A growing challenge
In the last 100 years, China has grown from 400 million people to 1.3 billion. These are staggering numbers, showing that 20% of the world's population live in China and the country is well on its way to becoming the world's largest and most important economy - on par with the US and EU.
China covers a total area of 9.600.000 km², only Russia and Canada are larger. Compared with Norway, China is 25 times as large.
The country is characterized by rapid growth both financially and in terms of population. China has in recent years lifted more people out of poverty than any other country in the world. But the country is still struggling at the intersection of modern industry and ancient history and ways of life.
China is effectively a one-party state ruled by the Communist Party. Although the country in recent years has become more and more open and Western oriented, it does not allow the use of Facebook and western cars are extremely difficult to get into the country. Something Stig experienced when he tried to get the ABAX car across the border.
Below you can read more about how Stig experienced his journey around China.
In summary - I definitely feel that I have something left undone ... China is almost as large as all of Europe and then most of Europe in the old Soviet (EU countries far less than half of China). The country is 25 times the size of Norway. 20% of the world population lives here. One can not travel around by bus and train between some major cities, and a two-day boat trip down the Yangtze, in 11 days and believe one has experienced China. It is verging on disrespectful. A country that in addition to large cities also offers breath-taking scenery, often Offbeat and TGV grooves. To understand this vast land, a land of contrasts, one must pull out of major cities. There has been a rapid development in the country that Mao ruled with his hard communist hand, only 39 years ago (died in 1976, 27 years after he founded the People's Republic of China in 1949). But despite the growth in large cities, 70% of Chinese people are still working in agriculture (though agriculture makes up only 13% of GDP)
Beijing - I got on the fast train between Beijing and Xi'an, a journey of 1,200 km southwest of the country, and began to draft in my travelogue. I was going to start with "It does not seem right that I have come to friendly countries ...". I had been in Beijing for 3 days and had not seen one smile. It began in the ATM at the airport which gave me false notes. We went to a karaoke bar, ate Peking Duck and drank wine. They would not let us out until we had paid 6.200, - (NOK) for eunuchs. I was outright kicked out of taxis when I asked if they ran on meters, and would not pay 300, - for a few blocks.
Xi'an - The tour has continued to Xi'an. A city where the centre could lay in the middle of Europe. Here the Prada and Louis Vuitton stores line up the inside walls of a great city. You must not forget about the city’s pollution though. Xi'an is another Chinese industrial city, with both car and aircraft. Today it is particularly bad. They plan to replace coal plants with gas, to try to eradicate the problem. For a Norwegian who is not accustomed to this, I noticed my breathing pattern change. Today, we saw a Brazilian musician, Ricardo of Sao Paulo, and I hired a guy to drive us around to see the terracotta warriors and more. Terracotta Army was discovered in 1974 and they still dig up statues to this day. Qin Shi, China's first emperor, standardized systems for money, weights and measures and laid the foundation for a legal order. And he began construction of the Great Wall. But Qin Shi was also a tyrant and madman, and feared his death. He therefore allowed 700,000 men to work for 36 years to build his grave. It was partly surrounded by several thousand terracotta warriors in full size. Currently they have found 8,000 and they still dig the ground to search for them.
Tomorrow at 6am, I will fly to Chongqing, followed by a three-hour bus ride to reach the Yangtze River where I will get on a boat and travel down the river for a few days / nights. On Thursday I will reach the world's largest dam, the Three Gorges Dam, then I will take another bus ride to the town of YiChang. Friday morning, I will get another train to Shanghai to meet Joaquin who has been at home playing golf. I can summarize China later, but at least you know the itinerary. In China, Facebook is not available so I have to send texts and pictures to Elise. When I was in Beijing, it was the annual meeting of the National Assembly, meaning that the city was full of police, military and security locks. I think I stood in a total of 5 different queues to be searched.
Chongqing - I was in the town for a half day before I flew to Chongqing, the largest city in south-west China with 28 million inhabitants in the metropolitan area and 8 million in the centre. Incidentally strange to call "the West" when more than half the country is yet more west. Is the city nice? No. There are lots of high-rise buildings.
I ate lunch with some young people in a hostel (youth hostel) in town. It is not easy to find people that speak English here and the joy was great when I met Donna (called something else in Chinese ...) who spoke English. She helped me with tickets to both boats and busses, and even came down to the bus station to make sure that I got on the right bus to Wanzhou where the boat trip on the Yangtze began.
Boat trip on the Yangtze - It was evening by the time I arrived, you could see it was a great modern city, with western hotels, great main streets etc. I tried to book a place on an international cruise. But since it is out of season they do not go on Tuesdays. I could not wait until the next day, as I planned to take Joaquin to Shanghai on Friday, and thought "how bad can a local Chinese boat be?" I have experienced rural India, and since it was clean linen gives dice 2 ... We stayed in dorms, I paid extra for a private room and was given the "luxury".
You can not complain too much about cleanliness when you are out in the big world, but it would be nice if they had flushed the toilet (which also served as a shower) in my room. And this would have been the problem for my sleepless two nights. I shall admit that I went into the booth and crashed two beers before I went to bed, hoping to go out a little. I woke up the next morning and stood on the deck in the rain, we met several international boats. You could see they were new and beautiful, with white tablecloths in the restaurant and everything else that goes with it. I thought to myself that I would stand on the side, and peek over at the rich man's table. It is after all on "this side" most of the world stands. The boat was miserable, although the scenery along the Yangtze River, not to mention tributaries, down to the Three Gorges Dam were amazing. Steep mountains (up to 3053 m) plunging into the river just like the Norwegian fjords. The dam is one of the world's largest construction projects and together with Itaipu dam in Brazil (which I'll discuss later) the world's largest power plant. As great as 150 Alta Power Station. Over 180 meters high and 2,309 meters wide. It took 17 years and 235 billion to build it. Hope you can see some of the dimensions of the images.
Do you have tips for Stig about places he should see or visit, restaurants he should try? Send us an email to firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com.Click here to follow Stig's route in Google maps.