Banana and tea plantations
Trip Start Nov 02, 2011
145Trip End Ongoing
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It’s a bit of a saga getting here but to cut a long story short I got a sleeper bus to Honghe, but it was the wrong ‘Honghe’ which meant I lost a full day, but the bus was great. I got on at 3pm and after 8 hours we parked up in a bus station, it was dark and I couldn’t tell where we were, bus as everyone started to get off leaving their bags etc
I arrive in a hillside town which has a nice atmosphere and I instantly take too, although because it’s on the top of the hill it’s a misty and murky old place. The town has a huge square with a massive screen in it showing Chinese TV, in the evening it is full of people dancing, I mean hundreds of them, this has got to be the biggest display I’ve seen yet, it seems like every part of China take part in this dancing every evening and is amazing to watch their slow deliberate moves.
The town also has an impressive market which I wander through the stalls of fruit and vegetables, spices, clothes, knick knacks etc. many stallholders wear traditional dress which is their everyday. It’s different to what I’ve seen already, the woman wear heavily embroidered clothes, knee length skirts heavily pleated, long sleeve tops up to the collar, their legs have the same material wrapped around them and the headdress is set further back on the head, in more of a turban, it’s wonderful to see and I didn’t realize China had so many traditional outfits.
I sit in the market for lunch, right in the back of a wee place and I can tell they’re not used to visitors by the nudges going on and looks I get
The cycle down to the border was brilliant, although I was putting it off, when I get back on the bike I really enjoy it even though its hard work. The area is full of banana and tea plantations and I get to witness the whole process of the banana industry on my way down, often sitting at the roadside watching the processes. I’ll never look at bananas the same again, they are bagged while on the plant with the flowers being harvested first; the stalks are cut and carried out two at a time on locals backs or sometimes being taken down by donkey’s; it’s not baskets they use but purpose built carriers, they're really heavy; they are then taken to a makeshift holding shed and stacked; when these sheds are full lorries come with all the flat pack boxes ready to get packed up to go. The bananas are taken to the back of the production line and are cut off the stalks, weighed, washed and boxed up being put straight onto the back of the lorry, it’s quite a process. All the boxes I see are different from 'Slimming Diet' bananas to 'Produce' of different country bananas, some boxes are in English, or French, German etc. I’m starting to think China supplies the banana market worldwide.
When I get down to Hekou I still have a couple of days before my visa expires so I just relax and have a nosey around, I have a walk down to the border which I will be crossing and it looks very different
So I have my last look about before it’s time to leave China and I have to admit I’m wary about heading to another new country but I will be fine when I get across the border. There have been many highlights to China starting with visiting The Great Wall of China, seeing the Terracotta Warrior of Xi’an, the rice terraces and mountains on the journey down south, Pandas, Shangri La’s Songzanlin Monastery, Tiger Leaping Gorge, eventually ending with the tea and banana plantations on the way down to the Vietnam border town of Hekou. I think if I had flown into Beijing and just headed for a few weeks to different tourist places before leaving I would have hated it, China doesn’t have volume control and as for the manners the hawking and spitting can turn your stomach, but travelling by bicycle has been amazing.
I’ve ended up in homes I wouldn’t have done otherwise, having lunch in small farmhouses; cycling up high passes with breathtaking views; dodging traffic in metropolis size cities; viewing rice terraces; huge engineering works; massive power plants and millions of people. I've seen many different hill tribes and traditional dress and fascinating markets, every square inch of China is planted with rice, fruit or vegetables, no ground is left un-farmed (which can make camping difficult) it really is an amazing place, I would love to come back someday to see the millions of places I’ve missed.