Dali lies on the fabled ‘Old Burma Road’ (Chinese: 滇缅公路) (South Silk Road) and we drive along this ancient route, crossing the Mekong headwaters.
It may be an ancient route,but it’s now a very modern superhighway. Four and five lanes each way, 110 to 140 kmh. What an eye opener … And they claim, with considerable pride, that China now has more first class highway kilometres than the USA .
Straight through or over … Chinese road builders motto
Built in 9 months, this superhighway runs 1154 kms from Kunming to Lashio in Burma. 200,000 men employed, working 24/7. Very hard not to contrast that with roadworks here in Australia that take months and months and months for a few hundred metres.
We drive all day to Tengchong through and over valleys farmed in every conceivable corner. Wind turbines dot the ridge lines. Power lines everywhere. Even secondary roads look good – concrete or wide bitumen. All so impressive, clean and tidy.
Tengchong, like many places, looks like it’s been built in the last six months. High rise towers in groups of 6 to 30 dot the landscape. Cranes work everywhere. A lot of unoccupied new buildings.
We have a look at the Rehai Hotsprings Park, where despite the wonderful signs, I manage to get a bit lost in the mist. The water is hot enough to boil eggs. Eggs are for sale by entrepreneurs taking advantage of the mist. The bloke with these eggs scarpered, maybe he thought we’d report him for selling eggs. Signs tell you not to boil your egg! Carol contemplated Eggs Benedict, but obeyed the sign.
Near Tengchong we see Heshan, a walled settlement with 1,000 Qing style houses, connected by cobbled streets and courtyards. And its library holds 70,000 books…
Colour, movement and fresh food.
Tengchong to Ruilli, the ‘Oriental Jewellery City’ on the China/Burma border. A furiously busy city, new buildings everywhere, dust and construction. We see Chinese, Burmese, Thais, Malaysians, Vietnamese, Indians, Pakistanis – a melting pot of cultures. Nothing here for us, no time for jewellery shopping, Ruilli is a border town.
Clocks now run on Burmese time … which is apparently a much, much slower time.
Nearly four hours to get through the border. Interminable forms, paperwork, all done by hand. In quadruplicate. People of all nationalities and dress codes trying to bully their way past the border officials. More like ‘bored officials.’ Like, who cares about time?
And at last – beautiful, mystical, magical Myanmar. Will always be Burma to me.
Maybe I should get to work – still haven’t written any words on the next book. How can I, when this is outside, calling. There’s always tomorrow …. isn’t there?
AMAZON – John Bell Books