The name Xishuangbanna (Xīshuāngbǎnnà, 西双版纳) comes from the native Dai name of the region, which means "twelve thousand rice fields"—an appropriate name for an area covering nearly 20,000 sq km (7,722 sq m) of paddy fields, hills, woods and tropical rain forest.
Xishuangbanna's natural—and cultivated—beauty is its draw, along with its remote location in southern Yunnan Province, nestled against the borders with Laos and Burma (Myanmar). Home to smoky pu'er tea, a number of minority ethnic groups, numerous festivals and some of China's most striking wildlife, including elephants, peacocks, monkeys, tigers and leopards (though you're exceedingly unlikely to glimpse a rare jungle cat in their natural habitat).
In many ways, Xishuangbanna has much more in common with Southeast Asian neighbors Thailand, Laos and Burma than with Han-dominated China, and in recent years has seen a strong upsurge in tourism as foreigners and Chinese tourists alike flock to this lush corner of the People's Republic.
The main city of Jinghong is the hub from which you can see the main sights and sounds of the region. Buses run from Kunming to Jinghong daily (as well as sleeper buses) and connections from Jinghong down to Laos and Thailand via bus, plane and boat are also available.
The upsurge in tourism during the last five years has resulted in stronger ties between Xishuangbanna and Southeast Asia as well as with the rest of China. For a recent look at life in Xishuangbanna, check out Jamaican Walt Goodridge's life in Xishuangbanna.
The elephant is a symbol of good luck, might and longevity to the Dai people of Xishuangbanna. Wild elephants congregate in the aptly named Wild Elephant Valley (Yěxiàng..
Jinghong (Jǐnghóng, 景洪) is the capital of the Xishuangbanna Dai Autonomous Prefecture in the far southern tip of Yunnan Province. Xishuangbanna borders southeast Asia, and..