Stepping off Ruili’s wide, near-trafficless central avenues and into the lively, narrow-streeted Burmese quarter around the jade market is like entering another world. Here women in colourful dresses and headscarves cook spicy Asian food on the streets and men in traditional Burmese longyis (a kind of narrow skirt hanging down to the ankles) haggle with Burmese Pakistanis in traditional Islamic dress over the price of jade.

Tattooed Dai monk from a temple in a village near Ruili, Yunnan Province, South West China

Tattooed Dai monk from a temple in a village near Ruili

Ruili has a little bit of a sleazy reputation. Jade is not the only thing that come across the border from Burma. Heroin does too in large quantities and of the 9,000 Burmese in Ruili 4,000 are in jail, just small fry trying to stop their families from starving. Prostitution is also fairly rife. As a tourist you could of course easily visit Ruili without coming into contact with any of this. I found the inhabitants of the Burmese quarter very friendly and got invited back to someone’s home and taken out for a meal in a Pakistani restaurant!

There are also some interesting temples in the city and in neighbouring ethnic minority villages where monks such as those pictured above live.

Ruili is a 12-hour overnight bus ride from Kunming, the capital of South West China‘s Yunnan Province. There are also connections with Jinghong in Xishuangbanna.

Click here for my blog on Ruili. It’s 2399 words and 34 photos.

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