A Feast for the Spirits, Culinary Tour of Yunnan

As Anthony Bourdain asked us:

“Do we really want to travel in hermetically sealed popemobiles through the rural provinces of France, Mexico and the Far East, eating only in Hard Rock Cafes and McDonald’s? Or do we want to eat without fear, tearing into the local stew, the humble taqueria’s mystery meat, the sincerely offered gift of a lightly grilled fish head? I know what I want. I want it all. I want to try everything once.”

Asia Art Tours is proud to present, A Feast for the Spirits, a culinary and cultural tour of China’s most diverse province: Yunnan. Email Asia Art Tours today for more information, at matt@asiaarttours.com.

Day 1: Mangshi-Tengchong   

Depending on your flight time this will either be the first day of your tour, or a day of rest.  

If you can arrive early we’ll start the day with a visit to a vibrant local market.  For eaters this is a great chance to see tropical fruit, hyper-local (and proteins) not found anywhere else.  . . Brave eaters can also munch on insects if available, (for example hornet pupa are considered a great delicacy in Yunnan).

During our market time, a master BBQ chef’ll join us, as Mangshi is known throughout Yunnan for having some of South East Asia’s best BBQ.    The Master Chef will be picking up the best, freshest and local ingredients at the market, (explaining the how and why of course!) for our BBQ feast for lunch.

Then we’ll head to a local outdoor kitchen where we’ll start to grill.   Spicy tropical salads, colorful dishes involving flowers, roots, ferns and other local plants will be our appetizers as the Master Chef BBQS, Marinades and seasons the meat.  While lunch is being prepared we’ll get a chance to interact with locals who will tell us all about how cooking has changed from their own childhoods, yet how they still remain connected to the forest and ecosystems to provide locally harvested ingredients.

After Lunch we’ll drive to the town of Tengchong, one of China’s most important cities and its most diverse… having had a long relationship with nearby Myanmar and with foreign powers during Word War 2. We will explore the trade trading centers of the city; visit the old British Trading Consulate and China’s best War Museum (The only one in China where you can see a Republic of China [Taiwan] Flag openly displayed).

Dinner will be at an amazing local restaurant inside a beautiful and historic courtyard. And if we have time we’ll take you to Trenching’s other amazing attraction, the local volcanic hot springs! For an evening of pampering and soaking.

Day 2: Tengchong   

Today will be dedicated to rice, and the amazing diversity of form it can take in the hands of China’s Culinary Masters.

First we will visit a traditional workshop that makes Tengchong’s famous rice cakes. Here we will watch the cakes being made and also witness the traditional art of Rice Cakes being made into miniature animals that represent symbols from the Chinese Zodiac.

Afterwards we’ll visit a local market famous for having one of the best vegetable and mushroom selections in all of Yunnan. Here we’ll pick up ingredients, and then we’ll head out to a beautiful countryside village where we’ll get a professional demonstration on how to cook Tengchong’s famed rice noodles. You’ll be able to make one of the best stir-fry meals of your life in this setting, along with several other dishes. Here you’ll enjoy your lunch surrounded by beautiful scenery before heading back to Tengchong.

If there is time we’ll also take you to one of our favorite local tea plantations. Located near the mountainsides of Tengchong, you’ll have the chance to see the process of Yunnan’s famed Pu’Er tea being harvested and roasted.  You’ll also get a chance to purchase freshly pressed teacakes for your own drinkable souvenir of some of China’s most delicious tea.

Day 3: Tengchong-Baihualing  

Today we will cross the Gaoligong Mountain Range, one of the earth’s most unique Biospheres, and one of the best places in the world for birding. If you’d like we can extend your tour 1-2 days to spend more time in this truly special ecosystem.  However for our morning we’ll still have the opportunity to hike and if the weather is good do some birding.

For foodies interested in staying with the proposed itinerary We will make our way to some traditional Dai Minority villages, where will learn about their unique religion that mixes Animism and Theravada Buddhism.  Afterwards we’ll head to one of Trenching’s other amazing attractions, that the climate offers the opportunity for locally grown coffee. Some predict that Yunnan will eventually become as famous for its coffee as it is for its tea!

You’ll meet a local farmer growing coffee, and have a chance to drink a freshly roasted cup!  Afterwards a local lunch will be served.

Our night will be spent near the edge of the Gaoligong Forests in a local guesthouse run by a charismatic local family where you’ll have a chance to enjoy wilderness, before we make our way east.  If you’re lucky the charming hostess will share some of the locally made Baijiu (rice wine) with you.

Day 4 : Baihualing –  Baoshan

In the morning we can either have a leisurely drive to the best bird watching spot in Gaoligong Mountain, or we can do a longer 2-hour hike that takes us into the rainforest to see waterfalls and to dive into a natural jungle hot spring.  Afterwards we’ll head to the town of Baoshan for one of the most unique feasts on our holiday.

We’ll stop at the Nu (angry) River to take photos of one of Yunnan’s most picturesque bridges, afterwards we’ll continue onto Baoshan. After arrival and checking into your hotel we will stop at our favorite Yunnan Restaurant for a Jingpo feast. The Jingpo people are a very small minority tribe whose cuisine is some of the best and most unique in China… it could be described as a fusion between Burmese and Chinese cooking, but that does not do justice to the hyper-local ingredients and spices that go into the preparation. For many of our guests this is their favorite meal in all of Yunnan.   

After dinner we’ll return to our hotel to rest.

Day 5 Baoshan – Yongjian – Weibao

Today we’ll head to the Muslim village of Yongjian, the Hui Muslim Community has been living here for hundreds of years and the architecture of this village is simply stunning, with one of the best preserved and most complete examples of Islamic architecture mixed with Chinese Architecture to create a completely unique style very rarely seen elsewhere in China.      

The Meal here will be traditional Hui Muslim food, giving us a chance to enjoy Lamb, Nan and other cuisine found only in Hui Muslim communities. Before or during the lunch we’ll also stop by the local mosque, which is one of the most beautiful in all of China.

Afterwards we’ll drive to the ancient town of Weibao where we’ll stop in on our favorite local restaurant tucked inside a beautiful courtyard. Here you must try the local house wine made by the owner.   Weibao is one of Yunnan’s oldest towns and is filled with traditional Chinese houses, hutong alleyways and cobblestone streets, we strongly recommend walking around in the evening. Tourists have not yet discovered Weibao and it will likely be the most atmospheric small town you experience during your time in Yunnan.

Day 6 Weibao– Weibaoshan- Dali

Today we’ll wake up early and drive roughly 30 minutes to Weibaoshan, one of China’s 4 holy Taoist Mountains. Here you’ll have a chance to hike from Temple to Temple in a beautiful temperate broadleaf forest.   You’ll be walking through some of China’s most beautiful temples on this peaceful mountain, which for centuries has been a refugee for Taoists.

After your morning hike we will drive in the afternoon to Dali.  We’ll check you into your hotel and take you on a tour to some of our favorite eateries in the city. Which includes incredible pastries, local cuisine and even Hong Kong style Dim Sum!

In the evening we’ll leave you on your own, or fi you like we can take you to one of Dali’s best keep secrets, a cocktail longue in the shadow of the Cangshan mountain range overlooking the city and offering a gorgeous view of Erhai Lake.  This cocktail lounge imports China’s best micro-brewed beer from Guizhou and features imported whiskey from Japan, Dali’s ‘literati’ and other artists who have left the big city behind and moved out to this beautiful countryside community frequent it

Day 7 Dali

In the morning we’ll take you on a tour of the city and do some hands on shopping at some of the city’s best markets as we prepare for our afternoon cooking class.   We’ll be doing a cooking class that features dumplings and gives you step-by-step instructions for making this staple of Chinese cooking.

In the afternoon if available we will then introduce you to one of our favorite Tai-Chi Masters.  He practices Tai Chi in the courtyard of one of Dali’s most beautiful temples. If he is unavailable then we will arrange for cycling around Dali’s Erhai Lake.

In the evening we’ll be happy to take you to our favorite hot pot restaurant, a preview of your activities tomorrow.

Day 8 Dali –Xizhou-Dali

In the morning we’ll head out to the nearby village of Xizhou. Here we’ll enjoy Xizhou Baba, a pizza like baked good topped with savory pork or rose petal jam. Then should time allow, we’ll visit our good friends at the nearby Bai community.  She organizes Indigo dying classes that teach the traditional Dai Art to guests. Here you’ll be able to dye your own textiles and purchase textiles produced by master Dai artists.

Afterwards we’ll visit the busy Xizhou market to purchase good for our second cooking class, the ladies will likely be wearing their tribal clothing and are happy to talk with us about Dai culture.      Then for lunch we’ll visit a local home to learn more about the process of making ‘rushan’ one of China’s only locally produced cheeses that is local to Yunnan. You will also be able to practice making your own Cheese!  The cheese will be an appetizer, as we’ll be heading to a local courtyard house for our full lunch.

Finally we’ll head again to our cooking class where our guide (who is from Sichuan) will be teaching you how to make authentic (and authentically spicy!) Chinese hotpot.  You’ll spend the evening experimenting with making the perfect broth with the ingredients you’ve picked up from the market.

Day 8 Dali –Departure

Today you may either extend your tour (journeying with us to Lijiang and Shangri-La) or we can transfer you to the airport for your outbound flight to your next destination. We know you will be leaving Yunnan with memories of flavors and dishes unlike anything you will taste before or after!



DURATION OF THE TRIP: 7days -8 nights


On this trip we aim to expose our guests to one of the most diverse cultural and culinary regions in all of China: Yunnan. Here Tibetan and South East Asian Tribal Groups mix with Han Chinese , Burmese expats populations and Hui Muslims to create some of the most dynamic food one can find in the middle Kingdom.  Yunnan has long been thought of as an area unto itself (indeed it remained independent until the 1900s) and you will feel in another country as you eat your way through Muslim BBQs, bustling markets filled with the freshest and strangest tropical fruit, and cuisine that has been fused between Thai/Burmese/Viet and Chinese styles to become entrees unto themselves.   

During this holiday we will be taking you into the restaurants, kitchens, homes, and markets that make up some of the world’s most unique and diverse cuisines.  All the while taking you through spectacular scenery that covers Himalayan Mountain Ranges, Tropical Rainforests , Daoist Temples and Muslim Mosques. . . this is so much more than a Food Tour, it is a journey into one of the world’s last spaces that have not yet been westernized, not yet been homogenized and not yet been tamed.

Want more information? Email our travel experts matt@asiaarttours.com.

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