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Full Circle

Day 69: Chongqing to Guiyang

Michael Palin - Full CircleAnother motive for government investment in these previously neglected hills and valleys is that good old chestnut, national security. Here on the southern borders of China the homogeneity of the Han Chinese, who make up ninety-three per cent of the population, breaks down into a number of ethnic groups whose allegiance to central government cannot be taken for granted. The Tibetans may have been shown the stick, but the minorities here have had a few carrots. The electrified railway was built in the 1960s, and there is heavy investment in the local coal industry. In 1982 foreigners were allowed in for the first time.

After a slow climb, culminating in a stretch of tunnels, we emerge onto a wide limestone upland, carpeted with wheat and rapeseed fields, often substitutes for the opium which used to be grown here. Tall rocky outcrops pierce the flat plain. The human landscape looks traditional - haystacks with laundry laid out to dry, stone boundary walls and the occasional half-timbered farmhouse. But the greatest joy and pleasure of this long, slow journey is that, after two and a half weeks in China, we are blessed with a sunset. Not the wan, pale grey substitutes we've seen so far but a red and gold full uniform affair. And, as we step off the train at Guiyang, the stars are visible again.
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PALIN'S GUIDES

  • Series: Full Circle
  • Day: 69
  • Country/sea: China
  • Place: Guiyang
  • Book page no: 100

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