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Getting There

Jinghong is connected by flights to Shanghai (4 hr. 30 min.), Chengdu (3 hr. 15 min.), Kunming (40 min.), Dali (45 min.), Li Jiang (50 min.), and Bangkok (30 min.). Tickets can be purchased at the Yunnan Airlines/CAAC office located at Jingde Xi Lu 8 (tel. 0691/212-7040). There is also a Bangkok Airways office at Jingde Xi Lu 8 (tel. 0691/212-1881). Minibuses charge ¥2 (25¢/15p), or ¥3 (40¢/20p) after 10pm; they make runs to the airport every 10 minutes from 7am to 11:30pm. The airport is located about 5km (3 miles) southwest of town, and the minibuses depart from the corner of Jingde Xi Lu and Minzu Nan Lu. A taxi ride between the airport and town will cost around ¥30 ($3.90/£1.95).

For destinations such as Kunming or Dali, bus trips are still interminably long and smoke-filled, and you may find yourself caught in floods, mudslides, or bus breakdowns. Still, for the intrepid (or the foolish), there's the Bus Station (Qiche Keyun Zhan) on Minzu Bei Lu (tel. 0691/212-3570). Express buses run to Kunming (9 hr.; ¥180/$23/£12) at 10:30am, 12:30pm, 5pm, 5:40pm, 6pm, 6:20pm, 7:05pm, 7:20pm, 8pm, and 8:20pm. In addition, buses run to Xiaguan (14 hr.; ¥180/$23/£12) at 4:40pm and 7pm. Buses also leave for Kunming and Xiaguan from the new and somewhat forlorn South Bus Station (Nan Zhan; tel. 0691/212-4884 or 0691/213-7105) on Nonglin Lu. A bus leaves here for Laos but only on alternative days so it is best to check at Mei Mei's Cafe for further details first. Additional buses leave from the City Bus Station, also known locally as the Banna Bus Station (Shi Keyun Zhan; tel. 0691/212-4427 or 0691/898-3666) for Ganlanba (a half-hour; ¥8/$1.05/50p) every 20 minutes from 6:30am to 7pm; for Menglun (2 hr.; ¥14/$1.95/£1) every 20 minutes from 6:30am to 7pm; for Menghai (¥11/$1.45/70p) every 20 minutes from 7am to 6:40pm; for Mengyang every half-hour from 8am to 6:30pm; and for Mengla (5-7 hr.; ¥55/$7.15/£3.60); every hour), Ning Er (3 hr.; ¥42/$5.45/£2.65) every 20 minutes, and Pu'er (2 hr.; ¥55/$7.15/£3.60) every 30 minutes.

There is an official boat service running between Jinghong and Chiang Saen, Thailand. The Golden Peacock office is located at Jingde Xi Lu 8 (tel. 0691/222-1555; www.tian-da.com.cn), but they rarely answer their phone and we found it more expedient to book tickets through Orchid's contact at Mei Mei Cafe. From December to May (the dry season), the low level of water only allows express boats to hydroplane the 200km (124 miles) up and down to the Golden Triangle, and although the deafening engine noise is not much different from a 747, most relish the chance to sit on deck and view the jungle scenery that runs up between Laos and Myanmar. Travel at this time of the year gives an especially good view of this great Asian waterway, with shoals, rapids, and craggy outcrops dotting the thoroughfare. Boats leave from the Jinghong Dock at 7am (look for other confused passengers in the Customs hall rather than dockside) every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, take about 10 hours and cost ¥880 ($114/£57). A Chinese rice lunchbox is served, but you might want to take some extra food and drinks for the trip.

Where passengers board and alight depends on the height of the water in the Mekong, which has about as much flow as a urinal these days thanks to the frenzy of Chinese dam building upstream. We were taken by minibus to a jetty about an hour downstream and then had the displeasure of disembarking at Guan Lei, a hole-in-the-wall Chinese border post that is not even on most maps. The whole place reeks of garlic as there are boatloads full of the stuff passing through. The ferry company offered us all accommodations beside the immigration office, but the filthy prefabs they referred to were not recommendable. Try this place instead: Guan Lei Lu San Jiao Jiu Dian (tel. 0691/878-6318; ¥50/$6.50/£3.25). It's just outside the Customs House and very basic but still the best in town.

Come May through December, there is a slow-boat option available. The same Golden Peacock line plies its way up and down stream on a triple deck cruiser with berths for up to 80 people as well as the usual Chinese function areas including tea drinking and mahjong rooms. This option takes 3 days and 2 nights as opposed to 10 hours on the fast boats. Disembarkation at the golden triangle offers many interesting options. Chiang Mai and Chiang Rai are only a few hours away by luxury VIP coach. Luang Prabang and Vientianne in Laos invite those who wish to continue their river odyssey while the mysterious Myanmar interior awaits the truly intrepid.

For the return journey, the ticket office is just past the immigration office on the riverside road in Chiang Saen, just next to the Fresh Mart and they even have a Jinghong number (tel. 0691/2221-5555). Between September 2 and May 31, boats leave at 7am on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays.

Getting Around

Taxis cost ¥7 (90¢/45p) for 2km (1 1/4 miles), then ¥1.50 (20¢/10p) per kilometer until 20km (12 miles), when the cost rises to ¥2.30 (30¢/15p) per kilometer. From 10pm to 6am, the cost is ¥8.40 ($1.10/55p) for 2km (1 1/4 miles). You Qi Bicycle Shop at Manting Lu (tel. 0691/216-1189), opposite the dark and depressing Zhong Yu Hotel, rents good-quality mountain bikes at ¥20 ($2.60/£1.30) and also arranges tours.

Tours & Guides

CITS at Luyou Dujiaqu, Sanhao Lu (tel. 0691/214-8520; Mon-Fri 8:30-11:30am and 3-6pm), can arrange day tours to the surrounding areas, with car hire for a day costing around ¥300 ($39/£20), and an English-speaking guide for another ¥200 ($26/£13) or so, though there's room for bargaining. Travelers' cafes such as the Mei Mei Cafe and the Mekong Cafe can also organize treks to nearby villages and are generally much better options.

Fast Facts

Banks, Foreign Exchange and ATMs -- The Bank of China (open Mon-Fri 8-11:30am and 3-6pm) is at Minzu Nan Lu and Jingde Xi Lu.

Internet Access -- Manting Lu has several Internet cafes, including one below the Mekong Cafe (¥2/25¢/15p per hour) at Manting Lu 111.

Post Office -- The post office (open 8am-8:30pm) is at Jinghong Xi Lu 2. The attached postcard outlet around the corner is often overlooked but also worth a look in.

Visa Extensions -- The Gonganju (PSB) is at Jinghong Dong Lu 5 (tel. 0691/213-0366; open Mon-Fri 8-11:30am and 3-5:30pm).

Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.