This blog is back in business! We’re now back in the UK (yes, I got my visa!!) but have plenty to blog about from our month in China!
Our first impression of China was somewhat lacking… one of our first sights upon crossing the border was a dead rat in a restaurant kitchen and then when we got outside Dan was the unfortunate landing spot for a large hunk of phlegm. (Many Chinese spit regularly, though normally on the ground, not on people). To add to this, Guangzhou was stiflingly hot & crowded and various uniformed people kept ushering us onward whenever we tried to stop and figure out where in the world we were headed. But in the end we managed to find our train to Kunming, where we would spend the next 26 hours on 3 story high bunkbeds.
Actually, despite the claustrophobically small compartment, our train journey was amazing. The scenery was breathtaking, especially the limestone karsts in Guangxi province (think Painted Veil scenery). Mud-brick houses were nestled in the foothills of lush mountains and peasants in bamboo hats toiled on terraced fields. About 70% of China’s 1.3 billion population are rural peasant farmers – that’s about 1/6 the population of the Earth!
But China’s cities are growing fast, as is it’s economy. I was startled by the abundance of sleek luxury skyscrapers and posh stores selling clothes and jewelry that are expensive even by European standards. The bustling urban area of Kunming we stayed in was just fields a mere 6 years ago and the horizon was full of cranes continuing the expansion. But head into the countryside and many still live in small mud houses and count themselves lucky if they own a water buffalo.
China’s recent history is tumultuous: civil war, the Japanese occupation, mass starvation during the so-called “Great Leap Forward,” and the Cultural Revolution which attacked intellectuals, religion and traditional Chinese culture. But since the 1980s, massive economic reforms and relative stability have helped China have the world’s fastest growing economy. But economic inequality is also growing, especially between China’s rural and urban.
Don’t be suprised if China, with its 4,000 year old history & culture, and invensions of umbrellas, paper, silk, the decimal system and kites, soon enters centre stage.