We will be in SE Asia later this year, and our trip really starts in Yunnan China. We will be in this single area for about 30 days. We would appreciate your comments and fine-tuning of our itinerary for the Yunnan component of the trip.
We are twomid/late-60’s Australian blokes, accustomed to independent travel and each other (we have lived and travelled together for over 35 years – so we know each others foibles and habits too well!) We will be entering into Kunming on/about 22 September 2011. We leave Australia for Bangkok and will fly to Kunming from there. When we leave Yunnan we will journey on, paying homage to the Mekong River (with diversions) for over 5 months - Laos (60days), Cambodia (30 days), Thailand (50 days), Vietnam (60 days). We travel “locally” but supplement this with a few flights if needed, and will upgrade to the equivalent of 3-star accommodation every few weeks as a reward for good behaviour. We do not usually need touristy-support or same-to-same comfort and get through with humour, laughter, patience, a smattering of local conversational language, and respect for local people.
We try to travel slowly – which is, let us tell you, easier after retirement. We have tried to allow one down day for rest (no activity at all) in each week, and one day in each week for travel blockages and delays.
We genuinely appreciate advice from those who have walked before us. We are fit and mobile and happy to walk, trek and use local transport of all types (except speedboats, and as driver of motorbikes/moto), but we are happy, and travel insured, as pillion/passenger on bike).
Kunming – arrive from Bangkok by air. Are there suggestions about where to book the flight in BKK? Costs? Tips? We have 4 days in BKK before departure.
If we can get a connecting flight for the next leg – Kunming to Shangri La/ Xianggelila –we would do so, rather than stay in Kunming (we were in Kunming and surrounds for 10 days in 2005 and keen to move on to Shangri-La asap).
Is there a direct flight Bangkok to Shangri La by any chance – now, that would be realgood!
Shangri La – 5 to 7 days
Qiatou for overnight, leave pack at GH for start of Tiger Leaping Gorge Trek the next day.
Tiger Leaping Gorge – 3 days (2 overnight stays)with return to Qiatou late on third day. How is the return arranged? Bus? Bike as pillion? Advice. In Qiatou again overnight.
Liguang – 3 days – by local bus
Shaxi – 5 days – by local bus
Question: This period coincides with National Day Holidays from, we think, 1 October to end of the next week. We have read that all of China is on the move and in the holiday spirit! Best advice – Do we need to make reservations in advance in Liguang and Shaxi. And what about guides for treks if we want to do that? Will they be there or off in their hometown? Can someone paint a picture for us of the National Day Holidays?
Dali – 2 days – thought long and hard about going here at all – the touristy feel may be overpowering. Advice?
Jianhong – 3 to 5 days depending on how long it takes to make the connection with the 9 hour boat downriver to Chiang Kong inThailand. May fly to Jianhong from Dali (Xiagun) since we think the bus trip may be too long. Advice appreciated.
Many thanksfor your feedback.
Safe travels to all.
You can often find cheap (considering level of traffic) flights to Shangri'la from Kunming on elong(.com) or ctrip(.com) just look for the Deqing (DIG) airport. While in Shangri'la you may want to head up toward Deqin for a more Tibetan feeling area with some nice natural beauty.
The bus ride from Dali to Jinhong should take around 15 hours - I find sleeper buses in China to be comfortable with fully reclined 'beds', but that is comfortable in comparison to other sleeper buses like those in Thailand. If a good night's sleep is something you want, you may find the sleeper bus should be skipped - however, you'll often be with a lot of locals and get another side of the country by taking these long distance hauls. For even more adventure you could take local buses Dali-Baoshan-Lincang-lancang-jinghong . . . just a thought.
I've been hearing good things about Dali lately as being less over run than Lijiang because of all the negative press it has been getting, so it's a little bit of a pendulum swing perhaps. Shaxi is a very quiet . . . and a little white-washed after the NGO's dumped money into restoring it - check it out but you may want to leave the 5 days up for revision and take a couple of those days to tack onto the bus ride between Dali and Jinghong with a stop in a lesser known place on the Baoshan road.
As for issues with doing Tiger-Leaping Gorge - if it is raining do not go - it is very dangerous, however, if the weather is nice you'll find plenty of people in Qiaotou who will give you advice on what the best way to handle your specific inclinations will be - most return by local bus or hired mini-van if missed.
Thanks - appreciated your good advice on the National Day Holiday and have replied to you within that post.
As soon as we have finished this note we are off to research Deqin so thanks for the heads-up on that. We spend a lot of time trying to do justice to an area without doing it in the company of the hordes of other travellers - and so we are happy to look at a Tibetan feel place, and also the local bus route - Dali to Jinhong. We will judge the available time given the National Day Holiday and the demands this might make on local transport. As outlined in our other post, since we may end up running out of time (we are only in the area for 8 months!!), we may fly Dali - Jinhong - another occasion when a journey winds in a different direction.
BTW in LP Thorn Tree post another person has suggested that the Jinhong to Chiang Saen River Boat may have stopped - disappointment if that is true, do you know? (Of course, we will check closer to the time as well).
Fingers crossed for the weather on Tiger-Leaping Gorge. Again thanks.
Keith and Paul
When I was in Jinghong last was 2009 and there was no service boat down to the border. Some old timers in Jinghong said that private boats could still be arranged but it was very difficult because the Chinese authorities had been really cracking down on captains that took foreigners down to the border.
One of the biggest problems would be that Thailand and China do not share a border, so you'd have to pass down the Mekong between Laos and Myanmar before reaching Thailand - the authorities down look kindly on that sort of thing because it usually means you'll be dodging immigration offices. With the extra controls in recent years I think things will continue to get more restrictated rather than less, the 'wild-west' element of Jinghong that allowed such practices in the past has fast disappeared.
My recommendation would be that you don't count on the river boat - in that case your going to cross overland into Laos first. I'm not sure if this part of Northern Laos is on your itinerary, but its well worth a look, a very nice area and you can either pass through on your way into northern Thailand or head through Luang Prabang down to Vientiane and cross over there . . .