Photos of northern Yunnan

Photos of Yunnan by Danwei contributor Jonah M. Kessel, a Beijing based freelance visual journalist working with the New York Times. See his web site here, follow him on Twitter here or keep up with his strange travel schedule at his blog.

I spend a lot of time in China traveling from place-to-place for work, but rarely do I do it for fun. This spring I had the rare chance to travel within in China, just for fun. I found myself in Kunming, Yunnan Province and headed north toward the borders of Myanmar, Tibet and Sichuan Province.

Although the scenery in Yunnan is beautiful, I found the tourism industry to be far more developed than most places I’ve seen in China. I might actually call it — over developed. Going into national parks and scenic areas was often as expensive or more expensive than doing similar activities in the west culminating in my newly recognized “least favorite place in China” — Lijiang. In my opinion Lijiang has become the epicenter of what’s wrong with Chinese tourism, leaving other notably over-crowded, harmonious places I’ve been to in the dust (The Forbidden City, Terracotta Warriors, Jiuzhaigou etc.).

A man smiles at a park table in Kunming playing Mahjong
A man smiles at a park table in Kunming playing Mahjong.

While it may be very expensive to travel in this area of the country, its hard to deny the amazing diversity in culture and landscape in such a small area.

Yunnan has the second highest number of ethnic groups among the provinces and regions in China. It is home to over 25 recognized ethnic groups. The landscape seems equally diverse.

Here are some of the things I saw:

Light rays shine onto the Himalaya near Feilai Si. In the foreground, a construction site of what will be a new road blows dust into the air.
Light rays shine onto the Himalaya near Feilai Si. In the foreground, a construction site of what will be a new road blows dust into the air.
Young Tibetan men chat outside Songzanlin monastery near Zhongdian.
Young Tibetan men chat outside Songzanlin monastery near Zhongdian.
A dentist works in a street window in Kunming.
A dentist works in a street window in Kunming.
Villagers work in Yubeng, below Meili Snow Mountain.
Villagers work in Yubeng, below Meili Snow Mountain.
A Naxi woman watches tourists in Lijiang.
A Naxi woman watches tourists in Lijiang.
A pastry chef dresses a cake in Kunming.
A pastry chef dresses a cake in Kunming.
The sun rises shedding light onto Meili Snow Mountain from Yubeng Village.
The sun rises shedding light onto Meili Snow Mountain from Yubeng Village.
JiaRong minotity women ride a bus outside of Zhongdian.
JiaRong minotity women ride a bus outside of Zhongdian.
Han Chinese dressed in ethnic minority costumes line up for a group wedding in Lijiang.
Han Chinese dressed in ethnic minority costumes line up for a group wedding in Lijiang.
A man plays an erhu in Deqin, a border town in far North Yunnan. Tibetan Autonomous Region, Sichuan and Myanmar can all be rached from Deqin.
A man plays an erhu in Deqin, a border town in far North Yunnan. Tibetan Autonomous Region, Sichuan and Myanmar can all be rached from Deqin.
A child smiles at a photographer in her mother's shop in Zhongdian.
A child smiles at a photographer in her mother’s shop in Zhongdian.
A fruit vendor wanders the streets of Zhongdian.
A fruit vendor wanders the streets of Zhongdian.
Naxi women eat lunch in Lijiang.
Naxi women eat lunch in Lijiang.
A tourist climbs a rock in Yunnan's Stone Forest.
A tourist climbs a rock in Yunnan’s Stone Forest.
Han tourists dressed in ethnic minority costumes fight for the best spot to take a photo at the Stone Forest.
Han tourists dressed in ethnic minority costumes fight for the best spot to take a photo at the Stone Forest.
JiaRong women sell skewers of food in a marketplace in Zhongdian.
JiaRong women sell skewers of food in a marketplace in Zhongdian.
A rural village made from stone houses outside of Yubeng, near the borders of Tibetan Autonomous Region and Myanmar.
A rural village made from stone houses outside of Yubeng, near the borders of Tibetan Autonomous Region and Myanmar.

– To see more photography from Jonah Kessel click here.

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