Steve Kuo's Mainland China Trip
Hong Kong, Kunming, Jinghong, Dali, Lijiang, Tiger Leaping Gorge, Zhongdian
April 29 - May 30, 2002
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After learning Chinese during my 2001 Taiwan trip, I decided finally to visit Mainland China. I’ve always wanted to visit China, with airfare relatively low and my friend already there encouraging me to come, I committed to the trip.

China is large country, and similar to the United States, it cannot all be seen in one trip. I decided to visit the popular destination of Yunnan province. Yunnan is located in the Southwest corner of China, bordering Myanmar (Burma), Laos and Vietnam. It offers a diverse range of scenery, from the tropical South, to urban Kunming, all the way to the high mountains bordering Tibet region. Yunnan is also known for its rich diversity of ethnic minorities.

I initially flew to Taipei, Taiwan to visit my father, family and friends there. After a short stay in there, I went to Hong Kong for a few days to obtain a China visa and forward travel to Yunnan. Since the end of the Chinese civil war in 1949, there have not been any direct flights between Mainland China and Taiwan, so transfer via a third country is necessary.

Destinations in China

I traveled in China backpacker style, carrying everything I needed for the one month trip on my back. This actually proved to be quite convenient as you quickly realize you don’t need that much stuff. Lodging was in hostels and guesthouses with shared rooms (3-4 beds) and communal bathrooms. Food and other supplies could be purchased on the spot.

With Yunnan being the most visited Chinese providence, its people are still amused by the sight of foreigners. You quickly get use to the constant staring and English greetings of “hello” and “goodbye”. Prices are incredibly low; typical meals are $1, guesthouse bed $2.50 and 100 mile luxury coach transport of $10. It is actually cheaper to travel in Yunnan than it is to pay rent living in the US.

China’s cities are connected by frequent bus and train schedules. Even the smallest city has a bus station with hourly service to nearby locations. The roads on the other hand aren’t so well developed. Many cities are connected by nothing more than a bumpy gravel road. The 250 mile trip from Kunming to Lancang took 19 hours on a windy dirt road. Air travel on the other hand has been modernized. Gone are the old Soviet aircraft, which have been replaced with modern Boeing and Airbus equipment. Airfare rivals that of the US, not affordable by most Chinese.

Language proved to be not an issue. I speak and read intermediate Chinese so getting around was easy. For the non-Chinese speaking traveler, it’s surprisingly easy to get by using a phrase book or just pointing to things. Some travelers arrived “fresh off the plane” not able to speak a single word of Chinese.

Once in Yunnan, it was easy to meet and hookup with other travelers. I spent about half the time with my friend Greg, and the other half traveling by myself. Most travelers are headed in the same direction doing the popular circuits, so you end up bumping into the same people.

The Pictures
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Pictures were taken with my trusty old Nikon Coolpix 990 digital camera. I took over 400 pictures have and organized them down to the 200 best (still a lot!). All pictures are hosted by the Photo Album application that I developed. Each link below is a photo album of a city or area visited. Albums are listed in somewhat chronological order.
Destinations in Yunnan

Copyright © 2002 Steve Kuo. All rights reserved.