China’s image is tainted by media reports of pollution. Whilst this might be true of certain cities and highly populous regions it is not a fair reflection on the country as a whole. At just under 10 million square kilometres, China is the fourth largest country in the word and forty times the size of the United Kingdom – there are many wonderful areas of China in which to escape. Here are some of our favourite places to travel in China.
Yunnan literally means clouds (Yu) south (nan) thus Beyond the Clouds. It is one of China’s most diverse provinces with landscapes ranging from the Tibetan plateau in the north to the sub-tropical forests of the south. Places to visit vary from the bamboo houses of the Bai to the historic Naxi city of Lijiang to the Tibetan monastery of Sumtseling. However, for me, the delight of Yunnan is its peoples. Not just in terms of the number of minorities but the colour and smiles that you meet throughout.
Xinjiang, literally the ‘western region’, is the largest administrative district in China and home to the Uyghurs. A wonderful people of Turkic extraction, their thick (and delicious) laghman noodles are very different from the rice and finer noodles of the Han Chinese, a metaphor for the contrast between the different cultures. Such discrepancy is further emphasised in two of Xinjiang’s key cities, Turfan and the exotic Kashgar, which in spite of its Hanification still remains one of the must-see cities of the world.
The clouds that encircle Tibet are ones of controversy. Lhasa and the region is much changed – again through the influx of the Han Chinese as I wrote in my blog – Tibet – but there are areas which still have a strong and fascinating Tibetan identity. As I wrote, “Lhasa and Tibet are undoubtedly photogenic, but what lies beyond the lens is not.”