Wednesday, November 14, 2012

CHINA: rural, Cantonese, and too many photos.

i was (back) in China a few weeks ago.

(that's not me)

while not my first trip - this one was ...different. i was there with, and to see family (my wife's, that is). it was my first trip back since living on that side of the world (2007). a week was spent traveling around in mid-western Yunan, followed by a few days in the southern-Canton village where my father-in-law grew up, and a few days on the front and back of the trip in Hong Kong meeting up with more of family (and a some friends from my travels).

not a lot of English was spoken. a lot of photos were taken. and far too much Chinese food was eaten.

overall thoughts.
as with my previous travels through Asia, it's clear that this is a part of the world is (still) on the move. but to focus the lens on China was particularly interesting - given their continued rise on the world-stage. no matter where i went - in the mountains, in small towns, at truck stops, night markets, murky farms and villages - everyone is doing. selling food, learning to drive, working the field. i've seen this in many of parts of the world - but never so consistently. bridges are rising, roads are expanding, factories are producing, people are buying. everyone is hungry for something more, and whatever comes next - not just for them, but for the next generation. and/but it's not always pretty. is this what America felt like in the 1950s/60s? unbridled growth - where plans are being put into motion, but potential is yet to be fully realized?

fair warning - i took far too many (shocking). believe it or not, a fair amount were already edited out. why still so many then? well, i have a problem. but more importantly, i'm visually bookmarking my experience. you're welcome. perhaps you can gleam some stories from our travels. so what may feel - in some instances - as overwhelming randomness (sorry) are more observations of my time there. the people, places, and things that caught my eye, and may even have some cultural significance. you'll see a lot of little kids being cute, a lot of adults going about their life, and some other friendly people around with us (very likely my newfound Chinese relatives).

Yunan Province (October 22-28)
technically, this began the second day of our trip (our first was spent hanging around Hong Kong, included further below). we landed in Kunming, but immediately hit the road north, up through the hills towards the mountains of Lijang. lots of ethnic minorities - the Naxi in particular are someone culturally reminiscient of Tibetans/native Americans. on our way back down we stopped in Dali. given this was a tour (completely in Cantonese, but minus the language issue, the most efficient way to get around), there were a number of forced stops at certain commercial establishments (ironic for a Communist country) - where we were encouraged to buy jade, silk, tea, silver (we didn't). despite these mild annoyances, the scenery itself and brief stops through small towns along the way made it worthwhile.

Canton Province (October 28-31)
what was a brief stop to visit family felt like it lasted much longer. probably partially because i got quite sick along the way. after a few hours in Guangzhou, our family took us down towrads Xi Qiao, the small town near the farming village where my father-in-law grew up. definitely a local, at times rural, experience. but given the sheer industrial nature of Canton (aka Guangdong), the sky was always covered in a thick haze.

Hong Kong (October 21, October 31-November 3)
we flew in/out of Hong Kong (nothing like a direct flight over the Arctic), spent a day un-jetlagging and meeting up with family and orienting ourselves (pun allowed). on the tail end of our trip, we returned from the mainland via ferry, got an apartment in Sheung Wan, and wandered about, taking it easy with more family and friends on both islands - Hong Kong and Kowloon. my father-in-law spent his adolescent/teen years bouncing around from place to place. believe what they say - it's a more crowded, more Chinese version of New York, and/or a less ex-patty/clean version of Singapore (not too significant an accomplishment, but the familiarity was there). so pretty much one big Chinatown. but it's amazing to understand the very conscious urban-expansion, especially through the lens of someone who grew up there (there's a lot to be said to the Colonial foundations, and the Communist maintenance). the surrounding water/landscapes are amazing, and the sheer density of high-rises (both shiny new and old historic) was staggering, and ever-expanding. but the people there never. stop. working.

so that's the trip, in a nutshell. as with most interesting journeys, each day felt like many, removing me further from my daily life - and providing some much needed perspective. beyond the obvious jetlag, returning to the US had it's own fair share of cultural RE-adjustment. 

and then there was an election.


  1. Some great pics on here!

  2. I fully identify with eating too much Chinese food. On my trip, I remember gaining like 10 pounds in an incredibly short period of time!

  3. Very cool, Raman. Thanks for sharing!

  4. good stuff. i actually think you managed to make it all... manageable. like the gorillaz.


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