China, the most populated country in the world, it is extremely diverse in terms of both people and landscape. I spent 7 weeks here in Jan/Feb 2011 and saw green rice patty fields in the south, a frozen wonderland in the north east, grasslands and plains through the central north, desert and dunes in the far west and snow-capped mountains as I headed south west towards Tibet.
The change from undeveloped South East Asia wasn’t gradual but dramatic, as soon as I crossed the border. The infrastructure of the highways and cities is impressive and would put many countries in the west to shame. The cities are incredibly rich but the rural areas are incredibly poor. The conditions that some people live in we wouldn’t consider fit for an animal.
Change is coming quickly, too quickly for some, as cities infringe on villages and dramatically change the way of life that many they have been accustomed to for centuries. When in the country and talking to the people outside of the cities you hear of protest and outcry at the government over development that we never hear about in the West. The government holds a tight reign over its people and even today the minority groups, especially the Tibetans and Uighurs, are oppressed and don’t have the freedoms that we take for granted such as free speech, uninhibited religious practice and even the ability to travel outside our countries. The only way most Tibetans can leave China is illegally through Nepal and onto India, a long, arduous and dangerous journey by foot through the Himalayas.
Despite this, whether it be the Han Chinese, the Mongolians, the Uighurs, the Tibetans, or one of the many other minority groups, the people of the region were always warm, friendly and very hospitable.
My chinese travels in chronological order: