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  1. Xiding Thursday Market in Menghai County,XishuangBanna

After our failed expedition to Gelanghe, we made another attempt to see some of Xishuangbanna's minorities at the famous Xiding market. For this purpose, we hired the same driver and van again, with equally disastrous results.


After a few promising kilometres on a sealed road we hit the mud again, and again… our driver got stuck… Not even the lorry who eventually pulled us out could help the fact that our van’s engine was gone, clogged up by mud, apparently. We looked on incredulously as three-wheeler rickshaws, small rudimentary tractors and heavy lorries all passed us without any problems.

 xiding market day old akha woman

In the end, we had to abandon our driver, his car left helplessly by the side of the road, waiting for spare parts, and mount a motorbike-taxi. Ironically, the previously treacherous mud bath soon became a reasonably smooth, semi-asphalted road. The drive was stunning: we passed Dai villages with their traditional raised wooden houses; Pu'er tea plantations tended by Lahu people; thick jungle and vistas of mist-covered hills and valleys flashed. Just when it seemed that the scenery couldn’t get any better, we arrived in Xiding, looking like an island floating above the clouds. Unfortunately, on closer inspection, the town revealed itself as a bit of a dump.


The Market

The small, grubby market town of Xiding may seem a strange destination, especially if you have to spend so much time and effort trying to get there, but its Thursday market is one of the most authentic ethnic markets in Xishuangbanna. A hive of activity from dawn to midday, the market attracts nearby Dai, Hani (Aini or Akha), and Bulang minorities. It is said that Lahu also drop in, but we didn’t see or recognize any. The only real sign of Han-Chinese presence are the huge military barracks overlooking the town, a reminder that the Myanmar border is only a few kilometres away.

 Bulang Bada-Yunnan (81) Bulang Bada-Yunnan (86) Bulang Bada-Yunnan (93)

The market occupies a large square, just up the road from the bus station, as well as some of the adjacent streets. There is nothing touristy about this market, the only things on sale are local produce, household goods and cheap clothes. A few noodle stalls feed the hungry shoppers. With everybody busily going about their business, nobody tried to sell us anything. The local kids, pipe- smoking old men and colourfully dressed women occasionally glanced at us with a certain amount of bewilderment, probably wondering why we had made it all the way out there. Even if you can speak Chinese, it is quite difficult to explain that you have come to see them.


Among the minorities that frequent the market, the Dai appeared to be the most commercially savvy. The prosperous-looking Dai ladies, dressed in long, colourful sarongs and wearing turbans, tend to run the stalls, while the Hani and Bulang come to town to buy from them.

The Hani ladies, with their pillar box hats decorated with silver coins, are by far the most exotic shoppers. Unfortunately, some of the younger Hani seem to have abandoned these fantastically ornamented headdresses for more functional towels wrapped around their heads. Curiously, their round faces and thick, straight fringes framed by these new-style scarves, make them look like Eskimo’s. Fortunately for us photographers, there were still plenty of older ladies in full regalia.


The Bulang looked the poorest among the different ethnic groups; distinguishable by their exotic turbans and heavily pierced ears, many were collecting rubbish and scraps discarded by the rest.


The men of all groups stayed on the fringes of market, huddled in groups under make-shift shelters to keep out of the rain, they sucked on long bamboo pipes, or sipped tea from jars.


We spent a couple of pleasant hours walking around the market, sitting down and absorbing the comings and goings and taking photos. Some of the Hani ladies returning with us on the bus asked me to show them the photos and were amused to see themselves and their friends. While we have witnessed larger and perhaps more exotic markets in China, Xiding market is well worth the trek out there for its remoteness, beautiful scenery and friendly bustling atmosphere.


Getting There and Away: There are buses to Xiding from Menghai, the nearest town with decent accommodation, though the timetable is not the most convenient and depends on the state of the road. The biggest problem is that if you take the morning bus (around 10.00 or 10.30), you will arrive in Xiding around 12.30 when the market is coming to an end. Besides, that same bus will turn around and go straight back to Menghai. This leaves you with no option, but to stay overnight.


Alternatively, you could hire a vehicle from Menghai for about 200 Yuan, which might be a better option. However, bear in mind that in the rainy season you need something resembling a tank to navigate the appalling road up to Xiding. We had a bit of a disaster when the van we had hired got totally stuck, in spite of the driver’s assurances that his vehicle was up to it and that the road wasn't too bad... Well it was, and we got completely bogged down in the thick, red mud. We eventually had to abandon our driver – at his own insistence - and get a motorcycle- taxi to take us up the last 10 kilometres.


One piece of advice: if you are looking to leave Xiding by public transport, buy your bus ticket well in advance. The bus leaves around 12.30 and is completely packed, at least on market days. Our motorbike driver took me to the ticket seller as soon as we arrived and we got the last two tickets (3 hours before the bus left). If he can’t be found at the bus station, then look for him in the market where he sets up a stall to sell some vegetables. Ask around.


Accomodation and Food: There are a couple of basic guesthouses and simple food stalls in Xiding, though nothing to write home about. The town without the market is rather grim and, from what we could read on internet, the accommodation is not much better.
XishuangBanna Trekking Tours Xiding Village to Bada Village
Level : Medium Hard

Minority visited : Bulang, Akha

Duration: 2 nights 3 days up to 4days

Landscape: Mountain, rain forest, waterfall, rice fields


Itinerary :

Departure from Mekong cafe at 8.00 AM, then bus to Menghai; from Menghai, bus to Xiding


Xiding-Bada  Menghai County. 
We are convinced that this trek is one of the nicest you can do in Xishuangbanna thought it is quite hard. Find below a short description:

The trekking starts directly on a small path to an Aini-village. You will meet local people on the way going home and certainly will make first friends along the way.


The next villages are all Bulang villages. Bulang people are very friendly and welcoming. The second night we will stay in a Bulang village. You will be welcomed by a tea and a cup of self-made liquor-just the right things to relax after the first day’s hard walk.


Along the way you will always be greeted by nice huts, the so-called Silang Fang.they are an ideal place to rest, to picnic or to enjoy the natural scenery. These huts are a specialty of this area and stand for the vivid customs of the Bulang people.


The trek is hard and hilly. There are several mountain ridges to cross. But the stunning landscapes, the varied forests, the clean rivers and nice villages along the way will make you forget the hardship.


You will trek through different types of forest; mostly through dense subtropical mountain forest, but you also will experience the lush green of tropical rainforest with big trees full of birdsongs and insect noises.

The tour can be tailored to your needs. Depending on the season, your fitness, your time and preferences it may take 3 up to 4 days and entail a 30-60 kms walk. Our guide can take you to some special places like waterfalls, caves, and other romantic spots if time and weather permit.

We preferably lead small groups of 2-6 persons. Our guide will advise you what to bring and will plan the tour with you in detail. The guide will also provide you with all the information you along the way: ethnic groups, the natural environment, folk customs and tales.   


We have explored this route and offer guides who are familiar with the area and speak the local language. The tour is definitely off the beaten track and features the best of Xishuangbanna. We would be glad to guide you through the mountains of Menghai county to give you a memorable experience and a deep impression about the beauty of Xishuangbanna and the hospitality of its people.


Xiding Bada Bulang Woman Photos by william Gagnadou

Xiding bada Jungle traffic on a market day----old Akah woman

Admission Fee:¥0

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