Colin Flahive, co-owner of Salvador's Coffee House and natural food company Dali Bars recently took a business trip to Dehong Prefecture (德宏州). One of the least-visited parts of Yunnan due to a general lack of infrastructure, the area — like many once-inaccessible parts of Yunnan — is undergoing a bit of a construction boom. Flahive's trip centered around a factory producing Dali Bars, but ended up doubling as a comfy tour of the surrounding hills and valleys.
Only about 29,000 Achang live in all of China, making them one of the least populous of the country's 56 official minority groups. The Achang are of Burmese decent and thought to be some of the earliest permanent settlers in western Yunnan.
They are predominantly Theravada Buddhists — the most prevalent form of the religion in much of Myanmar, Laos, Thailand and Sri Lanka — and their language, grouped within the Tibeto-Burman family, lacks a written form.
The area around Husa is mountainous, poor and almost entirely agrarian. However, the locals have made a name for themselves as growers of quality cardamom, and also as experts at making handmade rice noodles. Finely-crafted Achang knives — called husadao (户撒刀) — are also quite well-known to collectors across China.
White brick and gold stupas predominate across the Husa region, much like they do just across the border in Myanmar.
We visited a factory while there, and owner took me for a short day trip to nearby Huangge Temple (皇阁寺). He kept calling the six-hundred year-old structure the "F-U" Temple, which I found very confusing until I met the dour guardian deities at the entrance.
"Taking drugs is suicide, selling drugs is murder" is painted on walls along village walkways, a reminder of the lingering cross-border drug problems in the area.
I initially went to Husa to oversee the factory's new production line in addition to testing two new Dali Bar flavors. I was surprised to see that ongoing unrest across the border has created a flood of Burmese refugees pouring into Yunnan seeking better lives.
I had assumed that the factory owner chose Husa for financial reasons, but after spending a few days there it was clear that it was more a quality of life choice. Clean air, clean water, fertile soil and vibrant local culture turned out to be reason enough.
Images: Colin Flahive© Copyright 2005-2018 GoKunming.com all rights reserved. This material may not be republished, rewritten or redistributed without permission.