China's most southerly province of Yunnan, whose name in Mandarin Chinese means "Beautiful Clouds in the South" (彩云之南), is a beautiful expanse of land that borders Vietnam, Myanmar, and Laos, and is home to 25 of China's 56 official ethnic groups. Due to its unique geographic orientation between the towering peaks of the Himalayas and the tropical jungles of Southest Asia, Yunnan is rich in natural resources, geographic wonders, and colorful ethnic cultures.
Taken together, the rugged landscape and collection of peoples has led Yunnan to possess a flavor that is uniquely its own. One aspect if Yunnan's character that the locals are especially proud of is known as "The 18 Oddities of Yunnan" - 18 peculiar phenomenon and cultural customs that contribute to the allure that draws thousands of visitors to Yunnan, China, each year.
Oddity 1: Eggs are sold in bundles. Much of Yunnan is rural and agrarian, as well as precipitously mountainous, so the locals have come up with a unique way to safely transport eggs to market - they tie up a half-dozen eggs in long padded bundles of rice straw or vegetation strips.
Oddity 2: Bamboo hats are used as cooker lids. Yunnan is home to huge swaths of bamboo, which is used to cheaply make necessities such as fans, hats, and baskets. Pragmatic and thrifty locals will even go so far as to use their staw hats as pot lids.
Oddity 3: Three mosquitoes make up a dish. Spoken tongue-in-cheek to poke fun at the fact that mosquitoes in Yunnan can be quite large, and also that folks in Yunnan have a custom of cooking different types of insects!
Oddity 4: Cars are faster than trains. Due to the province's mountainous terrain, it is the one place in China where rail travel is slower than traveling by car.
Oddity 5: Erkuai. One local favorite snack is called erkuai, made of glutinous rice and prepared a variety of different ways.
Oddity 6: The same clothes can be worn for all four seasons. In most places in Yunnan, the climate is remarkably temperate and consistent, so locals wear the same clothing all the year round.
Oddity 7: Rainy here and sunny there. Yunnan's generally high altitude causes rapidly changing weather patterns, such that patches of rain can be seen in the midst of sunshine.
Oddity 8: "Over The Bridge" noodles. One of the favorite local dishes in Yunnan, China, is a soup dish called "over the bridge" noodles. The story goes that the dish was created to solve a problem encountered by a simple farmer's wife: every day she would bring her husband lunch in the fields, and every day the soup would be cold by the time she arrived. Her solution was the unique dish that has become a Yunnan hallmark.
Oddity 9: Toes are exposed all the year round. Living simple farming lives in a pleasant climate year-round has brought many Yunnan locals to wear sandals and homemade straw shoes, with no need for closed-toe shoes, even in the winter. (When you visit Yunnan, don't forget your sandals!)
Oddity 10: Grannies climb mountains faster than monkeys. Yunnan has so many steep mountains and deep gorges that the hard-working locals, even old women, are adept mountain climbers.
Oddity 11: Rice is cooked in a bamboo tube. A very popular specialty in Yunnan is 竹筒饭 (Zhútǒng fàn) or "bamboo tube rice" - sticky rice steamed in small bamboo tubes.
Oddity 12: Monks can have love affairs. The Dai minority in southern Yunnan believe in Buddhism and young boys from many families are sent to local monasteries to serve as monks. However, unlike other places in China, cloistered monks are allowed to return to secular life and get married later in life.
Oddity 13: Young girls are called "old lady."
Oddity 14: Girls hang tobacco bags. When you visit Yunnan, you will certainly notice that Lisu minority girls have a habit of smoking and chewing tobacco, so many of them hang tobacco bags on their waist belts.
Oddity 15: Keys are hung on waist-belts. The Dai women in southern Yunnan like wearing long skirts with silver belts from which hang sets of keys. The societal norm is that only married women are allowed to hang keys in such a manner, indicating their ability to run a household.
Oddity 16 : Bamboo used for smoking pipes. As seen to the right, it is very common to see locals smoking tobacco from a bamboo tube or other type of water bong. Even cigarettes are smoked this way!
Oddity 17: Green vegetable is called "bitter vegetable." The often-eaten green vegetables Yunnan, China, are more bitter than those of other provinces. However, Yunnan locals enjoy the bitter flavor believing the local saying: "in one's life, where there is no bitter, there is no sweetness."
Oddity 18: Tea is sold in piles. Yunnan has many famous types of tea, so markets often have piles of freshly cut tea for sale in piles, rather than packaged.
Another oddity that does not make the list but could be added is that the "official" list of oddities is disputed! There are many other versions of "Yunnan's 18 Oddities," often sharing some points and differing on others, leading locals and visitors alike to discuss which are the "true" oddities!
Come experience the mystery and beauty of this place, in amazing old towns like Lijiang and Dali, or Tibetan enclaves like Yunnan's Shangri-la!