The flight from Kunming to Xishuangbanna takes 45 minutes. It is the start of my eat and drink journey.
I arrive at Jing Hong airport, Xishuangbanna's only airport. The building design reflects the South Asian culture.
You can see part of the Thai-style Temple from the highway. The place I will stay is about 2 hours from the Thailand border.
Eat: The Tong Qing Hao owner invites us for lunch at this restaurant.
Upstairs there is a lotus pond.
The weather here is hot and humid. For this reason the living space starts on the second floor.
The view from our table overlooks the rubber trees.
The food starts coming. A lot of the the dishes are bitter and spicy. Both of these help the body to cool down.
Wild melon with winter melon pork dish.
This dish is interesting because every piece of food is bitter. Even the bamboo is very bitter! The green leafy vegetable (pictured on top) has needles on it, so you have to learn how to wrap it to avoid sticking your tongue. Then you dip everything in a red spicy sauce. The locals say that they need to eat this kind of food every day to keep healthy.
Fish soup, freshly caught from the river. The flavor is so good.
After lunch, we start our tea journey. The first stop is Nan Nou Mountain.
The local Nan Nuo Mountain Farmer's Market. The native farmers sell their extra produce, including puer tea.
The local tea farmer's house, built in the traditional South Asian style. The living space starts on the 2nd floor. The 1st floor is used for farm storage.
The kids here live a carefree, happy and natural life.
When my friend tries to take a picture, they go to dress up.
We pass through Nan Nuo Mountain Village on our way to see Nan Nuo Mountain.
Leaf wilting and rolling area.
Entryway to Nan Nuo Mountain.
Tea trees are part of their life. They grow up together.
In the village you can start to see the 300-year-old tea trees.
The farmer's one-day harvest.
On this, the first day, the mountain weather changes suddenly. It starts raining hard and fast. The farmer hurries to take the leaves out of the rain and we hurry to return to the farmer's house. Due to the weather, I will miss seeing the ancient tea trees of Nan Nuo Mountain.
Drink: Outside it is raining hard but we enjoy our teatime in a peaceful corner. Ms. Zhang, the owner of Tong Qing Hao, brews tea for us.
One-day-old green loose puer tea. It has a very nice fresh aroma but it is strong in my tummy.
The tea farmer in his house.
Mr Zhou, owner of Tong Qing Hao.
The animals (pigs, chickens, dogs and cats) here live a free life; no cages, free to roam the mountain, free to interact with other animals. At night, they return to their own homes.
Eat: After drinking tea all afternoon, they invite us to eat dinner in a Thai restaurant.
The food looks so good! It tastes very different from the Thai restaurants in the US.
Drink: After dinner it is dark. We visit the tea market in downtown Xishuangbanna and drink tea in a tea merchant's store.
I was fortunate to meet Mr Peng, the head the Puer Tea Association.
The second day in Xishuangbanna, finally I can see the ancient tea trees of Youle Mountain (elevation 4200 feet.) The tea trees are between 300 to 800 years old.
These two members of the Jino ethic group are our guides. They survive by hunting and harvesting tea. We will hike about a mile.
They have a light foot in this steep mountain.
I enjoy so much walking around in the tea forest mountain.
After a steep climb I take a break near this 500-year-old puer tea tree.
At the end of April there is still new growth.
Beautiful colors in the tea forest.
The tea trees are shrouded in mist.
A lot of tea trees grow on the steep slope. This tree trunk serves as a ladder to pick the leaves.
The weather suddenly changes. A big storm is coming.
It is raining so hard. This tree is the only place we can find to seek shelter. We discuss whether we should continue the trip to see the oldest ancient trees on Youle Mountain. Our guides don't appear to be worried but privately they are concerned about our safety.
The rain weather doesn't get better but we decide to continue.
As we go up the mountain the tea trees become older and bigger.
Finally we reach the 800-year-old tea tree. They say this is a good producing tree because it can produce 4 to 5 kilos of raw tea on the first pick. In a second the guide scampers up the tree to show us how to climb it. I eat the fresh puer tea leaf. It is extremely bitter and I have to spit it out! After a while, my throat tastes sweet. The sweetness lasts for hours. This shows that the tea quality is excellent.
When we return, the rain doesn't stop so they make a fresh umbrella for me.
Eat: After all the climbing, we are so hungry. We eat lunch in the Jino people's restaurant. They cook the natural way with wood and earth.
When you order fish they catch it right away from the river.
The food is excellent. Words cannot describe!
Drink: After eating we return to the Tong Qing Hao owners' house for more tea tasting.
The Tong Qing Hao teacakes are all stone pressed.
Thanks to Ms. Zhang for setting up this wonderful tea trip.