Last October, we took an eight-day tour of Yunnan with China Culture Center over the National Day holiday. Our itinerary was jam-packed; there were places to be and things to see. Since our family can be a little lackadaisical about pushing ourselves out the door and exploring new environs, we decided that a small group tour was just what we needed.
Going with a group meant we wouldn’t have to do any of the planning ourselves, but we would still get to visit many parts of a region we might otherwise not be able to discover on our own. During this trip, we explored Kunming’s karst rock forest, Dali, the UNESCO-protected town of Lijiang, and Shangri-La, which inspired a novel. We picked up a lot of information and trivia about each place we visited.
Sometimes, things just clicked. We genuinely liked the people we were touring, including our tour guides. Two of the kids in the group turned out to be my sons’ schoolmates. They were traveling with family friends who had children as well. Without any planning, there turned out to be a small group of similarly-aged kids.
The people without children turned out to be very fun. We enjoyed exploring together and winding down at the end of a long day with cold beers at the local bars. One lady in the group was such a charmer that she made friends with bar owners wherever she went. In one of the locales, an impromptu party broke out with Tibetans, Chinese, Germans, Polish, an Australian, an African and Filipinos all dancing together to world music.
Discovering Yunnan Food
One of the highlights of the trip was Yunnan’s many regional specialties. There was yak meat, fried red beans, local goat cheese, potato string pancakes, crickets for the adventurous, plenty of wild mushrooms, and lots of fresh green vegetables that were simply sauteed in garlic and a little bit of oil.
After returning to Beijing, we suffered from the usual vacation hangover. We were tired and in need of a vacation from our vacation. We missed the good food. So it was a pleasant surprise to discover that Europlaza had a really good restaurant that serves up Yunnan cuisine.
Although Treescape is not new to Shunyi, it was a new addition to our repertoire of restaurants. With a lounge in the front and a playroom for children, it is a popular choice among Shunyi families and sees brisk business for weekend lunch.
We like any of their fish dishes, which are prepared with a yummy combination of spices. We order a different one each time. All the mushroom dishes are sure to please me, while the truffle-infused dishes are a popular choice with my husband. My boys get a kick out of their standard order of bamboo rice, a sticky rice cooked inside a hollowed-out bamboo stem. The bamboo is split open at the table to reveal freshly-cooked rice peppered with peanuts.
Oddly enough, our favorites at Treescape are not necessarily dishes that we actually had in Yunnan. This was just another reminder of Chinese cuisine’s diversity. And yet, tasting Yunnan food brought us back to our favorite family holidays.
Bizarre News from Yunnan
Because we had such a good time in Yunnan, anything related to the region that comes up in the news catches our attention. I still chuckle over the amazing drama that has emerged from that part of China. The circumstances were strange and read straight from a comedy of errors.
Apparently, a couple in Yunnan was unhappy about being served from dirty bowls at a local restaurant. One complaint led to another, and the couple got into a full-blown fight with the servers when the woman was told they were short RMB 5 on their bill. The argument got physical and the couple ended up in the hospital, he with broken ribs and she with head injuries.
The woman sued for damages and reimbursement of their hospital bills, which amounted to a total of RMB 68,000. The restaurant owner came up with a creative solution. He paid back most of the amount, but reserved RMB 10,000 to pay back in 1 jiao coins. It took 18 bank clerks nine hours to count and roll up the 100,000 coins.
One year on, we are still regaled by Yunnan and its people even in our little remote corner of Shunyi. Not to worry; I’m pretty sure us waiguoren will not have this kind of experience at Treescape or elsewhere in our neighborhood.
Daily, 11am-10pm. Shop 213, 2/F, Europlaza, 99 Yuxiang Lu, Tianzhu Town, Shunyi District (8046 7133) 顺义区天竺镇裕翔路99号欧陆时尚购物中心2层213
Photo by Dana Cosio-Mercado
Dana is the beijingkids Shunyi Correspondent. Originally from the Philippines, she moved to Beijing in 2011 (via Europe) with her husband, two sons and Rusty the dog. She enjoys writing, photography, theater, visual arts, and trying new food. In her free time, she can be found exploring the city and driving along the mountain roads of Huairou, Miyun and Pinggu.