This post is part of a larger post about my recent trip to Yunnan Province. Other posts include Xishuangbanna Dai Cuisine & Culture, Poisonous? Mushroom Hot Pot, Jian Shui Yunnan Trip Report, and Foreigners Navigating Post-Pandemic Travel in China.
For most people visiting the city of Jinhong in Xishuangbanna, Gaozhuang Night Market (告莊夜市) is a must visit. This vibrant open air night market is especially fun to visit at night. It's easy to spend a whole evening marveling at the wide variety of food and goods at the numerous stalls. It's one of the most popular attractions in the city, so be prepared for big crowds during peak times (starting around dinnertime and stretching into the night).
Our friend told us that the dresses they sell in the touristy spots are not the authentic style of the minority groups in Xishuangbanna. Instead, they are more Thai style. However, most tourists can't tell the difference. In Xishuanbanna, every minority group has its own style of dress, and you can recognize the minority group by their dresses and head coverings.
For example, we purchased Dai style dresses from a Dai shop that customizes it for you once you choose your cloth.
Our local Chinese friend who was traveling with us had lived in this area for about a month before the pandemic. She had gotten to know Gaozhuang Night Market quite well, and had a favorite chicken feet stall she really really wanted to visit.
Amazing, despite the 3-year pandemic, the same lady was still at the same stall, still making our friend's favorite chili lime chicken feet salad. The lady makes this salad fresh-to-order, smashing all the ingredients together in that huge mortar & pestle. Just imagine, chicken feet, lime, fresh chilis, fish sauce, and lots of herbs. This region is right next to Cambodia, Laos, and Thailand, so it's not surprising that they use a lot of Southeast Asian herbs and spices.
Dai BBQ Restaurants
It's fun to have dinner at one of the Dai BBQ restaurants. Essentially, they lay out all sorts of fresh vegetables, meats, and seafood. Often the meats are on skewers, and you just pick what you want them to cook. They also have a wok, so they can stir fry as well.
One funny sight I didn't see when I came 4 years ago was the abundance of these Snoopy 3-wheeled scooters all around town. I believe it was mostly tourists riding them, and I saw several rental places right around the night market.
In fact, traffic was TERRIBLE and parking at Gaozhuang Night Market was near impossible when we went. If you can take a taxi, it's probably a lot easier. However, since we were with the tour guide, we had to park a bit further away in order to avoid being stuck in really really bad traffic.
I guess this may not happen on normal weeks, but we happened to be there the week of Chinese New Year.
All in all, definitely visit here if you can! They've really made it quite nice, and it's an easy way to sample a lot of different types of food. If you hate crowds, come a bit earlier, or just come off season!