South China

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Iíve only been once to China, for three months, as part of a journey of half a year, from Indonesia, Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, Hong Kong, and China to Pakistan.

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Anecdote

After my visit to Yanghsuo, that pretty village in the mountains, I returned to Guilin, the capital of the district. I heard from other tourists that there is a spectacular train ride from Guilin to Kunming, 500 km of beauty. Unfortunately, Guilis is located in the middle of the railway between Kanton (Guangzhou) and Kunming. The man at the counter told me that tickets sold to foreigners needed to have a seat guaranteed, which they couldnít if they sold more than six tickets for tourists a day. What an ultimate crap story. He could not sell me one, it was noon, and he already sold his limit. I had to return the next day, at 8 am, but advised me to be there before 6 am, to avoid the crowd. That didnít sound appealing, so I went to the local airport and arrived the same day in Kunming.


In the plane I met some other tourists who I already met at the station. We all wanted to continue to Dali, a magnificent city near a lovely lake, and founded by Kublai Khan, the grandson of Chengis Khan. The same night we went to the bus stop, bought a ticket and found a cheap hotel nearby. The next day we left at six in the morning. Maybe I should have stayed longer in Kunming, as there appears to be a spectacular stone forest, with strange rock formations. Missed that.


Dali is about 300 km from Kunming, and the view from the bus was great. Sloping hills, bending roads, cute villages. The bus was definitely made for Chinese, as my legs didnít fit and I had to fold myself for the full eight hours in the bus. The driver was so kind to accept a cassette from a western lady, and played the hard rock at full volume, to the horror of the Chinese passengers. When the tape stopped, he took revenge by playing a tape with the Beijing Opera at full volume, to the delight of all Chinese passengers. Booing, . . .booing, booing (cymbal sounds), and then some singers made a very realistic impression of street cats being strangled. It was clear that I missed some subtleties to be able to appreciate this music, and then I realized that the Chinese might have the same with our hard rock.

Dali turned out to be a delightful village, but I went straight to the famous deaf and dumb masseur, as my legs didnít obey me due to eight hours of folding in the bus. The masseur was great, and Iím sure heís very popular with tourists as well, as he was the only one with rayban sunglases.

Then I went to the Biguan 2. Biguan means ďhotelĒ and the 2 stands for second class. Almost always I took the 2nd class. The dormitory was about empty, as usual. For about 15 dollar cents per night I had the dormitory for me and my fellow backpackers. Now I should explain that it for Chinese itís forbidden by law to sleep in the same hotel room as a foreigner, regardless to gender. The story goes that once a Chinese girl sees the big dick of a foreigner, she will never be satisfied with a Chinese guy no more. Very understandable, as far as Iím concerned.

Dali has a magnificent gate, see picture above, and a very relaxed atmosphere. It even had a hard rock cafť, where backpackers could play their guitar and where a friend of mine fell in love with the waitress.
Dali has itís cultural minorities too, like the bai and the nasi, all with colourful clothes and different habits than the uniform Han Chinese. They reminded me of the hill tribes in the north of Thailand, who I visited some two months ago, about 400 km south of Dali.


Together with a Swedish backpacker we rented a bike, and went for the lake. One wrong turn and we were at the inner court of a farmer. We wanted to turn around, but the farmer invited us to sit, and have a tea.
We animatedly spoke for an hour with hands and feet, and it always strikes me how east that is. It just takes two people who eager to learn, truly interested, patient, open and modest, like most people when they just take their time.

The farmer invited us for a boat trip on the lake. He took us to a harbour and spoke with a fisherman. The fisherman stayed ashore, and the farmer did his utmost best to get the boat moving in the right direction. Obviously he failed, we went ahead for a meter, then a half turn, backward and struck the quay. The firsherman burst out in laughter, so did we and so did the farmer. No problem whatsoever and I appreciated how fun could cover up the situation. We walked a bit further, and then the farmer took us to a barn in a court yard. He made some movements with his hands and then opened the door.
It turned out to be an operational Buddhist temple, which were hard to find after most were destroyed during the cultural revolution. With his hands the farmer indicated that there was a big fight for this temple. It was carefully camouflaged as a barn, but the enemy, the revolutionary guard, had spotted the sight. A gunfight followed, and five soldiers were killed. An amazing story, all told by hand and feet.

We returned to his house, and he invited us for dinner. I had a small look in the pot, and it contained only a bit of rice and chilli peppers. That didnít look like sufficient. I indicated that I had problems with my stomach, and now he poured me some hard liquor with herbs. Not too bad, really. He called for his daughter and she was about to buy me such a bottle. Of course I couldnít accept that, as he wasnít that rich. We shook hands and left. Then I bought some packs of cigarettes and returned to give them to the farmer. What a great guy, and how come I hardly ever meet people as friendly as him in the Netherlands?


Later I went to Lijiang, a small town about 200 km north, through the mountains. Lijiang is known for its beautiful houses with curved roofs, hanging over. Very impressive, see picture above.
Many people here are from the Nasi tribe, very friendly people. Again I rented a bike and toured around, amongst other to the house of a world famous doctor, see picture above. He had lots of guest books, sorted by nationality, and I couldnít figure how this man became the worlds biggest fly trap, meeting about every tourist that ever visited Lijiang.

A few days later I met a newly wed couple from Australia. I always enjoy Australian tourists as they are really cool types, no worries and lots of drinks and fun. Only Kiwis drink even more. Together with them, an English guy and two Dutch, we went for a three day trek through the Tiger Leaping Gorge.
For a start we had to cross the Yangtse river, more than hundred meter wide and with an impressive current. The local ferry man was an arrogant bastard, well aware of his power position. If he wouldnít take you, you had no chance of doing the trek, and you had to wait for the daily bus back to Lijiang. He only showed up after the bus left, smart guy. His minimum fare was 10 US$ each, and thatís an outrageous sum of money in this remote district. Finally we accepted, as he didnít allow for any bargaining. He took his big inflatable raft, and pulled it upstream for hundreds of meters. Then two of us could enter, and he crossed the river diagonally, as the strong current played with the raft as the wind plays with a feather. Finally we all got to the other side of the Jangtse. A few times more and the ferry man can retire.


The trekking was really great, and not too difficult for the bigger part. We could look down for three hundred meters straight down into the Yangtse, which squeezes itself through this canyon.
On the other side was this wall, about 800 meters straight up, which some big scratches on it, like it was made from a colossal heavenly tiger who slipped down and tried to get a grip with its nails. Hence the name.

Passing a vertical slope, one girl started to complain about vertigo. Annoyed I told her not to worry, when you fall down you wonít feel a thing, because your brain will be scattered over 10 square meters before any sensation of pain would reach it. The bitch had no sense of humour.

At night we camped at small villages, which seemed to be glued on the wall. Nice people who also let their farm as bed and breakfast. The breakfast is rice with egg, and tea.

Google-earth users can check this place out by clicking here

Not all over there were happy campers, at the end of the trek we walked through a prison camp, and secretly spoke with a teacher of English, who fought back at a fist fight, but will fortunately be released in a few years to come.

After Lijiang I went to Xiīan by bus and train.


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Subtropical East Central China

Subtropical East Central China is the countryís largest and most populous natural region. It encompasses about a quarter of Chinaís area and includes three traditional divisions: Central China, South China, and Southwest China. Subtropical China embraces the economically rich Yangtze Valley and stretches west from the Yellow Sea to the southeastern edge of the Tibetan Plateau. The Qin Ling mountains mark the regionís northern border. Administratively, the region includes Shanghai and Chongqing municipalities; Hunan, Hubei, Jiangxi, Zhejiang, Sichuan, and Guizhou provinces; Hong Kong Special Administrative Region; the majority of Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region; the southern parts of Jiangsu, Anhui, and Henan provinces; and the northern sections of Fujian, Guangdong, and Yunnan provinces.

The Yangtze Valley consists of a series of basins with fertile alluvial soils. These lowlands are crisscrossed with natural and artificial waterways, and dotted with lakes. To the west is the Sichuan Basin, a relatively isolated area of hilly terrain enclosed by several mountain ranges. The Sichuan Basin is noteworthy for its intensive terraced farming. Further west is the deeply eroded Yunnan Plateau, which is bordered by a series of mountain ranges separated by deep, steep-walled gorges. One of the worldís most scenic landscapes is found in Guizhou and Guangxi Zhuang, where the surface limestone rock has weathered into towering domes, pillarlike peaks, and other unusual shapes. To the east are the largely deforested and severely eroded Nan Ling hills. Along Chinaís southeastern coast are rugged highlands, where bays with numerous offshore islands provide good natural harbors. Lying south of the Nan Ling hills is the Xi Jiang Basin, a predominantly hilly area with infertile soils. However, fertile, flat-floored alluvial valleys border the numerous rivers of this region. One of the most important is the broad delta plain of the Zhu Jiang (Pearl River), which is sometimes called the Canton delta.

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