Mengla County, China
In our previous article, I have already talked about Mengla: county located in the deep south of the tropical Xishuangbanna Prefecture (西双版纳州 – Xishuangbanna Zhou), Yunnan Province (云南省 – Yunnan Sheng).
We have given you some idea on how to better enjoy a cycle loop tour around the county, and discover all its beauty and amazing minorities.
If you have missed it, you can click here.
It is now time, for us to let you find out even more about this less known Chinese county. What are you waiting for, come with me.
Landian Yao minority (蓝靛瑶族 – Landian Yaozu) in Yao District (瑶区 – Yao Qu)
Yao district is located north of Mengla and extends up to the Laotian border to the east. It is comprised of several villages mostly habited by the Landian Yao, a branch of the Yao group.
“Landian” stands for “indigo”, from the Chinese characters 蓝靛 (Landian) originated from the Landian Yao’s custom of wearing indigo-dyed clothes.
Landian Yao populates many Chinese provinces and migrated over the course of the history to several countries such as Vietnam, Laos, Burma, Thailand, USA, France. Landian Yao of each region slightly differs in dialects and clothes, however, they all share a similar culture. Their indigenous belief has been strongly influenced by Confucianism and mostly Daoism. The religious system is dominated by men, who are trained and initiated to become “Shamanistic Healers”, “Priests” or “Masters”. These figures become a bridge between the physical and transcendental world, they own the skills to communicate with ancestors, deist and to heal “spiritual diseases”. The elaborated ceremonies include the use of ritual tools such as costumes, masks, magic seals and mainly ancient manuscripts and sacred texts written in traditional Chinese characters on bamboo paper handmade by women.
Panwang (盘王节- Pan Wang Jie) Festival is the main festival for the Landian Yao. It celebrates Pangu (盘古 – Pangu), believed to be the ancestor of Yao people. During the celebration, most of the people will wear their traditional clothes, gather together, sing and dance. Rituals and sacrifices are performed as well as offering to worship the ancestors.
Yao district is a fascinating area to explore if you are interested in Landian Yao minority. While most of the villages don’t retain their old architecture and fewer and fewer people wear traditional clothes, the ancient belief is still alive and practiced by the Landian people and is still possible to find a Shaman or Master willing to share his culture with you.
How to get there: buses to Yao Qu (瑶区) depart from Mengla bus station at 8.30 am – 10.30 – 14.30 (ticket 13¥ - journey time 35 min)
Skytrees Canopy (望天树 – Wang Tian Shu)
Sky-trees rain forest park is located 20 km northeast of Mengla town. Declared nature reserve in 1975, the park host Dipterocarpaceae trees, a Mengla native species, which can reach the height of up to 80 m. A 500 m suspension bridge network allows you to walk straight in the canopy and appreciate in full the height of this primitive giants. This is a great experience and the panorama of the forest is very rewarding.
It’s possible to hike a paved trail, which runs through the tropical forest and enjoy the view from a different angle. The forest is stunning and the vegetation is rich, however, the paved trail and few more attractions of the park takes away the wild feeling.
Entrance fee: 60 ¥ entrance - 120 ¥ tree canopy
How to get there: buses going to Yao Qu (瑶区 - Yaoqu) stops at the park, departing from Mengla bus station (10 ¥ - journey time 35min) – ask to be dropped at the park entrance.
Shangyong is a little town located few km away from Mohan (磨憨 – Mohan), close to the Laotian border. If you are traveling south from Mengla and have some extra time, stop here to visit the market, mostly during the weekend. It is a very interesting combination of minorities gathering from Xishuangbanna and Laos. From here you can grab the bus direct to Mohan or Luang Namtha (Laos).
How to get there: buses depart from Mengla bus station from 7.00 am every 20 minutes (17¥ - journey time 1.5 hour)
Volunteer at Mengla’s Window (勐腊之窗 – Mengla zhi Chuang)
The school focuses on extracurricular activities, local children and teenagers. The main aim is to motivate children to stop playing video games on their smartphones and instead develop social and personal skills. The activities are English, Basketball and Football classes, held during the weekends and bank holidays.
The school is run by Sam, a very good friend of mine.
Originally from Beijing, Sam lives in Mengla with his mother, who cannot walk due to poliomyelitis. In 2011 everything seemed to go in the wrong direction, love and work were felling down and, with it, Sam had a bad accident where he injured his knee, losing the ability to play football, run or even walk, according to the doctor's diagnosis. Regardless the little hope Sam was left with, he was determinate not to give up at his normal life. Thanks to this motivation, Sam decided to take a break from Beijing and to travel with his mother. When he asked to his mother where she wanted to go, she said ‘Xishuangbanna’: the exotic dream of her childhood. With no so much savings, the travel was supposed to be done on foot, and that meant to push his mother’s wheelchair. What is important to know here is that Xishuangbanna is located in Yunnan, at the border with Vietnam, Laos, and Myanmar, the opposite side of Cina! In fact, it took them 100 days and much determination to reach Jinghong city, capital of Xishuangbanna.
Once in Jinghong, mother and son figured out that this was exactly the place they wanted to move in.
Here Sam is now running the school and he is always in seek of support through volunteering, to inspire the new Mengla’s generation. The school is open to English teacher or simply volunteer who can play basketball and football.
Sam's mother is volunteering herself and she takes part in several local organizations, going around her three-wheeled scooter and her strong harms!
I was inspired by their story. Sometimes we need someone to remind us that EVERYTHING is possible!
I wish you to experience too their charisma, love for life and big hearts soon!
You can contact Sam if you wish to volunteer or to know more, here his details :
email : firstname.lastname@example.org
Phone number: +8613901218620
Thanks for reading and stay tuned for my next article.
in partnership in A Wanderlust Love