Places like Jianshui will stick in my memory for one reason. You’ve never heard of them before you arrive and you’ll never forget them after you leave! I went backpacking in Jianshui in China…I always find it a unique experience when you go backpacking in a town or city that has no other backpackers. I just buzz off it. And although there were other “backpackers” in the town of Jianshui, they were all Chinese. I was the only foreigner in sight and with a backpack and a wandering mind I headed to explore the charming old town of Jianshui.
How to get to Jianshui, Yunnan Province
By now you’ll have guessed that my girlfriend plays a big part in my Chinese adventures and helps organise all these obscure and remote Chinese experiences such as Taxia Village and Danxiashan. If you’re travelling on your own and are not Chinese and don’t speak it, you can still easily get a bus to Jianshui. Buses leave from Kunming South every half an hour during the daytime, Yuangyang (Nansha in fact) more regularly and even Jinghong (a 17 hour sleeper bus). You’ll need to have the Chinese written down. Book the bus on the day and just turn up at the station. Booking things in advance doesn’t really ever happen in China. Well at least not on my travels. We took a night sleeper bus from Kunming. It was a bumpy ride, but I get used to night buses, night trains and long distance travel. In fact, I love it!
Where to stay in Jianshui, Yunnan Province
One of the nicest hostels/hotels I have ever stayed at is the Linan Inn in Jianshui. It kind of has the luxury of a hotel but the social and friendliness of a hostel so it really is a top place to stay. We bagged a family room for 268 RMB, which stretched our budget further than normal, but it was worth it.
A really good bed, internet access (didn’t have time to use it), shower and all the usual free stuff you get to expect in China. Beers for only 5RMB as well and a decent breakfast. It’s in the old town. If that’s too dear for you the Garden Hotel will do the job – cheaper and more basic and also in the old town.
Backpacking in Jianshui – things to see and do
For a small town with not a large number of foreign tourists, backpacking in Jiangshui is an absolute joy. Friendly locals, cheap food and drink and a range of sights all typical of this part of China’s Yunnan Province.
Even just walking through the main streets is easy on the eye – superb architecture, endless shops, street side barbecues (at night), Chinese history and a load of fashion shops. This could well be the trendy town of Yunnan Province. Here’s a top 5 things to do while backpacking in Jianshui…
1. Zhu’s Family Garden
Built by the rich and made for the rich, these Chinese style outdoor gardens are a work of art onto themselves. The Zhu’s Family Garden is a 20,000 square metre garden and patio complex from the Qing era. You have to pay for a ticket to go inside and you can walk around at your leisure. It’s never that busy. You can relax by the pond, visit the museum or chill out in the shade from the top viewing platform. Elegant and preserved. This is possibly as good as a Chinese garden experience will get. Entry is 50 RMB (Chinese Yuan).
2. Chaoyang Gate
This splendid gate sits at the end of the main street through Jianshui and is totally worth a visit. It offers good views, rooms to relax in, locals to meet and towers down over the city. It’s just a gate though – no walls around it and watch the traffic wizz by below. When we went there was no entrance fee and I hope this remains. You can also hear some traditional Chinese music being played by locals at the top.
3. Confucian Temple
I’d had my fair share of Confucian Temples in Taiwan back in 2009 so we didn’t bother paying the 60 RMB entrance fee to go inside. Apparently this is the third largest Confucian Temple in China, so if you’re not on a really tight budget and keen on temples, then head on in!
4. Spicy Barbecued Tofu Restaurant
Spicy barbecued tofu is a speciality in parts of Yunnan and Jianshui offers a great chance to try the best barbecued tofu. We went to a local restaurant that was recommended by the hostel, but you can see this tofu in many of the street stalls on your walk around. Have a beer too – it’s so cheap here. My beer was 5RMB, the spicy tofu was 15RMB for two! Amazing!
5. Zhilin Si Buddhist Temple
Of course you’ll find a Buddhist Temple here and as a budget backpacker like me you don’t have to go inside. I don’t actually think there was an entrance fee, but I will be honest with you – I don’t enjoy going into temples anywhere near as much as I used to. Having been to hundreds of Buddhist Temples now, I tend to pick and choose the best ones.
That’s my top 5 backpacking tips for Jianshui itself. You can also head to the Swallow’s Cavern (a cave) and the Yuanyang Rice Terraces, which are reachable by bus. Backpacking in Jianshui is the real China and I loved it.
Here are a few of my videos from backpacking in Jianshui:
Night time at the Linan Inn:
Beer and barbecue at night in Jianshui:
Morning in the Linan Inn in Jianshui – Breakfast:
Night Sleeper Bus to Jianshui:
Jianshui Old Town at Night:
Our excellent room in Linan Inn, Jianshui:
Trying the spicy barbecued tofu in Jianshui:
Zhu’s Garden in Jianshui:
Jianshui Bus Station:
Downtown Jianshui (2 videos):
Chaoyang Gate in Jianshui, China:
Bus Through Jianshui:
Bus from Jianshui to Nansha: