Whoever has heard of a border city in Xishuangbanna called Jing Hong? Just short of half a million inhabitants, it’s neither here nor there by Chinese standard. We arrived in the early evening. After dinner, we took a brief walking tour downtown to absorb its ambiance. As in nearly every Chinese town and city, a big group was doing dance exercise in the public square. Nearby, the riverside disco was warming up their oversized loudspeakers to a different tune. Next to it was a vibrant night market selling all things edible or wearable under heaven.
After loitering at the market for half and hour, we headed for our resort hotel. The driver’s navigator predicted the drive to take only five to ten minutes. Ten minutes from here? I couldn’t help being skeptical. I prepared for mental shutdown, getting ready for an early night with my earplugs firmly inserted. I suspected the “resort” to be one of those furnished with an all-night disco and twenty-four-hour massage service.
聽過西雙版納景洪市的人應該不太多吧。一個四十多萬人口的邊疆城市，不大不小，也不怎麼中型。到達景洪時，已近黃昏。在市中心晚飯後，到熱鬧的夜 市逛了一圈。湄公河畔的幽靜，似乎已被剛流行的迪斯科音樂所淹沒。逗留了大概一個小時，司機才用導航尋找「悠然台」去。據說這度假村離開市中心只有五到十 分鐘車程。我心想，一個跟景洪夜市相距十分鐘的「度假村」，能有多棒呢？莫非又是門庭如市，二十四小時 MTV 和按摩服務的所謂「現代化」休閒勝地？我暗自把期望降到最低，拿出耳塞，準備早睡早起身體好。過了幾分鐘，巴士停在半山一個小區中央。導航系統的機械聲音宣佈我們已經到達目的地。「就這裡？」 我忍不住問了句。沒有人回答我。可能大家的心裡當時也盤旋著同樣的問題。
A few minute later, we arrived at an unimpressive neighbourhood. “Here?” I asked. Nobody answered. I guess everyone had the same question in mind. A garden gate next to a local corner store had its name in Chinese and English — Yourantai. When the owner and his manager welcomed us inside, there was a synchronised wow! Unfortunately, I’m going to ruin this element of surprise for you with this post, if you ever visit Yourantai.
|On entering Yourantai 踏进悠然台的一刻|
|The library guest room 图书馆的客房|
I opted out of next day’s planned programme, in order to spend the day savouring Yourantai. After the owner Gerard Burgermeister (aka Lao Bo) showed me the exquisite details, each accompanied by an amazing anecdote, I realised why the Swiss are watch makers. Over many pots of Lao Bo’s wonderful collection of fine Pu Er tea, he told me the story of Yourantai.
|Lao Bo and his precious collection of Pu Er tea 老博和他的珍藏普洱|
Yourantai means “terrace of serenity” in Chinese, an inspiration from the life and philosophy of Song Dynasty (1037-1101) poet Su Dongpo, who happened to be also one of my favourite ancients. The Terrace of Serenity was the brainchild of Lao Bo, a Swiss Biologist, and his Taiwanese wife Lynn, also a trained biologist. They had met in Colorado, USA, before moving to China. After living in Beijing for a number of years, they resettled in Jing Hong about 13 years ago, to build their Dai style chalet with Swiss characteristics.
瑞士人老博說悠然台取名的靈感來自蘇東坡。他和台灣太太 Lynn 都是生物學家，在美國認識，後來搬到中國。他們在北京居住多年後，十三年前搬到景洪，開始建造這充滿瑞士色彩的傣式度假村。
Gerard has a story to tell about every staircase, beam and column
Around 2003, Mr. and Mrs. Lao Bo purchased a decrepit rubber plantation in Jing Hong. During the first year as owners, Lynn stayed in Jing Hong alone to build a Great Wall of Yourantai to fortify their future home in the middle of a burgeoning urban centre. A year later, Lao Bo quit his job in Beijing, and officially relocated to Jing Hong to join his wife. The region was going through ferocious development at the time. Dai villagers propelled to the rank of urban nouveau riches were replacing beautiful traditional houses with hollow concrete cubes opened to the bucolic surroundings through rectangular doors and windows barred by metallic grilles. Gerard and Lynn got to know the villagers, and bought much of their “waste” timbers. For nearly two years, Yourantai was a huge stockpile of dismantled beams and columns and floorboards, waiting to be sorted and reincarnated into the Burgermeister’s new antique home. Protecting the wood from rain and termites was a big headache even for two professional biologists.
2003 年左右，他們得悉景洪市的一個橡膠園經營乏力，於是把它買下，計劃蓋個瑞士式小房自用。他們都沒有建築底子，卻決心自已設計和動手建造。頭一年，Lynn 自已一個人留在景洪，把橡膠園的圍牆蓋起來。一年後，老博辭掉北京的工作，正式移居景洪。當時附近很多傣族房子，因為主人榮升了暴發戶，正準備拆掉，改建 四方公正，色調灰沈，門窗都被鐵條封上的「現代化」混凝土洋房。老博和 Lynn 與即將重建的傣族村寨打上交道後，決定就地取材，因材設計，把他們拆掉的樑柱地板收購下來。即將淪為垃圾的木材，最終變成了悠然台這個活古董。期間差不多 兩年的時間，悠然台堆滿了收購回來的舊木材。兩位生物學家最頭疼的問題除了防風雨侵蝕，還有對治白蟻。
“These hills are infested with termites. They know their job. They were here a hundred thousand years ago and will be here a hundred thousand years hence. They are the real landowners, we’re only temporary caretakers!” Lao Bo said, while pouring me the 15th cup of Pu Er. “So I found a way. I didn’t use any insecticide. I studied the termites, learnt about their habits. This knowledge gradually became part of the building design. It’s a long story, but the end result is that they now find our houses too dry, and mostly keep to the garden. We have become good neighbours.”
|There're antiques everywhere inside the antique house 古董屋内，到处都是古董|
When Yourantai was stuck without water supplies for a few days, the local fire brigade helped.
Lao Bo thanked them with a party and silk banner afterwards
|An oasis in the middle of Jing Hong 闹市中的绿洲|
More than 300 species of native flora now thrives in the previously monoculture rubber plantation
|Semi Outdoor Bathroom 房間內的半露天浴室|
|A "Youran" look at thriving Jing Hong 黄昏时分，品尝着老博的珍藏普洱，悠然见景洪|
|DON'T miss Lao Bo's kitchen and collection of fine wine 悠然台的美酒佳肴，绝对不能错过|
With the help of Dai carpenters and Sichuanese masons and plumbers, Lynn and Lao Bo designed as they built according to whatever antique timber they had acquired, fine-tuning as they learnt more about drainage, slope stability, termites, ventilation and water supply. The satisfaction of building their own chalet turned out to be addictive. They went on to build another, then another. Yourantai now features four guest cottages, one guest room plus additional accommodation in the museum-like upper floor of the River House. Each of them is a work of art fashioned without piles of blueprints or neurotic specifications. It’s reminiscent of how lasting masterpieces were once erected. Today, a project like this is probably only possible in China. Their interactive design may not be as complex and celebrated as Gaudi’s basilica in Barcelona, but it’s tastefully simple, and certainly not gaudy.
Link to Preivous Post: Ancient Tea Mountain 鏈接到上一節：古茶園