This was one of my first FR, an archive report on a pre-FR era flight, and originally posted in French here. I expanded it slightly and added a tourist bonus at the end.
Have you ever heard of the Xishuangbanna Autonomous Dai Prefecture Airport ? Or Banna, for short on Kunming's flight departures displays, or Xishuangbanna, as they call it on the P.A.? Or even Jinghong, the city that it serves and gave its JHG IATA code ? Probably not.
I had arrived from PEK on that MU 767-300.
I had chosen an ample connection time, because it would be my problem if the plane from PEK was late (it was not). Even though I was going to fly on two consecutive MU domestic flights, there was no way I could buy a single ticket, or check in my luggage all the way to JHG at PEK : I had to fly to KMG, recover my luggage and check in again. I wondered what this connection counter was for.
Night has fallen on the old Kunming Wajiaba airport, which was equally uncomfortable landside AND airside. There was a good reason for the lack of investment for the comfort of passengers: that airport which had been caught up by Kunming's urban sprawl was to be closed one year later, when a new airport opened away from the city.
This was the real China, with the inimitable warm tips which are actually very different in the original Chinese: it actually means A small step forward, a huge progress for civilization. No less!
We board this 737 which still has the decoration of the Shanghai World Expo which had closed on 31st of October.
next to this MU CRJ200
It was a very short flight: only 40 minutes. The pilots have better not miss the runway, because 50 km further away, its (depending on the direction) Burma, a.k.a. Myanmar, or Lao. A different heading is no better, because it would take only half an hour to be in Vietnam. The Golden Triangle (the Burma-Thailand-Lao joint border point) is next door; this once was one the hottest heroin making and trading spots on earth.
With so little time, and for so cheap (around250 RMB), you cannot expect a full meal: only a 30cl bottle of water.
Anyway, we landed in Xishuangbanna on time:
and even before the terminal, we knew that this is not quite the usual China. The text on top is not a Chinese language, it is Dai, a language related to Burmese. You really feel that Burma is very close.
This airport is actually one the southernmost airport in Mainland China, Hainan Island excluded.
There was no shuttle bus outside the terminal, but this time, the taxi drivers did not request an outrageous fare to reach the town. The flight ended there - the tourist bonus begins here.
The official name of this area is the Autonomous Dai Prefecture of Xishuangbanna. Do not be expect much of the level of its autonomy, but it is indeed populated by the Dai (and other) minority. Manduan Wat temple looks more like a Thai temple,
… and so do its frescoes
These new shops alongside the Mekong River have a distinct Thai look too.
On the left, it is the Mekong river, very far upstream from its delta. Winter is the dry season…
.. the sign with a red cross prohibits sailing under this section of the bridge… when the water is so high that you could.
Xishuangbanna is known for its eternal spring - it was 25°C on New Year's Eve, and not much warmer in summer. Jinghong is a pleasant, quiet city where people stroll peacefully, and pay attention to their looks.
See this sign on the right above, it does not advertise a beauty salon,
.. but a cosmetic surgery clinic, and you can know it all about their handling of patients, as I saw later on the right the second time I passed by.
No matter how far south and quiet this area is, this is still China. On this wall in a side alley of Jinghong, there were both adds for cheap housing rentals on the right, and Wanted posters from the police.
The men are suspected of murder, armed robbery, arms trafficking; the women are suspected of pimping and of woman and child trafficking, like this one:
Reference 13, search level A, reward 5 000 yuan Chen YangLian, female, born on 15/07/1969, size 1,60m, talks with a Zhejiang accent, ID number 33032419690715742X, address : (…), suspected in December 2008 of running a prostitution place, on the run.
Child trafficking? Male infants trafficking, actually. The one-child policy has had a disastrous side effect in a society where it was essential to have sons, for agricultural labor as well as ancestor worshiping. Female infanticide and selective abortions are so common that the sex ratio is severely unbalanced. It will take more than these propaganda messages to change the minds of the Chinese in both rural and urban areas.
Give birth to a boy or a girl is the same
Give birth to a boy or a girl is just as good. Girls too transmit the posterity
Kunming - KMG
Jinghong - JHG
It was a short uneventful flight. The catering was minimal, but the price was very low too. No decent seating in KMG landside, not much comfort airside either, no transit services : the old KMG airport was soon to close, and it showed badly. There was not much about JHG, a tiny airport with flights to two cities only (KMG and another city in the north of Yunnan). No shuttle buses, but it was close to the city center and the taxi ride was cheap and fast.
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