July 7th: Kunming to Southern Yunnan
Our first real day of the tour begin as we piled on the bus for a long trip towards the China / Laos border. The road we took had recently been built to help connect the rural Yunnan Province with the rest of China. I can’t image how / if it was possible to make this trip on the small winding mountain roads and I’m sure this trip would have taken weeks instead of hours had we been forced to use the old roads.
Apparently puer tea cakes were outlawed by the Ming Dynasty because they were being used as currency. However the remote nature of the Yunnan Province kept it isolated from the rest of China allowing them to continue to produce these tea cakes.
The mountains we passed through were mostly cleared of trees and re-planted with terraced crop fields. It was surprising to see these Hawaii looking mountains with lush tropical growth stripped away for agricultural use. We also passed a number of hydro electric power plants and huge power lines stretching along the mountain sides.
For lunch we stopped at a little town where we tried homemade liquor and mangoes grown in the nearby mountains. Our next stop was the “fertility wells” which supposedly give twins to those who drink from it. Xiao Zhu, Mr. Hu, Glenn and Tim F. each took a drink while the rest of us were unsure about thick algae growing in the wells. We continued to the Old Puer Village where we were served tea a local tea house and then each presented with a rare purple leaf tea cake. We switched buses after dinner (clutch died on the first one) and arrived at our hotel in Yunnan Botanical Gardens around midnight.