PW Travels

Putney Westerfield's Trip Reports

China - Frebruary/March 2000

Yunnan, China and Vietnam

One might ask: "Why Yunnan?"
Yunnan Province is big. The size of California, it is tucked into Southwest China, bounded on the south by Vietnam and Laos (which form a narrow corridor over Thailand), on the west by Burma, on the north by Tibet and Sichuan Province, and on the east by breadbasket Guangxi Province. It has far more variety than California: the north is an offshoot of Tibet, an 8000' plateau of red earth with towering icy mountains to 22,000'... its tropical south laced with lush jungles, rice fields and terraces mounting thousands of feet up steep mountains.

It is a naturalists heaven. Half of all the plant and animal species of China are in Yunnan. Herbs, the staple of Chinese medicine, originate in the mountains. Elephants, bears and snow leopards still exist there. Botanists come to see 2500 varieties of camellias and rhododendrons, ancestors of ALL the world's species. There are wildflowers in profusion. Chinese expressions for Yunnan: "Garden of Heavenly Marvelous Flowers" ... "Hometown of Perfume." Others, referring to the produce from Burma's poppies, call it "The Treasure House of Crude Drugs".

Yunnan is also a paleontologist's dream ... fossils dating back tens of millions of years ... Peking Man and Yuanmou Man, perhaps three millions years old. From their Tibetan sources, three of the world's great rivers race side by side only 50 miles apart: the Mekong, Yangtse and Salween, and the Red River flows southward through the gorges of southeast Yunnan...
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Yunnan, China 2000