It has been about two weeks since I returned from my National Day trip. Since then I have returned to normal life, got ill, recovered, and uploaded all of my photos. So, I am now ready for a longer post.
Being in Yunnan was such an interesting experience. Its capital, Kunming, is growing and developing quickly but is less built up than Nanjing or Shanghai. My region of China is one of the most prosperous ones, which I knew. Jiangsu is a very prosperous province, situated in the delta of the mighty Yangtze River, and right in the middle of China’s highly developed eastern corridor. Much of China’s population lives on or near the east coast, from Beijing and Tianjin to Nanjing, Wuxi and Shanghai to Guangzhou, Shenzhen and Hong Kong. Shanghai, Beijing, Guangzhou, Shenzhen and Tianjin are China’s largest cities and together have a population of about 80 million people. Nanjing is farther down the list, with about 6 million residents. (This Guardian article has more info: www.theguardian.com/cities/2017/mar/20/china-100-cities-populations-bigger-liverpool).
This trip to Yunnan marked the first time that I have left this belt of eastern cities. Getting around the province was more difficult than Brendan or I expected. It is large and the sights are spread out and we traveled during National Day. This is a week-long holiday, one of China’s only such vacations, and the whole country is on the move. Friends of mine joked that during National Day, you go out to sights just to see other people. And the crowds were formidable. Brendan and I missed a train; the rest of the trains for the next days were already sold out. So, we took a bus. It should have been three-four hours but took nine due to traffic.
This was partly the result of the traffic, but also just part of traveling outside that belt of cities. If I miss a train home from Shanghai to Nanjing, for example, there will be another one in a matter of minutes. But between cities in Yunnan, there just are not as many trains. They still have amazing high-speed rail, but there are simply fewer trains.
The plus sides of being in a less crowded part of the country were many. Tiger Leaping Gorge is still tough to get to, for everyone. So once we arrived and got hiking, it was blissfully quiet, other than the roar of the rapids, and so, so beautiful. The first day that we hiked, it was snowing on the mountains on the other side of the gorge. With one side shrouded in mist, the other was sunny and the contrast was really lovely. The trails were not crowded, though we did get boxed in by some wandering goats and horses as we walked.
Time in the gorge was good for the soul, but because we faced such complications traveling it was also nice to head to Beijing for a few days. They are so used to dealing with large numbers of people that nothing seemed too different. Having been in a different region of China now too, I think I have a slightly better appreciation for how quickly the country is growing and developing. Nanjing feels perennially under construction, and in Kunming it felt like there was a crane every block. I think the China of even 30 years ago would have looked very different, and I am curious to see what the China of the next 30 years will look like. Given that they already have trains going 400 km/hr I think by then people will just fly around on hovercrafts powered by hydroelectricity.