Silk Road by MGB – China Stops Day 19 to Day 29

Monday, 22 May 2017

We’re now at Day 52 of our Silk Road journey and en route through China we made some intriguing stops, here are a few from our arrival in China through to Day 29 of the trip.

◄ On Day 19, between Mengla near the Laotian border and Pu’er, famous for its tea, we visited the Xishuangbanna Botanic Gardens, the biggest botanic gardens in China.

▲ I visited the Dragon’s Back Rice Terraces when Richard I’Anson and I were working on Rice Trails back in 1999, this time on Day 20 we ended up at Yuanyang to see more beautiful rice terraces. They’re remarkably close to the border with Vietnam.

▲ Day 22 took us to the spectacular Malinghexiagu Gorge and then on to the Huanggoshu Falls, ‘China’s Niagara,’ that’s a bold claim but they are still pretty impressive.

◄ Along the walking trail to some lesser falls we encountered a number of these brightly painted statues illustrating Monkey, Journey to the West. Our route on the first week in China followed ‘highways,’ the extensive system of new tollways across China. The roads were often remarkably uncrowded and considerable feats of engineering. The country down towards Southeast Asia is very mountainous and the roads seemed to run continuously on elevated bridges and viaducts or straight through mountains. We joked that we covered more km underground in tunnels than out in the open.

▲ On Day 23 we visited the Zhijin Caves, the falls the previous day were perhaps not quite Niagara, but these caves would match any I’ve seen anywhere in the world. They seemed to go on forever, the formations were often truly spectacular and some of the underground caverns were immense.

▲ That night we arrived at Jinsha, a gritty coal mining town, and the next morning – Day 24 – I was delighted watching this crowd of umbrella-toting children converging on a primary school near our hotel. The hotel featured the most rock hard mattress I’ve ever encountered. When I fell into bed I had a momentary vision that I was camping and had forgotten to inflate the Thermarest mattress under my sleeping bag. In the morning the hotel’s freshly washed lobby floor was so slippery it could have been an ice-skating rink. It was an early morning as our group’s tech experts had a problem to sort on my car, the wiper switch had decided to stop working, not good since we were meeting a lot of rain.

▲ On Day 25 between Jinsha and Chonqing we came off the highway and had lunch in a park beside the Xishan Bell Tower in Wanzhou (population 1.75 million). I came across this curious memorial to Ukraine- born Russian pilot Grigori Akimovich Kulishenko who shot down six Japanese aircraft, but crashed and died in the Yangtze River. It was curious because I didn’t know the Russians were fighting the Japanese in 1939 and the Japanese aircraft all seem to be biplanes while the Russian aircraft looked a bit like a Mig 15, neither very likely in 1939?

▲ The next day, Day 26, we made a trip from Wushan along the ‘Little Three Gorges,’ also diminished by the rising waters behind the Three Gorges Dam, but still spectacular. This walkway was seemingly tacked on to the gorge side over the Daning River, a tributary of the Yangtze (or Yangzi).

▲ We transferred to smaller boats to travel a short distance up the Madu River.

▲ There were stops at the Three Gorges Dam itself and then a visit to the ceramics town of Jingdezhen before we stopped at the beautiful village of Hongcun on Day 29. Cars can’t enter the village so our MGBs were parked outside and we walked in. This is the much-photographed South Lake Bridge with lots of Chinese tourists. We may not see many foreign tourists on the lesser stops along our route, but there are certainly plenty of domestic visitors.