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Visit Jinghong China's Xishuangbanna

About 600 kms to the North, and slightly to the East, of Chiangmai is Yunnan Province of the People's Republic of China. Within Yunnan is the Xishuangbanna Dai Autonomous Prefecture and its Capital city of Jinghong The City of the Dawn. It is a beautiful place which, although part of China, seems reminiscent of Northern Thailand. It is to this geographic region that most Thai people trace their ancestral roots. To every Thai, this is SIPSONG PANNA Xishuangbanna in Chinese from where the Dai (Thai) migrated many centuries ago. In Thai, Sipsong Panna means "twelve thousand rice fields".

For centuries, the Dai people had been drifting southwest into what is now northern Burma, Laos and Northern Thailand. This migratory process was speeded thanks to the aggression of Kublai Khan (grandson of Genghis Khan) especially after he razed the city of Talifu in 1253. Talifu had been the capital of the Dai Kingdom of Nanjao in Yunnan Province.

Today, the descendants of the Dai people who remained in Yunnan, have Jinghong (Yunjinghong) as their capital. They number approximately 850,000 and are classified as one of the ethnic minorities by the Chinese government. Legend tells that an inland sea once covered the area and, when the sea receded, an abundant oasis was left. However, a devil possessed the land, masking it in darkness, until a young Dai man fought and killed it. From the demon he took a pearl which began to gleam and glow as it chased the darkness from the sky. The people saw the event and exclaimed "Yunjinghong, Yunjinghong" which means "Light of the Dawn" and so the city was named.

The Dai people of today are Buddhist and they celebrate Songkran and Loy Krathong in the peaceful original tradition. Bisecting Sipsong Panna is the Lancang River (which feeds the Mekong) and its numerous tributaries have shaped the landscape into a series of mountains, hills, rugged gorges and gentle river basins. The highest peak is Kongming Mountain at 2,300 meters (slightly lower than Chiangmai's Doi Inthanon). It is a tranquil scene with many of the rural Dai people living in villages alongside the river basins. It is a tropical-subtropical climate, depending upon elevation, with very little seasonal change and an average temperature of 20°C. The countryside is "evergreen" in this mild and enchanting environment.

With a population in excess of 40,000 people, the capital city of Jinghong is largely strung along the west bank of the Lancang River. It reflects the color, diversity and growth of this fascinating region. Public transport, bazaars, shops and market squares are achatter with the Dai and Han language as well as other minority dialects. Streets are wide and shady with many being canopied by tall palms and flame trees. Boating or promenading at Peacock Lake is a relaxing pastime and, at Manting Park, indications of Northern Thai architectural ancestry are clear. Even a hotel, the rear verandahs of which are on stilts over water, reproduces the "bamboo look" of a traditional Dai house.

Sipsong Panna, and the city of Jinghong, are fascinating, ancient places and a new travel destination from Chiangmai. Every visitor will find a warm and hospitable welcome after all, the people are Dai! And Thais know all about looking after guests!

Take advantage of the direct fight from Chiangmai to Jinghong on Bangkok Airways. Book with them today at Tel. 053-281519, 053-922258.

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