In many aspects, Xishuangbanna is China's own Mini-Thailand.
As far as the population of this southernmost part of Yunnan is concerned, it is indeed more Thai than Chinese. In this district, the minority (and by Chinese definition the Dais populating the area are a minority) are actually the majority. Of the district's population of more 650,000, more than half belong to the Dais who are just as closely related to the Thais of Thailand as the name suggests. The Han Chinese make up only about a quarter of the population.
The district's name, too, is more Thai than Chinese. "Sip song pan na" is Thai for "Twelve thousand rice fields", and that's what the fertile district has been called among the local Thai, or Dai, population for centuries.
Xishuangbanna is China's Mini-Thailand, too, because like Thailand in all of Southeast Asia, Xishuangbanna is, among China's provinces, a much preferred tourist destination, though not so much by international tourists but rather for Chinese from provinces further north.
Xishuangbanna is China's Mini-Thailand, too, because there is a striking similarity of tourist attractions. The highest rating is given to the Water Festival, which is equivalent to Songkran in Thailand, falls on the same date (April 13 to 15), and has the same traditional meaning of greeting a new year by the Thai, and Dai, calendar.
But Songkran is not the only Thai festivity which is also found in Yunnan's Xishuangbanna: there are rocket festivals, like in Thailand's Northeast, and boat races on various festive occasions as they are common in Northern Thailand.
Xishuangbanna, or rather the Dai majority, are Theravada Buddhists just like the Burmese and the Thais which gives the region additional colour. Like in Thailand and Burma, saffron-robbed monks can be seen wandering from house to house to receive the faithfuls' offerings. And there are countless Burmese- and Thai-style pagodas.
Jinghong is Xishuangbanna's district capital, located on the bank of the Mekong River which is named Lancang River for as long as it flows through China. Among the attractions of Jinghong are the Manting Park with the ancient Manting Temple, the White Pagoda, the Octagonal Pavilion, and a Cultural Village with displays of folk arts and dance shows.
Boat trips on the Mekong are possible from Jinghong to Ganlanba, another town on the Mekong, southeast of Jinghong.
This Wat, near Ganlanba, dates back some 730 years. There are many more old Wats (Thai-style Buddhist temples) in the area.
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