This is my first trip for a while and my first visit to China. I am really excited. I have lots of preconceptions about China, mostly formed in my youth, so I am really intrigued to see what it is like. I have come to Yunnan province in the south of China next to the border with Vietnam. 27 different ethnic groups live around here and many celebrate festivals at different times of year for one reason or another.
I fly into Kunming, the largest city in Yunnan. 6 million people live here. It is similar to many in China and South East Asia. Concrete slabs of tall, imposing, multi-storey buildings house shops, apartments, shopping centres, department stores & businesses. No surprise there then.
The main surprise is the traffic on the streets. It is so quiet. The hundreds of scooters are electric and creep up on you quietly; most of the buses are electric so no noise there; and most of the cars are electric too, and so no sound from them. It all makes for busy streets that are silent – surreal and no exhaust fumes. Oh, the white sections of pedestrian crossings are purely ornamental. Traffic ignore any group of pedestrians trying to cross, who like owls turn heads 360° in an attempt to spot the speedy approach of packs of silent predators.
These living concrete blocks hide the heart of the city. It all feels very western with wide tree-lined, KFC next to McDonalds, Audi’s & Range Rovers alongside double decker buses, locals in jeans & smart coats. Open spaces provide room for morning exercise and recreation.
The Bamboo Temple nestles in the damp mist amongst the woods and mountains that overlook the city giving the land and the people a spiritual & cultural framework. It really is ancient & modern living side by side, each giving reason for the others’ existence & identity.
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