18 things you didn’t know about Yunnan

Yunnan oddities
Spotted outside an eatery in 天龙八部城: the 18 oddities (or 18 wonders!) of Yunnan. Interestingly and frustratingly, the collection of things differs from list to list.

It’s impossible to visit Yunnan without coming into contact with its list of weird and wacky — known as 云南十八怪. Marketing gimmick or not, the eighteen oddities give insights into colourful local life. Here are two interesting ones.


Oddity #1: smoking pipes made out of bamboo. How it works: Tobacco is inserted in the lower part of the bamboo tube. The tube is filled with water, creating a gurgling sound when smoked.

Given that China is the Kingdom of Bamboo, this innovation should come as no surprise. In fact, Oddity #2 points to woven bamboo hats being used as cooker lids.


Oddity #9: Toes are exposed all year round. It is said that folks from the mountainous areas wear straw shoes with holes all year round to keep their toes dry and cool.

However, the rural people I met there in winter looked shocked at the sandals I wore, so I’m not sure how common this practice actually is. Oddity #4, “same dress for all seasons” is also suspect, as I was repeatedly asked if I was warm enough by locals bundled in thick jackets.

While we’re on footwear, Oddity #8 鞋子后面多一块 points to Yunnan’s unique traditional shoe design — with an extra flap behind.

To read about Yunnan’s grilled cheese on a stick, see here!


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