Yunnan · Lincang
Gengma Dai and Wa Autonomous County 耿马傣族佤族自治县

Gengma County, on the southern banks of the Nanding River, is another multi-ethnic county, with not only Dai and Wa, but also 3500 Bulang and Lahu. The county’s most important and prosperous town is not Gengma, but Mengding in the river’s valley.

Before the advent of steam ships up the Irrawaddy in Burma, many caravans crossed the Salween in Burma at a place back then known as Kunlong Ferry, before trekking up the Nanding River on their way to Dali and Kunming. This route was especially important during the Muslim Uprising the nineteenth century, when trade through Baoshan was greatly disrupted.

When railway lines were first surveyed, the British intended to extend the line from Lashio along this route towards Yunxian and on to Kunming, as it would have avoided crossing the deep gorges of the Nujiang and Mekong further north as well as the mountains separating them. Needless to say, that more than one hundred years later the railway still stops at Lashio, even though some Chinese maps show a Burmese line all the way to the border.

With poor communications, Gengma County remains as cut off and poor as it has always been. The only to take advantage of the terrain seem to be the drug smugglers bringing in heroin from Burma. Frequent checks along the road and the occasional armed confrontation between police and traffickers are testimony to this kind of modern caravan.

Gengma Town

High and dry Gengma still retains some minority charm with Dai, Wa and Lahu attracted to its market.


Travel Notes

Transport in the county is slow and unreliable, with overall not enough busses for all passengers. The county strictly enforces the rule that all passengers must have seats, even on remote back-roads, which makes travelling by public transport here most inconvenient, as it is always possible to get stranded here. There are police checks on Gengma county borders, to curb the drug trade from Myanmar, but they also take undue interest in western travellers.

Next Markets