One of the most enticing things for me when deciding on IES Abroad Beijing was the remarkable IES Abroad-sponsored trip to a unique place in China. For our trip, we traveled to one of the southern most provinces of China: Yunnan.
Yunnan is a very diverse province in China. It is home to more than 20 ethnic minorities spread throughout the province. In addition, Yunnan shares borders with Tibet, Myanmar, and Laos providing many towering mountains to the northwest and many subtropical mountainous regions to the south. With the capital Kunming in the middle, you can travel in any direction and experience a completely different Yunnan. For our trip we gradually traveled south from Kunming before traveling back to the capital city to return to Beijing.
On the day we departed from Beijing, we left the dorms for the train station at around 6 am. From 8 am on Thursday until 9 pm on Friday we rode the train across China crossing over plains, through towns, and around mountains.
On Friday evening we arrived in Kunming and were greeted by our soon to become good friend and tour guide, Danny. After eating a very satisfying meal after two days off just instant ramen, we went to the hostel for the night.
For the following eight days, we went to over fifteen different places to explore with guidance from Danny exploring towns south of Kunming.
In the town of Jianshui we visited one of the largest Confucius temples in China. It was a beautiful location with a lot of interesting architecture and a serene lake right inside the entrance. On the way out of town we also stopped and saw a bridge with traditional Chinese architecture.
Another amazing experience was seeing the rice terraces of Honghe. We went to multiple viewing locations with spectacular views before spending the afternoon hiking trails used by the farmers that own them. In the presence of such grand landscapes, it was one of the most surreal places I have ever been.
One of the most memorable experiences from the trip was our two-night village homestay in the small town of Ainicun. All of us were broken up into small groups and assigned a family that we would live with for the two days. Although the standards of living were much lower than we were all used to, it was a fantastic experience. They taught us to pick tea leaves from their trees, they taught us some of their traditional dances, and more importantly I think that they taught us all how to appreciate the simple things in life.
In addition to those, we also visited a botanical garden, had tea in a small village among rice terraces, explored a mountain market where you could buy everything from tobacco to puppies and even get your haircut, visited a Mongolian temple, toured a tofu factory, enjoyed a Minzu ethnic minority performance, and much more all while coming across countless interesting people. Overall Yunnan was an unforgettable trip. We made the most of our time there and got a very good look into what southern China has to offer.
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<p>My name is Brandon Berardo and I am a junior from Wofford College. Through my travels abroad, I have discovered that there is so much to see. People say that pictures are worth a thousand words, but I am hoping that some of my pictures will leave you speechless.</p>