Yunnan Academic Excursion
February 19, 2019
By Michelle C., University of San Francisco, TBC Spring 2019 Student
I went down to the Yunnan Province for two weeks with my peers that are in the same academic program. We went to many places in just a short amount of time and it was a fun and exciting experience. It all started off with Kunming, Yi village, Jianshui, Hani village, Jinghong, Dai village, Lijiang, and ended with Dali. Each city gave me a different taste of what China is like. At first, I was skeptical on going on this trip from day to day, it felt like I was backpacking around southern China, but I’m glad that I experienced this trip. These were some of my favorite highlights:
One of my favorites was Kunming. This is was the first stop on our two-week vacation! The second I landed I already appreciated the warmth. Being in Beijing and going to the South with more tropical weather was a treat. Kunming was a huge city to begin with to explore. To make it more interesting, our program made us do an amazing race. I think this activity made it more eager to explore around the city because it was a race to discover and figure out things to see or do. One of the checkmarks on the amazing race list was the Chinese cupping therapy. We would win points on figuring out how expensive it was, but we’d get extra if we actually did it, and of course the competitive side of my group and I wanted to do it to win so we did it. I was so nervous at first because I had no idea what it would feel like, but it scared me knowing that they use a match and glass bottles to suck on your skin. It left dark circles on our backs, but it was actually very relaxing and a great pain reliever! My group also walked a lot through the Cuihu park where we found mini temple structures, delicious snacks, and wonderful locals. I drank a nice and fresh cold coconut during this hot day of running around the city, but also a bread stuffed with sweet peanuts. The park had a great temple garden that you can walk through and take beautiful pictures. There was a garden full of colorful flowers and a temple surrounded by a body of water. We also walked around to find a statue of a famous singer but ended up meeting the sweetest little girl. She was happily singing and dancing with us. Her joy was the cherry on top for my day along with all the other locals that were so pleasingly ecstatic to help us when we asked for help or directions. This was just the beginning of a different cultural vibe than Beijing.
After the amazing race, I attended a puer tea gathering. Thanks to Father Frank and his friend for preparing this get together, we had this amazing opportunity to witness the production of puer tea cakes and the brewing of the tea. I’m a huge tea lover so I thought this part was interesting to be a part of because our hosts demonstrated and gave us a lecture on how puer tea is made, the history of it, and other key factors and benefits from drinking puer tea. There was much to learn and things that I didn’t even know about until I attended this gathering. One of the details that stuck in my head was how the tea should be drank in three sips. Another was how you must wash and rinse the tea for the first run of brewing. Lastly, I’ve been drinking tea for breakfast all my life and it’s actually bad for you to drink tea on an empty stomach. Now that I attended this tea gathering, I feel like my knowledge for drinking and benefits of tea will stick with me. When I return home, I can then teach my family and friends how to correctly brew and drink tea!
My second favorite was visiting the Hani Village in Honghe. The Hani village was surrounded by rice terraces that we got to hike. I won’t lie, hiking the rice terraces gave me a little bit of anxiety because I’m super uncoordinated so I was scared to fall into the dirty rice water since the pathways were super slim and parts were unstable as it was moist… But I didn’t fall in! The structure of the rice terraces was beautiful to see up-close and from afar. The villagers were also very fun and welcoming. We were all dancing on the rooftop after we ate lunch on one of the longest tables I have ever seen, and a few shots of baijiu that they were not afraid of sharing with us.
Lastly, I really enjoyed the warm tropical weather and environment in the Dai village in Xishuangbanna. This village reminded of Hawaii because of the palm trees, tropical fruits, open house of fresh air, and the little side beach. It was on the border of Myranmar (Burma) so our staff specifically mentioned to not cross the river, especially at night, since we would be leaving the land of China. This village was the second homestay that our program had. Our parents were super sweet and caring, plus we had a monk in the same household as us. That night we also had a community party which was a lot of fun and there were a ton of kids. I also met a nice young lady that happened to be translating the entire community party, who welcomed us to all come back that warmed my heart.
Overall, I really enjoyed every aspect of each city that I visited. I think each city taught me something different in terms of their way of life, the type of food they eat, the weather conditions, and how they treat others. I definitely feel that the people in the Yunnan province were nicer and helpful to us foreigners. Although, I do understand that Beijing is the capital of China and there are a ton of people in such a small area, so I can’t judge too hard on that. Yunnan gave me a different perspective of China that I didn’t know existed. I’m extremely grateful that I got to enjoy this opportunity to go around the province that borders the southern part of China. I enjoyed this two-week trip so much that I will be coming back in the future to explore more since I had limited time in each city. I gratefully appreciate my program for taking us on this trip because without them I wouldn’t have discovered this beautiful part of China.