have a suspicion that there were others working with him on the scene as there were about 2 others who also disappeared as well, though that could have been coincidence as I wasn’t tracking them.

A few people at the bus stop had quizzical looks on their faces as they had no idea what was going on.

His mark–the young lady whose bag he would have slashed or snatched–was none the wiser. She had already boarded the bus and was on her way home. She’s probably (hopefully) at home counting her money after a day of shopping.

I, however, feel a little better knowing that THIS time I took action and that some young lady somewhere in Xishuangbanna is at home with her purse still in her possession thanks to my interference. I just can’t stand idly by when such an obvious crime is being committed.

Sheriff badge crime in china pickpockets


[cue time-worn audio clip from old Hollywood western:]


“Don’t worry, ladies. There’s a new sheriff in town!”

Next time, I’ll take pictures of the perp and post it on my blog. (I don’t expect that any Xishuangbanna residents or their purses will be saved as a result, but perhaps in some way, it might help someone, somewhere.)



Notes & Commentary:

From what I’ve seen, the pickpockets are targeting “locals.”

It’s true I haven’t seen many foreigners here–and two crimes do not a valid survey make–but something tells me that a pickpocket who makes his living finding marks, would feel more comfortable and be more familiar with the moves and rhythm of the local population. I’m sure a careless tourist could fall victim, too, but knowing how to gauge a potential victim, knowing who is vulnerable, knowing the schedules and movements of his victims is something that is developed from watching the local population, not the tourists.

I’m just speculating but, I suspect that HIS unfamiliarity with the ways of foreigners would make ME, for instance, less of a potential target. I could be wrong. Why take the chance that the dark foreigner with the bag of cashews might just be a Jamaican who could outrun him and grab his stuff back? I’m just speculating.



[cue Superman opening sequence sample:]

Rasta superhero crimefighter logo Jamaicanman

Look! Up in the sky! It’s a bird! It’s a plane!


It’s…It’s…. Jamaican Man!

Yes, today I thwarted a pickpocket.


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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