We made it to Dali in twelve days driving from Tianjin. Before our final stretch, we stopped at Xichang where I met up with my student named Rainbow whom Jimmy was so excited to see because we had witnessed the natural phenomenon twice during the trip and watched YouTube videos explaining how they occur. Rainbow, together with her brothers and friends, generously treated our family to the local barbecue which included pig’s brain in a scrumptious tomato sauce, wrapped in foil. A perfect introduction to their local specialty, it was smoky and spicy and different from the barbecue we were used to in Tianjin.
WeChat functions to bridge distances with real time location sharing. In several towns, I could’ve met up with several students but unfortunately their homes didn’t lie directly on our path. Though it was comforting enough to know they were nearby and to be reconnected through the mobile phone no matter how briefly. A Tianjin-based friend regularly checked our spot so we saw how farther apart we became each passing day.
Here’s the breakdown of our trip in days and kilometers:
|1-Aug||Dagang to Wutaishan||438|
|2-Aug||Wutaishan to Taiyuan||259|
|3-Aug||Taiyuan to Linfen||394|
|4-Aug||Linfen to Pingliang||498|
|5-Aug||Pingliang to Lanzhou||331|
|6-Aug||Lanzhou to Gannan campsite||261|
|7-Aug||Gannan campsite to Nuoergai||317|
|8-Aug||Nuoergai to Chengdu||453|
|9-Aug||Just stayed in Chengdu||0|
|10-Aug||Just stayed in Chengdu||0|
|11-Aug||Chengdu to Xichang||450|
|12-Aug||Xichang to Dali||605|
|Total kilometers traveled||4,006|
|Daily average (not counting 2-day Chengdu rest)||401|
The journey did not happen strictly in straight lines. There were lots of gorgeous, sexy curves, too many to capture in this map lacking in details but this is just to give everyone a general picture. I must find a more detailed map in English to be able to articulate the route more accurately.
Driving from north to south, I could clearly imagine why people want to move to the south since it’s prettier, more picturesque and with a gentler climate. I could only surmise economic reasons for the migration the other way around. Maybe I’m oversimplifying things but it’s a rather odd but distinct impression I got from the journey.
Another odd thing or not-so-odd considering my interest in planning and architecture: I took pictures of the toilets because I admired how the design maximized the use of natural light and ventilation. The admiration stems in contrast to the frustration with the uninspired toilets in service areas in the north where they have to factor in the bitter winters so maybe they can’t be as liberal with the construction. Still, I believe in the power of design to uplift mundane spaces. Note how as you wash your hands, you get a view of the mountains beyond or how the trees peek through the clerestory openings.