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15 February 2011 @ 11:10 pm
When in Doubt, Cirumabulate. Or Carry it on Your Back  
It's been a long, long time since I've updated (a month, in fact), and in the interim I've criss-crossed China a few times. Not a small thing, considering the size of the country. Or the state of some of the country's, ahem, "National Hightways"---which, as Jonas and I decided whilst bumping along on (traversing?) a particularly multiple-hours' long stretch in rural western Sichuan, whilst overlooking precipitous drops into the valleys below, views unencumbered by anything as silly as decent guardrails--decided meant 'selectively paved.' Thankfully the choice of phraseology enabled us to give a measure of agency to the Highway Department in the fact that National Highway #318 (Nepal to Shanghai) was selectively UNpaved on the corners of mountainous switchbacks, a fact that most probably contributated to our ultimate survival.

As you can tell, spending ~8 hrs/day on said roads, and in rural western Sichuan, also did wonders for our English abilities. Whilst bumpings along we'd try to throw in as many Scrabble-worthy words as possible, in attempts not only to "practice our English" (as Chinese people often are wont to do on sight of a foreigner) but also as a way to pass the time. But I'm getting ahead of myself and what will for sure by a multi-entry blog post, since this past month has been completely filled with travel and Cultural Experiences. (Yes: capital C, capital E.)

In summary, in mid-/late January I headed to the SE, from Shangri-la's lack of running water overland to tropical Sanya on the southern tip of Hainan Island in China's far southeast, for VIA'-China's annual conference. VIA reimbursed volunteers for the amount equivalent to roundtrip, "hard sleeper" travel from their post to- and from conference. I didn't go completely directly.... but I did go overland all the way to Sanay!!---a stunning ~70 hours of transit! This was: a 12-hr sleeper bus from Shangri-la to Kunming---which, due to an inexplicable traffic / road construction / possible traffic jam delay turned into 17 hrs; then a 25 hr train to Changsha + a further 2 hr train to visit a few VIA friends in rural Hunan province; and a semi-fiasco of a three train-leg journey from rural Hunan to get to Sanya, for ~28 hrs of further train/transfer travel--- including the train getting loaded onto a boat for the trip from mainland China onto Hainan Island!!!, thereby ensuring that every Chinese province is accesible by train, if just barely.

The train going onto the ship, to get transported across the strait and onto Hainan Island:

[Reminder: this post is just going to be an overview!! There is much to tell.]

After conference I flew from Sanya to Kunming, thereby reducing the trip from 50+ hours to a mere 2. I almost cried, it was so much less effort and time. Accompanying me was friend and VIA-comrade Jonas. We spent a week moving northward in Yunnan, eventually spending a night in ol' Shangri-la before leaviing the next day for a week in rural Tacheng area of neighboring Weixi county. Intense but very good. There we celebrated Chinese New Year, a.k.a. Spring Festival--- China's most important holiday.
Then back to Shangri-la, where we were joined by an impromptu visit by our friend Daniel, who lives in Beijing and had come overland from Hong Kong. After a few nice days all together in Zhongdian (and with charging boarding-house fees in the form of helping haul water from the public fountain back to the house), Daniel left to go back south toward Kunming and to fly to Beijing, and Jonas and I headed north to Ganzi Prefecture in western Sichuan.

We have spent the last 4 days seeing a few places in Ganzi and sitting on bumpy transportation for 6-9 hours/day to get to those places. In upcoming blog posts I'll tell more about those places! But if you're eager to know more, we went: Shangri-la --> Xiangcheng --> Litang --> Kangding --> Chengdu. It looks easy when you spell it out like that. But in actuality.... wow. In some ways easy but in other ways rather difficult.

And now, having finally made it to Chengdu earlier this evening, and very tired, I'll leave it there. Devoid of details but with the promise of blog posts (and photos!) to come.
Current Location: Chengdu!
Current Mood: a bit dazed
cookeasyvegan.blogspot.com on February 15th, 2011 04:04 pm (UTC)
This gives me a whole new perspective on travel — and the inconveniences thereof. :D I'll never again be able to complain in good conscience. (Though I'll probably still complain.)
K.wei_k on February 16th, 2011 01:37 pm (UTC)
Nah, you can still complain... I mean, dangerous roads are dangerous roads, whether or not you have guard rails protecting you from precipitous drops, and whether or not the road is actually paved. ;-)

More coming soon and with pictures!
wingraclairewingraclaire on February 16th, 2011 02:15 am (UTC)

Do I start every comment with "whoa?" I've been communicating with you off and on and I'm still amazed when I read it all together like that.

Hope you get to rest up and have some fun in Chengdu!!!
K.wei_k on February 16th, 2011 01:38 pm (UTC)
Thanks!! Pictures coming soon. :-)
And, this trip was DEFINITELY worth a 'whoa'... wait til you see the pics! Both of the road conditions and the really stunning mountain scenery. etc.