As you may have heard, housing prices in China have exploded over the last few years. Why someone would pay over $500USD per square foot (the price for a mid-range condo not located TOO far from downtown) for a 70-year lease (private land ownership does not exist in China) in crowded, polluted Beijing when a townhouse in California’s wine country can be had for just over $100USD per square foot is beyond me. Or, if you want to spend the money, check out this beauty in San Francisco’s Mission District for $570 per square foot.
The land crossing from Laos into China gave me a bit of a sphincter workout. The border official saw that I had repeatedly gone in and out of China in the last few years and asked me a bunch of questions. First, he just wanted to get to know me. He even asked me who my father is, and what does he do. Then he called his boss, who immediately started bragging about their new learning computers, with neural net processors, designed to sniff out miscreants like me. In an unexpectedly friendly turn, he offered me a box of donuts. As I reached for one, his stern expression returned. If I wasn’t being completely honest, he threatened, I’d better leave enough room for his fist, because he was looking forward to ramming into my stomach. I felt like puking all over his pig face at that point, but as a show of good faith, I stuffed the whole donut in my mouth and wolfed it down, doing my best to smile brightly the whole time.
For what seemed like hours, I sat there waiting with my ass clenched so tight you couldn’t squeeze a greased bb up there. Finally, he came back with a grin and handed me my passport. As I stood up, finally relaxing my butt cheeks and inadvertently expelling a huge air biscuit, he gave me a hearty smack between my shoulder blades. ”Welcome to China, Mr. ___.”
By the time I got through, the bus had left and I had to hire a motorcycle to catch up to it. Fortunately, everything worked out and I arrived safely in Mengla, a town in southern Yunnan province.
A few kilometers from downtown Mengla is a well-designed little nature reserve and park called Skytree, or 望天樹. It features a protected area of primary rainforest which is home to the endangered Parashorea chinensis Wang Hsie, a tropical tree endemic to this region.
Technically, it’s called an inflorescence. This one is by far the biggest I’ve seen, and I’ve seen a lot of agave penises in recent months. I estimate this one is 40-50 feet tall.
I’m now in Jinghong, the largest city in Sipsongpanna, a minority-majority autonomous area in China’s Yunnan province. It is one of the most beautiful cities I’ve seen in China. Every major street is lined on both sides with towering tropical trees that shade the sidewalks, and most of the buildings, street lamps and even billboards feature artistic flourishes inspired by the traditional architecture of the Dai ethnic group, giving the entire city a unique and exotic air.
The people are also warm and friendly, a nice departure from most Han-dominated Chinese cities.
Keep tuned for more posts from Malaysia and Laos!
Here’s the third episode of the Southwestern Adventure.
Click here for a Google map showing the route on which these pictures were taken.
As promised, I present you with Episode Two.
Here is a Google map of the approximate route on which these pictures were taken.