We’ve been away to Yunnan Province in Southern China. It’s not the sort of thing I usually do. We have had a wonderful time.
I’ve read and heard a lot about China, and we have family out there, but it was still a revelation to be there.
It’s strange but, on the face of it, it felt a less authoritarian society than the UK. There are a lot fewer police around, CCTV cameras are rarer and people feel free to vent their spleen (of which, more later). That said, we did not demonstrate about democracy or human rights – we might have run into the authorities a bit more if we had.
The capitalism we encountered is pretty red in tooth and claw. I was reading Robert Tressell’s The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists while we were there and it’s depiction of a cruel and largely untrammelled capitalism with many victims seemed very relevant.
Anyway… We flew from London via Beijing to Kunming for two nights. The city has been massively redeveloped in the last 20-30 years. There is high rise everywhere and a lot of the old city has been swept away. The roads are a nightmare of traffic jams, even though the elevated motorways are three deep in places.
The taxi ride from the airport took about an hour. We had booked an apartment in a tower block near the centre. From our 22nd floor position we could see new building sites and infrastructure improvement in every direction.
A day spent in the city centre revealed a few older, low-rise streets but the majority of the place is concrete and proud.
We liked the pagodas, temples and traditional gates but they were often dwarfed by their surroundings.
Finally I’ll leave you with an image of the Hump Bar. I didn’t go in.
After a couple of days recovering from our flight we headed to the railway station for an eight hour rail trip to Lijiang. There were six of us and an enormous amount of luggage squeezed into the car that took us there. The suitcase in my lap took my mind off the traffic jams and the unusual driving styles.
The station was chaotic to our eyes. We handed over our passports and hoped our pre-booked tickets would be issued. The system seemed to work and we rushed through security, joined the queue* and made our carriage with ten minutes to spare. More later…
*There’s not really any such thing as a ‘queue’ in China. This is reflected in the driving styles.