Following our excursion to the Guizhou province, a less visited province in China, we headed back to the more common tourist trails in the south-western province Yunnan. While our day in Kunming mainly served administrative purposes, we quickly headed on to the mountains in the southeast of the province. Besides the world-famous rice-terraces, Yuanyang offers many minorities in a very small space. We completed our visit with a monster bus tour through the mountains and small villages.
After a few days in the very dry north-west of China, which sports a lot of desert or desert-like landscape we made a larger move to southern China, to the Guizhou province. As one of the rainiest and poorest provinces in China, it was quite a contrast to what we have seen in the previous few months in China. On top of that, the menu changed quite a bit as well.
After a little more than two days in Dunhuang we had to re-pack our backpacks for the first time. Luckily we had decided to travel light, such that we had to stow away much less tan 10kg each (plus the photo and electronics equipment). At 8:40am the bus left for Jiayuguan at the Western end of the Hexi corridor, which would be giving our trip the direction for the next few days.
The last few days in Beijing occupied us with many last minute activities which had to be done when leaving a place: Moving, checking out at work, apartment, etc. At the very end we could enjoy a delicious dinner at the Opposite House, courtesy of the Swiss Society Beijing. Finally on Saturday, August 30 at 8:40 we sat in the airplane which should bring us to Xian from where we would connect to Dunhuang in the far West of Gansu Province. The goal was an experience in the desert, which I had left out three years ago when passing through the area in winter…
The last stop on our journey from Moscow to Beijing by train was Harbin in North-East China. The captial of Heilongjiang provinces experienced lots of different influences which one can still recognize today. Besides these influences, especially the Russian old town, the ice plays a particularly important role when it comes to what the city is famous for.
Like most of the cultures in this world, China is known in Europe mostly though the media. Stereotypes reign the knowledge about this far away country and every now and then somebody visited the country as a tourist or even worked there as an expat for some time. Two things are heard very often about China: firstly, one has to be very careful about prices and product quality when buying something in China. A little experience in negotiating prices and especially knowledge of the actual prices should be very important. Secondly, it should be very difficult to make friends with the Chinese. For example, the Chinese should have no interest in joining in for a drink after work. During a networking event in Beijing, in which both Chinese and foreigners participated, I had the opportunity to learn more about the background of these statements.
Everything is possible in China. Quickly, if need be. Already during my travels through China I learned that more is possible than meets the eye. In the meantime I wonder whether really everything is possible here in China. Within a very short period of time specialists are summoned, products are organized and translators are found. The resources are there, one only needs to unleash them. And how does that work? Very simple: just talk to the people.
The first month in Beijing is over, life becomes more and more normal. Many things I did not question or think about in Stuttgart, I have discover here piece by piece. Seemingly common things suddenly have to be established from the ground. Where can I buy groceries? How do I get from A to B? How do I manage with all those Chinese characters?
The first week in the year of the dragon has already passed. The new year was greeted with a lot, a whole lot of fireworks. For the Chinese the first week of the new year is an opportunity to visit family and friends and also the famous temple fairs, which are present all around Beijing.
I spent the last stretch of my trip on the luxury compartment of the night train from Xian to Beijing Xi (Beijing West). The two big differences between the hard and soft sleeper compartments on Chinese night trains are the fact that the soft sleepers have lockable doors and only consist of 4 berths compared to 6 in the hard sleeper compartments. The bed though is just as hard. Once I had arrived in Beijing a started the search for the needle in the haystack.