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Himalaya

Day 87: Lijiang to Kunming

Michael Palin - HimalayaGoodbye to the friendly Qian Xue Lou Hotel, though I never found out what its name means. In Lijiang New Town, by contrast, English signs are quite prevalent. So it's farewell to the Finance Hotel, the Education Hotel, the Greatness Drugstore, the Belief Supermarket and a menswear store called 'Clench'. All slip away behind us as we head to the new highway that will convey us smoothly to the new airport.

The casualties of this rush to modernize are the remnants of old Lijiang. Those traditional wood and mud-brick houses that have the misfortune to lie outside UNESCO's protection can be seen like fish left behind by the tide, circled by the diggers and graders, waiting to be swept away.

Kunming, with a population just short of 4 million, is the biggest city we've seen since leaving Lahore. Armies of bicycles, traffic lights with numerical count-downs and paradoxical reminders everywhere that this burgeoning expanse of glass and concrete is a garden city, boasting one of the most generous climates in China.

For us, the City of Eternal Spring is another welcome step down from the high plateau. At a little over 6000 feet (1830 m), it's half as high as Lhasa and a third the height of Everest Base Camp. The air is positively balmy and a premature holiday mood grips us all as we put some distance between ourselves and the high mountains.
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PALIN'S GUIDES

  • Series: Himalaya
  • Chapter: Day 87: Lijiang to Kunming
  • Country/sea: China
  • Place: Lijiang
  • Book page no: 203

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