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Month: October 2018

Reflections upon National Day

Reflections upon National Day

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:

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.

Not photoshopped, also not taken by me. Taken by a nice man at the guesthouse who climbed onto the roof with BTJ’s phone to get this angle

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.

National Day Voyages

National Day Voyages

Chinese National Day takes place during the first week of October and the country goes on the move. Brendan and I joined the crowds and headed to Yunnan province and Beijing. It was incredibly busy but worth it! Yunnan is interesting because it is a region totally new to me. The province is south of Tibet and Sichuan provinces, and north of Myanmar. Its topography, cuisine and customs really differ from those in Jiangsu, my province on the east coast.

We started in Kunming (provincial capital) and planned to travel north through Dali to Lijiang. Unfortunately due to a flight delay, we missed our first train. Tickets were sold out so we took a bus. Due to traffic the three hour ride took about nine hours. Luckily Brendan is a sparkling conversationalist. Finally, delayed by a few days, we made it to Tiger Leaping Gorge! So worth the journey; it is the deepest gorge in the world.


At its most narrow point, the rapids are formidable and the water is so loud that we made to shout. Use the bridge in the above photo as a size reference- these rapids are huge.

Of course, we also ate. In Dali, fresh fish from the lake is popular and delicious. We also tried a local goat cheese. It tends to be quite sour, so it is often fried and dipped in sugar.

From the gorge, we reversed course back to Kunming. From that city, we flew back to Beijing for the tail end of National Week. The crowds calmed and we were able to go hiking on a deserted section of the Great Well. The views were wonderful! And we lucked out on the weather.

In Beijing, culinary highlights included Beijing duck, noodles galore and eggs benedict, which I had for breakfast every day. The photo below is of our roast duck being expertly sliced and diced. Once the bird is cut, you are instructed to dip the skin in white sugar. Next you make small wraps of plum sauce, duck, and spring onion. Delicious!