Tropical Botanical Garden
This interesting place is a plant research station of the Chinese Academy of Sciences. It was founded in 1959, and it currently has about 300 staff including dozens of PhDs. If you want to learn about tropical plants and medicinal plants, this is a place to come. There is a hotel on the site. It is said to be the largest plant research place of the Chinese Academy of Sciences. Tourists like to stay there, see the trees and exhibits, and try different kinds of food, herbs, and fruit that are new to them.
The land area is about 900 hectares or 2,222 acres. It is a plot of land about a mile wide formed by a river winding around it on three sides. The plot of land is almost like an island because the part connected to land is only about 150 meters wide. The river isolates the plants and protects them from wild animals. A bridge provides access from the town of Menglun.
This place has a long history. The Xishuangbanna Tropical Botanical Garden (中国科学院西双版纳热带植物园) in the Xishuangbanna (西双版纳傣族自治州) lowlands is an ideal area of China for a tropical plant research place because there are tropical plants. It is on the border, and the Xishuangbanna lowlands are at a comparatively low altitude than the rest of Yunnan Province. It is in the transitional zone between tropical Southeast Asia and subtropical East Asia, and the place lies at the intersection of the South Asian continental plate of Gondwana and the Eurasian plate of Laurasia. So the biodiversity is unusually broad. A professor named Cai Xitao led a team to develop a plant research base. The research base was officially approved in 1959 as part of the Chinese Academy of Sciences.
The community of researchers built buildings and started cultivating and breeding plants on the site. They developed breeds of profitable crops and the numbers of researchers grew. The research community experienced a lot of hardship during the Cultural Revolution that ended in the 1970s. Along with plant research, one of the current aims of the institution is for plant species preservation as Yunnan's jungles are destroyed. They want to be a “Noah's Ark” for plants. The institute also trains PhD candidates in plant biology, horticulture, and plant breeding.
If you are interested in gardening or plants, this place can be an educational experience. If you just like eating fruit, it can be a delicious adventure. You may be able to eat kinds of fruit and herbs you've never had. You might learn something about jungle biology. If you are thinking of touring or biking in Southeast Asia, it can be a place to discover the kinds of foods available to the south and in the jungles of Yunnan and Guangxi. The site has a tourist hotel, and there are cheap hotels in the town of Menglun, and the staff may be willing to discuss their research with foreigners.
The town of Menglun is about 80 kilometers east of Jinghong on Highway G213 that leads to Laos. To reach the base, you have to cross over a bridge over the Luosuo River. The base features a Tropical Rainforest Area and a colorful Tropical Plants Area. There is a Bamboo Grove Area, a Palm Tree Area, and a Medicinal Plants Area where you can learn about the Dragon’s Blood Tree that helps to heal wounds. You can try various kinds of unusual wild fruits and herbs. You can watch researchers as they go about their duties and talk to them. A number of Chinese companies have research centers in the park.
If you want to stay overnight, perhaps the best hotel in the area is onsite. Since the base is so big, it takes about two days to explore it thoroughly. At night, bats and strange insects and animals come out. If you have a hotel room card, you can come and go about the base and only have to pay the 80 RMB entrance fee once. The base also has a restaurant that serves up exotic food made from the fruit of the plant research.
Menglun is easy to reach from Jinghong. You can catch a bus that costs about 12 RMB or about 1.90 USD. Menglun is about 80 kilometers or 50 miles from Jinghong The base can be reached by walking across the river over the bridge.
I updated this article on March 26, 2013
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